Perhaps the worst part of a career transition is to come out of an interview and think that you nailed it only to find out later that you didn’t make the cut. If this has happened to you, you may have been thinking “How could they not have liked me? I had a great answer to all of their questions. My stories were awesome and on point. I nailed the STAR (Situation – Task – Actions – Result) format. What went wrong?”
If this applies to you, you’ll agree that it’s a humbling experience because it implies that you weren’t good enough. Chances are that you have never been told that before. But even though this can be very demoralizing, it may have been the small things you did (or didn’t do) that caused your failure.
Simply put, interviewing is more than just answering questions. If companies conducted interviews just to see how well you can answer questions, why don’t they save a lot of time and money and just email you a list of questions? The reality is that there are vital components to a face-to-face interview that allow them to see your personality, how well you connect, and how compatible you may be for their organization. Many subjective things for sure, but each of critical importance.
Without further ado, here is a rundown of ways you may have inadvertently sabotaged your interview.
- Did you greet the interviewer by his/her first name? The military culture is such that veterans are ingrained with the formalities of ranks, titles, sirs, & ma’ams. Consequently, they may not be sure what to call the interviewer, so they play it safe and don’t call him/her anything. Or they default to sir or ma’am. The fact is that if you want to form a connection, make use of first names. Perhaps Dale Carnegie said it best: “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
- Did you smile? Yes, interviewing is serious business, but that doesn’t mean that you should treat it like an interrogation. You may be surprised how a genuine smile can brighten the room and help you form a better connection with the interviewing team.
- Did you make good eye contact? All too often, an interviewee fails this part due to nervousness. Unfortunately, an interviewer might not interpret this behavior as a sign of nerves. They may interpret it as insincerity or shiftiness. That doesn’t mean you should engage in a staring contest with the interviewer. Simply maintain the same type of eye contact that you would have if you were chatting over lunch with your best friend.
- Did you show enthusiasm and positive energy? We can’t stress this point enough! When you bring energy and enthusiasm to an interview, it is infectious. The people in the room just feel better being around you. Of course, don’t take this advice the wrong way and consume a six-pack of Red Bull before your interview. But do your best to add some spark to the room instead of sucking the life right out of it.
- Did you address the “So What?” of your stories? You might think that you told a fantastic story about your military exploits, but the interviewer was left thinking “So what? You are a great military veteran, but I’m not sure what we can do with you in our organization.” Make sure to clearly connect your stories to the transferable skills that the position requires.
- Did you ask good questions? Most people know that it’s important to have a list of questions to ask the interviewer. Plain and simple: the lack of questions shows a lack of interest. But when we say good questions, we mean those that show insight into the company and the role. Those that show that you’ve done your homework on the company. Those that are actually interesting! Do your best to stay away from the garden variety questions that you could ask of any company simply by interchanging the name, such as “Can you describe a typical day at Acme?” “Why do you like working for Acme?” or “What is the company culture like?” To be clear, none of these questions are bad, per se. But they are very generic ones that do not demonstrate much more than “I checked that block.”
- Did you close? For many people, this part of the interview is the most difficult. After all, it’s not easy coming right out and asking for the job. But the most motivated candidates will do so without hesitation. Naturally, there are “good ways” and “not so good ways” to close and it can be a matter of personal style. Some people think that “What is the next step?” is a good close. On the contrary, it is actually a relatively weak one. No doubt, it is a valid question to ask. But, in and of itself, it doesn’t strongly convey that you want it. And to boot, it is the most overused/cliche close out there! You don’t have to be cute or crafty, but you do have to express a genuine interest in the position. In other words, make the interviewer believe that you really want it. And look them in the eye when you do it!
In a short article like this, we can’t provide all the answers to the above challenges. But in joining our program, we provide valuable hands-on training to perfect the more nuanced part of interviewing.