Don’t “Strike Out” in the Interview Process

For those of you who know me well you understand well that one of my great interests is College Baseball.  Since 2007 I have been a season ticket holder of the Reigning National Champion Vanderbilt Commodore baseball team.  Knowing this, it should come as no shock that I use a baseball metaphor to discuss one of the key components of a job search process, the interview.  I’ll spend some time today discussing how not to “strike out”, meaning how you can avoid from failing in the process.  This doesn’t mean that you will never make a mistake, but my intent is to keep you from knocking yourself out of the process.

Each batter gets three strikes and I’ll arrange my post today in the form of three strikes to avoid in the interview process.  If things go well there may be a fourth strike allowed (from a foul ball; we certainly would not want to change the rules of the greatest game going).

Strike 1-Being unprepared for the interview

The first strike is always lack of preparation.  It is so simple now to gather information about firms that you will be interviewing with.  Why not do so?  It makes a great impression to be able to share with the interview team what you have learned about their firm.  Who knows, you might even share something you have read they are totally unaware of.  Being prepared with knowledge about the firm and even more, about those you are interviewing with, will make a good first impression.

Strike 2-Having a poor resume

If you avoid the first strike, this second strike will possibly trip you up.  In most cases, if your resume was not good, you would not even get to the interview, but there are times when your resume is still not good enough.  Here are a few key items to keep in mind when crafting your resume:

  • Make it orderly and easy to follow
  • Imagine your resume is like a newspaper; put the most important items on the top of the fold on the first page-if that area is not intriguing, they will not get any farther anyway
  • List accomplishments in quantitative and qualitative fashion; numerical growth, % improvement or % cost reduction; what gets measured, matters
  • Avoid the cutesy paper and graphics unless you are applying for a very creative type of role
  • No typos-Grammatically correct!
  • at least 11 point font-no unusual fonts

Strike 3-Answer the questions completely, but don’t over answer

I have this conversation often with candidates we prepare for our clients.  When a client asks a question, answer it completely.  Support the answer, especially if it is a behavioral question.  Over answering can also be a problem.  Unless the question is multi-faceted or extremely deep, don’t over answer the question.  Keep to the facts and be succinct whenever possible.

Strike 4-Be sure to thank the interviewers properly

Even though a batter gets just three strikes in the game, I will give you a fourth strike today.  The interview is important, but what happens after the interview is just as important.  Be  sure to ask the interview team what the process will be for moving ahead and thank them while in the room.  In the same day, be sure to email every person you spoke with to personally thank them for meeting with you.  Within 24-36 hours, send a personal, hand-written, thank you note to at least the key members of the interview team, if not every member.  In this high-tech world of today, the high-touch candidate will be remembered.

In baseball, three strikes will send you back to the bench.  Avoid the items listed above and you will possibly make it to the next base and who knows, you may score during the next play.

Also remember this, even if you do strike out, go back and review what happened so you can do better the next time.  In baseball, the best players in the game only get on base 3 or 4 times out of ten.  Failure is part of the game and how you adapt and improve from that failure will be the difference between sitting on the bench and ending up on ESPN.

You hold your fate in your own hands.