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6 Ways to Blow a Job Interview Without Realizing It

Leslie Stevens-Huffman, Dice Insights

October 10, 2022

Hiring managers are constantly on the lookout for technology job candidates who have not only the right technical skills, but also a professional presence. If you’re applying for a new position, you might not know what a hiring manager actually expects, which could leave you unable to meet their expectations during the job interview.

But there are lots of other ways to blow a job interview. Here are six things to avoid unless you want a swift rejection.

Skipping the Execution Part

One of the main things hiring managers want to know: can this job candidate get things done on their own, or do they need constant oversight and direction? The latter is exhausting for companies and teams, said Lewis Lin, CEO of Impact Interview.

To identify self-sufficient, high-performers capable of turning a vision into reality, tech managers are placing a premium on execution. During the interviewing process, it’s not enough to describe the results you achieved and the skills you used to achieve them—you need to show that you are well-versed in the conditions and processes that affect overall success.

“Many technologists think that specific results trumps process, but you need to mention both when responding to interview questions,” agreed Margaret Buj, elite recruiter and interview coach. The interviewer wants to know not only what you’ve done, but how you did it.

Taking Interviews for Granted

We’ve all heard tales of managers hiring technologists without a rigorous interview process. When tech unemployment is low, many companies really are desperate to secure the tech talent they need. For the majority of technologists, however, the interview process remains intensely rigorous, and you need to be prepared.

Hiring managers expect candidates to research the company, environment and hiring team before an interview, and then use that information to show how your prior experience qualifies you for the position.

“When a candidate can’t explain why they want to work here, it’s a deal breaker,” explained Patrick Turley, head of engineering at TXI. Plan ahead and do everything you can to show the hiring manager you want the job.

Bad at Communicating

What you say during a job interview is important—and so is how you say it. A technologist needs to be able to share their knowledge with non-technical audiences and influence others to see things their way.

Furthermore, you need to showcase stellar communication skills from the outset in the initial interview. As with any job, “soft skills” are always key. The best interviews aren’t an interrogation—they flow like a normal conversation. You need to project confidence, dress appropriately, make eye contact, smile and build rapport, even on Zoom. If you don’t, the interview may end abruptly.

Appearing to Be Difficult to Work With

Getting negative feedback from a hiring manager is never pleasant. But if you spent the interview arguing about whether your code was really the best way to solve a technical problem, the hiring manager may reject you for not being a “cultural fit.”

Obviously, you need to be confident… but overdoing it by coming across as a know-it-all (or someone who won’t own up to your mistakes) is a good way to blow a job interview, Buj noted.

Personality clashes erode trust and team performance. How you answer behavioral questions provides insights into your emotional intelligence and how your style may (or may not) complement the existing team. Always share how you might adapt your behavior in response to a conflict or set of circumstances.

Flying Solo

One of the main goals of a pair programming evaluation is to collaborate with a potential teammate, discuss possible solutions and pivot based on suggestions.

However, Turley sees many technologists fail to take advantage of the opportunity by not communicating enough with their teammate. Instead, they keep their head down and power through the problem. They also hurt their chances by not setting up their tools ahead of time or sticking with comfortable tools (when given the chance to choose).

He also warns about the dangers of over-prepping for algorithm and design pattern interview questions. In his view, the better option is to walk logically toward a design pattern when solving problems.

Sticking With What You Know

It might seem like a hiring manager is requesting an opinion (or perhaps a recommendation) when they ask: “What technology or tool would you use to solve a specific problem and why?”

This question is actually designed to test your decision-making skills, your flexibility and your ability to accurately evaluate why one solution is better than another. Research shows that compare-and-contrast decisions lead to better outcomes. Sticking with what you know doesn’t always work.

If you are unprepared for these types of questions, you may limit your answer to what you know and end up blowing the interview, without realizing it.

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