Friday, May 14, 2010

Top 5 Interviewing Mistakes

I have the honour to have Mr. R. Scott Morris writing this guest post in my blog.

Scott is an author, financial engineer and quantitative consultant. He was the CEO of Boston Options Exchange (2006-08). He has also served as Managing Director of Goldman Sachs. Scott has conducted numerous finance interviews. He is going to talk about the top 5 mistakes that candidates make. To increase your success rate, please make sure to avoid any of these mistakes.

Top 5 Interviewing Mistakes
By R. Scott Morris

There are a number of mistakes that inexperienced (and experienced, for that matter) interviewees make. Listed below in no particular order are the top five that I have encountered while conducting first-round, on-campus recruiting. They have risen to the top because of their impact on my decision to place someone into the “no” pile and their frequency of occurrence.

1. Poorly Organized Resume
The first thing to keep in mind is that I am a busy person and that when I am entering the interviewing room, your information will probably not be fresh in my mind. Don’t make it hard for me to find the relevant information by having a poorly organized resume. Most resumes are full of useless words and irrelevant facts which hide the data you want me to see: your strengths, your character, and your intellectual capacity.

2. Bad Breath Effect
First impressions are key. If you are not well-dressed, have a weak handshake, don’t wear socks, show up late, are too casual, are rude or impolite, or, yes, have bad breath, you will make a bad first impression. I simply do not know you well enough to know whether this is a rarity or your normal character. I may very well assume it is the latter.

3. Not Answering the Question
If I am hiring you for an entry-level role in my firm, I need to know that you can follow instructions and do what you are told. Leadership skills and creative thought are important, but before you will ever get a chance to show me these traits, you will have to prove that you can do the little things well. How do I judge whether you can do this? The best way is to ask you a specific question, then see if you answer only what I ask. Beware: if I ask you what your greatest strength and greatest weakness are, I only want one of each. If you think you are impressing me by giving me three or four strengths, you have just shot yourself in the foot.

4. Rambling
You should practice answering short, fact-based responses to questions. A lot of times when people get nervous, they tend to drone on and on. Blabbers are poor team players and high maintenance employees. I will rarely ask a question that needs more than a one minute response. A question such as, “Tell me about your summer internship,” is not an opportunity to go into excruciating detail. It is a general question and should be met with a general response. I will ask a follow-up question if I want to drill down in a particular area.

5. Not Knowing Yourself Cold
You must be able to defend every word on your resume and every statement you say in your interview. Little loses my interest in a candidate faster than when she is not able to back up what she wrote on her resume. If you say you are fluent in Spanish, you better be prepared to conduct your interview in that language. If you mention a research project that you did during college, you better be able to articulate what you did and what your conclusions were. If you include a computer skill on your resume, you better be able to demonstrate some level of proficiency in it.

Bonus: The #1 Must Have
Here is the number one “must” that I look for in first-time job seekers when determining if I am willing to take a chance on them. This might seem obvious, but if you dismiss it as such, you will miss the point. Your resume, cover letter and responses during your interview should reinforce the following point:


How do you do this? It is quite simple: give me multiple examples of things you have done that show me that you are interested in the type of work that I do. Direct work experience is great, but related research or academic experience can be equally as good.

Happy job hunting! It is never too early to start adding a little shine to your interviewing skills.

R. Scott Morris

Author of Polished – Adding Shine to Your Resume, Cover Letter, and Interview Skills; GetHiredBlog

Investment Banking Interview
Recommended reading: Amazing Cover Letter