We spoke with tech recruiters about the mistakes their candidates most commonly make in the application process. There are a lot of common problems, but the good news is that most of these issues take less than ten minutes to correct. Learn from the mistakes of those who came before you, stand out from the crowd, and get the job that you deserve.
1. Their Resume Wasn’t as Good as It Could Have Been
Perhaps one of the most easily fixed issues is your resume. A number of the recruiters we spoke with mentioned that spelling and grammatical errors lost their candidates an interview. Show your attention to detail by reviewing your resume for these simple mistakes. Consider having someone else look it over as well. A fresh set of eyes could easily catch something that you’ve missed.
The second major complaint tech recruiters made about the resumes they see is an absence of skills. This is not to say these candidates lacked skills, just that they didn’t take the time to make note of them on their resumes. Don’t assume that the hiring manager will be able to infer your skills based on the projects you’ve worked on or the positions you’ve held. Don’t just list your job title, make sure you specifically call out your experience with test-driven development, java, or cryptography. Recruiters seem to agree that the most effective way to do this is by including a “Skills & Strengths” section right at the top of your resume.
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2. They Walk in Unprepared
You should never walk into an interview without first doing your research. Spend at least half an hour researching the company and the position that you’ll be interviewing for. At a minimum, you should take the time to do the following:
- Spend some time on the company website,
- Look at their blog to see what’s important to them,
- Check for any recent mentions of them in the news,
- Scroll through their social media pages, and
- Look them up on websites like glassdoor
Not only will this research help you decide if a company is a good fit for you, it will also help you to prove it to them in an interview.
Many of the recruiters we spoke with mentioned that candidates often forget to bring their interviewing “tools” with them. Be sure to remember to bring:
- More copies of your resume than you think you’ll need (even if you have already formally submitted it),
- A pen,
- Multiple copies of your references,
- Portfolio samples (if in hard copy), and
- A pad of paper
Show your interviewer that you are prepared and are taking his or her time seriously.
3. They Aren’t Dressed Appropriately
Part of being prepared for an interview is looking prepared. Even if you’re not a style guru, you should spend at least a few minutes the night before an interview selecting your outfit. Make sure that you give your interviewer the right first impression by being properly groomed and neatly dressed.
Remember that not all interviews require formal business attire. Take the time to learn about the culture of the company and select an outfit that is slightly more formal than a typical employee might choose. For example, if the office atmosphere is casual and employees wear jeans and t-shirts, wear a nice pair of pressed khakis and a tucked in collared shirt to the interview. Let your attire show that you want the job, but will also be able to fit into the office culture as a team member.
4. They Didn’t Have Answers Prepared for Basic Interview Questions
While you can’t possibly prepare yourself for every eventuality in an interview, you can absolutely take the time to prepare answers to the most common and predictable questions. You should count on hearing things like,
- What is your greatest professional weakness?
- Tell me about a professional conflict you’ve recently had and how you resolved it.
- Can you tell me about yourself?
- Why do you want to work here?
These topics are so common in interviews that you should have your answers prepared before you even walk in the door. You should also be able to provide a reasonable explanation for wanting to leave your current job or for any gaps in your employment history.
One recruiter we spoke with made a particularly interesting comment: whether you hear it posed as a question or not, never leave the room without telling your interviewer why they should hire you. Even if this question is never spoken aloud, it is the purpose of the interview so make sure you take the time to address it, even if only indirectly.
An interview is your opportunity to sell yourself so don’t shy away from stating the obvious. For example, you may think your decade of experience as a project manager speaks for itself, but it doesn’t. Use examples of conflicts you’ve resolved to showcase your leadership skills and strategies you’ve implemented that streamlined the development process. Don’t just tell your interviewer that you have a skill, show them with an example. It will make a far more concrete impression.
5. They Skirted the Truth
Most of the recruiters agreed that the fastest way to get yourself disqualified from consideration is to be dishonest in your interview. A hiring manager is far more likely to view a candidate positively if they admit to weakness in a certain area than if they try to bluff their way through and are found out later on in the interview or during the assessment.
The same policy of honesty should apply to any professional failures you may have experienced. If the topic comes up, don’t avoid it. Be transparent about what happened but make sure you emphasize what you learned from the experience and how it changed your actions going into the future. Many interviewers are looking for evidence of a candidate’s willingness to continually reflect and improve.
6. They Didn’t Put Effort into Their Assessment
Sadly, many tech recruiters called out the frequency of assessments going poorly. This is not to say that their candidates didn’t have the necessary skills but rather that they didn’t put forth the effort. Sometimes assessments (especially assessments completed at home) can seem like a pointless exercise, but they should never be treated that way. Take them seriously and take the time to do your best work. Oftentimes, it’s not about the solution at all, but the process you use to get there.
If you are inexperienced with an aspect of the assessment, don’t try to bluster your way through. It reflects much better on you to simply say that you’re unfamiliar and move on to an area where you shine.
7. They Didn’t Ask Questions During Their Interview
According to the recruiters we spoke with, many candidates are rejected because they either didn’t show enough interest in the company or they seemed generally unenthusiastic about the interviewing process. Perhaps the easiest way to avoid this is to ask questions during your interview. That’s questions – plural. Many people make the mistake of only preparing one or two generic questions to ask at the conclusion of the interview as a matter of form.
Asking questions shows your engagement and interest in potentially getting the job as well as in the individuals you’re interacting with. Be sure to ask quality questions – questions that are unique to the company or the conversation.
8. They Asked the “Big Question” Too Early
Be careful not to put the cart in front of the horse in the interviewing process. It may be tempting, especially if you feel that the interview is going well, to bring up salary and benefits, but this should be avoided. Only discuss these things if your interview was the one to bring them up. We have a helpful post on salary negotiation for when the time comes.
9. They Didn’t Follow Up with Their Interviewer
Many hiring managers are in the position of choosing between several equally qualified candidates. Set yourself apart from the competition by keeping yourself fresh in the hiring manager’s mind. Send a thank you email (or a handwritten note if you really want to stand out) about 24-hours after your interview takes place. Don’t send it a few minutes or even hours after, because it won’t have a personal feel to it.