3 Things You’re Getting Really Wrong About Job Interviews

why no jobA recent graduate with great school credentials, Jeff is a very bright engineer. Unfortunately, his job search wasn’t going well; he was getting tons of interviews and interest… but zero offers.

I spent a Sunday afternoon coaching Jeff to get ready for an interview he had the next day with a company he really wanted to work for. He didn’t want to leave disappointed one more time.

While working with him, I saw beliefs about the interview process I see in many new grad job seekers. To be successful in this interview, I knew he would need to change up his strategy completely. Here’s the three things Jeff was getting wrong about job interviews, and how to do better… and maybe you are, too…

1. Not Addressing the Pain Point of the Employer

The interview is not just about what you bring (in Jeff’s case, it was great software design and programmer skills). It is about how you are going to use those skills to solve the employer’s business problems.

In addition to making sure he had good basics about his skills messages, we went a step further: we researched the employer, the industry, and the competitors. We read the recent press releases and news articles.

We quickly saw competitive issues brewing. A major player was planning to make a move into that market. As well, the company was implementing a new business model that was getting them great PR; however, they weren’t executing perfectly at that point.

Jeff came up with some ideas about how he could weave his questions and insight into the conversation. That way, he was not only bringing out his best side, he was showing them how he could help address those pain points.

I suggested Jeff act like he was already part of the team, and position his questions differently:

“How could I help solve that problem with the competitor?”

“Since I’m really strong at coding in this language, I’m thinking I could <insert solution idea here> to address the issues with the new business model. Tell me more about what the team is already doing to fix that.”

When you’re addressing the pain point of the employer, you’re behaving like you already work there. And that’s part of the reason they’ll want to hire you.

2. You Don’t Act Like a Trusted Advisor

Sure you’re in an interview to make sure you fit the requirements the employer needs. But you’re also there to demonstrate how you can help the organization. One way you can do that: act as if you were an outside consultant helping them analyze their business.

I suggested Jeff go beyond the basic questions he was asking, which were tactical issues like, “Are most of the projects in this language or that?”


Instead, I encouraged him to provoke discussion by asking about the competitive issue and presenting solutions.

  • “What is your plan integrating the new business model with a better performance standard? Do you have a clear sense for what’s causing the issues?”
  • “Do you have a plan for when Competition encroaches into this space? Have you thought about taking this action or that action?”
  • “Have you done a cause and effect on the software issues? If the most pressing issue in the timeline is X, what if we did Y to counteract that?”

All of sudden, he was no longer an interviewee. He was a trusted advisor.

He was asking questions, and sharing ideas. And, because he met with 5 separate groups, he had the opportunity to ask different questions of each group and get a well-rounded perspective – and share different ideas – on the issues.

Instead of an “interview” the conversation became an organic discussion of the issues at hand and how – together – they would solve them.

3. You Aren’t Having a Conversation

At every opportunity, reframe the job interview into a conversation.

A conversation between you, and the employer. And in the course of that conversation, you show them what to expect from you in real life, when you work on their team.

Here are three tips to do that:

  1. Don’t wait until the end of the interview to ask questions. Jeff interjected questions about competition and being an asset on the team, during the course of the interviews. By doing so he was better able to share his ideas.
  2. Interject your ideas about how you will help the team. This is a time to demonstrate what you’ll bring. Why not also share your ideas about where you can help solve the business problem, and how you will perform when you do? Show them what they’ll get if they hire you.
  3. Build relationships. This is a time to (believe it or not) relax and act “as if” you already belong on that team. Relationships are critical in today’s work environment and you’ll be showing the team what to expect if they work with you.

And now, the rest of the story.

The next day, an excited Jeff called and said,

“Lea, I did exactly what we discussed. I turned it into a conversation. I couldn’t believe what a difference it made… the people didn’t want to leave at the end of the hour.”

Needless to say, he got the offer and the job of his dreams. And he’s loving his work there.

All because he was willing to shake off an old mindset that wasn’t working, and embrace some new ideas.

Brilliant, right?





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Degrees of Transition!


Degrees of Transition


Lea McLeodAbout the Author: Lea McLeod is author of the Resume Coloring Book. Check it out if you are struggling with writing your resume in today’s job market. She’s also founder of the Job Success Lab so that you can GO PRO in any job! Follow her on Twitter and her blog: DegreesofTransition.com.



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