I have interviewed close to a hundred candidates for internships and full-time jobs in the manufacturing industry, finance industry, and at a tech startup.
Throughout my interviewing experience, I have been impressed — and other times shocked — by candidates’ answers. And as I’ve reflected on those interviews, I’ve concluded that the most important thing a candidate can do during an interview is to make a connection with the person who is conducting the interview.
Even if your technical skills are aligned with their needs, if you don’t make a strong connection, you might risk not getting the job. Of course, it can sometimes be hard to figure out how to make a connection with your interviewer, so I wanted to share four ways I’ve noticed that candidates miss these opportunities.
1. You aren’t using every question as an opportunity
Just because a question does not start with “tell me about a time…” doesn’t mean it’s not part of the interview. Even at the start of an interview, when I ask a candidate “how are you?” the interview has already begun.
Did you simply say “I’m fine. How are you?” or did you use the opportunity to say, “I’m doing well and am excited to interview today and learn more about the role”?
Each question is an opportunity for you to make a connection, showcase your skills, and show that you want the job, so don’t leave those opportunities on the table in your next interview.
2. You didn’t make yourself memorable
An interview might have been the most important thing on your schedule for a given day, but most likely your interviewer’s attention was pulled in multiple directions with project responsibilities or, potentially, other candidates. Therefore, it is important during your interview to say something that makes you stand out.
Imagine that you are interviewing for a programming role, and someone asks you “what do you like to do for fun?” It could be tempting to say “programming” to show your commitment to the job requirements, but it isn’t memorable. If your answer really is “programming,” then something better would be to say an out-of-the-box project you worked on and what the outcome was.
Remember that you always need to showcase that you are someone people want to work with. So, don’t be afraid to show your personality and make yourself memorable.
3. You did not have a specific reason for wanting the job
The person interviewing you knows you need a job, so when asked “why do you want to work at our company?” you should have reasons for why you want THIS specific role.
Even if you are interviewing for a similar job at 20 companies, you should customize your response to show that you did your homework, are interested in the overall company, and make strategic decisions about career moves.
Plus, this will give you opportunities to make a connection with your interviewer. Maybe they worked on a project you’re interested in, or maybe they had similar interests when they first joined as well.
4. You didn’t follow the STAR(L) methodology
There are many resources about the STAR(L) methodology (example). STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result. I like to add the “L” on at the end if there is time, which stands for “what did you learn?”
Probably the biggest interview mistake is focusing too much on the situation or task. If you only focus on what you were asked to do, then you aren’t giving yourself a chance to make a connection.
To make a connection, you need to provide the interviewer with information about yourself and your experiences for them to ask questions and have a conversation with you.
Interviews are a stressful, and it never feels good to get a rejection with no details on what went wrong.
In your next interview use every question as an opportunity, make yourself memorable, have a reason for wanting the job, and follow the STAR(L) methodology. Your relevant skills got you the first interview, but to get the second interview, you need to focus on making a connection.