As the editor-in-chief of the Alpharetta Odyssey community, I can say that by now, I've interviewed over a hundred applicants. I've been lucky enough to onboard a team of 35 (and growing number of) talented creators who were recruited due to their passionate interest to bring about impactful change, one article at a time. We are always happy to take on anyone who applies with clear goals in mind (low key promo: apply here).
But every once in a while, someone special will come along and totally bomb the interview (whether on purpose or unknowingly), combusting all chances of him/her being hired. Whether you fear that could be you at a future interview or whether you just like shaking your head in disbelief at the things some applicants will do and say, here are 12 you things should and should not do during an interview.
1. Please, DON'T go in with a vague understanding of what the company does and stands for.
One of the first questions I ask, right after we introduce ourselves, is, "Can you tell me in one sentence what the Odyssey platform's purpose is?"
And nearly every single person I've ever interviewed (with the exception of two) has blanked out. Granted, I have a lot of high schoolers and young, college-aged applicants apply, so my expectations are low to begin with.
However, instead of recruiting, if I were hiring on the basis that you will receive a chunk of the company's payroll as an employee, and you stumble over that answer? I would instantly show you the door.
Almost every single company and brand has an about page or a mission statement page, including Odyssey. If I'm taking out an hour or two of my time to interview someone who didn't even bother to look for, let alone read, the about page of my company, then it feels like a waste of time and effort for both of us. If you can't bring yourself to care about the company's values, why should I even bother to continue this conversation?
2. DO create a list of possible questions you may be asked.
Don't look flabbergasted by every single question I ask. Over two-thirds of them are whatever pop up on a good ol' Google search of "interview questions."
Even if you don't properly research the company to prepare thorough answers to the questions, at least spare a couple of minutes to review what I may ask. This saves us both time and subtly assures me you have enough sense to know what to Google before an interview.
3. DON'T assume our casual banter is an invitation for you to disrespect.
At some point during the interview, I will switch to a more casual tone so you feel relaxed. I prefer for you to be causal with me in response, but professionally casual, as in: always be polite.
4. DO honestly share your specific goals.
A common, vexing statement a lot of newbies say to me is: "I want to be a better writer."
OK....but as in how? And in what aspects of being a writer?
Know yourself and what you want to work on.
Do you want to incorporate more symbolism and metaphorical elements in your fictional works? Do you want to work on exploring different formatting structures when it comes to essays? Are you interested in establishing a strong voice when it comes to writing personal, opinionated pieces regarding political topics? Or do you want to focus on mastering AP Style grammar?
Writing is not one small task you can master just by doing it. There are numerous elements to it, and I expect you to at least be able to specify it down to a starting point. Otherwise, it shows me you lack an understanding of what "writing" even encompasses.
5. DO share your passions and skills!
You don't need a certification or degree to prove you know a certain skill. Like say you know how to code in java. If you have example of java code to show me, or even better, if you have a working program or website you've made with just java, that's all the proof I need to confirm that you know your stuff. I'm hiring you because of your skills, not just what some piece of paper says.
And again, if we're going to talk for an hour or two, my goal is to get to know you. So whether you're passionate about exploring caves, reading YA fiction or amassing a collection of budgies, share that with me! I genuinely want to know.
6. DON'T center all your achievements on academic endeavors.
I get it. You had a perfect 4.0 in high school and college. That's nice. But I don't give grades. I pay you with work experience (and for paying jobs, a salary), so give me a solid reason why I should hire you. What skills have you mastered and applied?
Can you code a whole website like Steve over there who graduated with a 3.0 in film? If not, then please take your certifications with you.
7. DO have personal life achievements or character growth you're proud to share.
This gives us insight into who you are as a person when you aren't in an environment or position where you have to strive for excellence. Having the self-discipline to get yourself back into good shape, for one, is a great display of passion and self-developed motivation.
8. DON'T have a lackluster introduction.
Have a great 30-second introduction of who you are, what you love to do and why you're interested in whatever you're applying for. It's called the elevator pitch.
9. DON'T be vague or sound noncommittal when asked if you can commit to something.
If I'm taking the time out of my day to interview you and possibly hire you, I expect a more solid answer than, "I think..."
10. DO have a solid answer to the most common question: why should I hire you?
You don't need any prior skills to ace this one! Your passion can be a great factor, if you word that correctly. Having specific goals really helps in this regard, so go ahead and explain how joining this platform will help you accomplish those goals.
If you don't try to answer this question well, you seem to be lacking the willpower to even come up with a good ending note.
11. DON'T just ask random questions at the end to show you were "paying attention."
But do try to ask follow-up questions, if you genuinely have any. If you don't, ask if you can contact them via email/phone number if you have any questions down the line.
And unless you're 110 percent sure you got the job, no matter what, never ever ask: "So... when can I start?" at the end of the interview.
It's entirely unprofessional.
I've only had one person ask me that. I rejected her immediately even though I was initially planning to give her a chance. Messing up on this question can be the last straw to how badly you may have messed up overall, so don't even go there.
12. DO end on a positive note for yourself and the person interviewing you!
A simple, "Thank you for taking the time to interview me!" can be a great note to end on, and it's the little things that show consideration. Whether you think you bombed the interview or did well, whether you'll get the job or not, end on a positive note.