Monday, May 31, 2010

Candidate Tip - Part 7

Few months back, I started the ‘Candidate Tip Series’ on this blog with an intention to answer recruitment related questions from readers. The series was introduced in an attempt to avoid redundancy in replies. I tweet these tips on my twitter account too, and #candidatetip for the tips.

If you are a candidate, hope this helps. If not, you can help send this post to people searching for answers. I’ll continue to take questions and should you have one, you can send it to

Looking for the earlier posts on candidate tips? You can read them here.

  1. Don't act surprised when you get a 'scheduled' call from an interviewer. You were asked for a good time to be reached. No?
  2. If you're sending your LinkedIn profile for a role, then take out your wedding picture on your profile! Doesn’t look professional.
  3. Please wait for the interviewer to finish the question. Else, u might miss out on answering the actual question in its entirety.
  4. It's critical for your new employer to know your start date. Don’t commit to a start date without thinking. Keep some buffer.
  5. Interview questions are NOT always about 'Yes/No'. Some are asked to understand your approach in getting to the solution.
  6. Use interviews to ask as many questions. Really. You don't get rejected for asking questions. If you do get rejected for that, you don’t want to work there.
  7. Show discretion when you want to disagree with an interviewer.
  8. It's ok to have an exploratory talk before you dive into interviews. But once you decide, stick to it. Reneges aren't liked!
  9. Ask for a 'job description' before you take up an interview. It'll give you some context to the role & future discussions.
  10. Keep in touch with your references. Sending them a mail one fine day doesn't work at all times. Result: Job offer's on hold!
  11. Don't be the one to end an interview. Let the interviewer end it. You can end it you aren't keen on the role. Saves time.
  12. Use the word 'expert' in your resume, with utmost discretion. Any 'expert' claim will get validated with more rigor.
  13. If you're talking to the hiring manager, ask for an email ID. Might be of help later (interview feedback, thank you note, etc)

Friday, May 14, 2010

I don't know.

I don’t know, are the three words that I would like to hear from interviewees, when then don’t have an answer to an interview question. It's much better than rambling on with answers that absolutely make no sense. Really.

Beware! Show some discretion (Read: common sense) in using them for questions for which you really don’t have an answer. Those questions don’t include, “Why are you looking for a change?”, “Why do you want to work here?” or something along the same lines.

Fear of getting rejected at interviews or even getting judged, puts undue pressure on some candidates to come up with answers that absolutely make no sense. While on the contrary, the very reason to reject that person would have been the answers. A good interviewer isn’t expecting you to know answers to every question. They only try and check your approach towards a solution for a certain problem (or question). The way you approach a problem will tell a lot more than the actual solution itself.

Now that you have told, “I don’t know”, what’s next? There is a couple of ways that might help you gain the interviewer’s confidence.

First, ask for the answer. In my experience, I’ve noticed that candidates tend to go on the back-foot or get defensive or go into a shell, when they don’t know an answer. It’s that awkward minute between an unanswered question to the next question that you should grab with both hands. Ask for the answer. Yes, it’s that simple. You could say, “I don’t know, but I’d like to know the answer to the question. It will help me understand the topic.” You’ll be surprised that a trained interviewer actually looks for such traits in candidates.
Second, don’t use the clich├ęd, “I don’t know the answer, but I’m a quick learner.” It means zilch to a person trying to determine your approach. In case you are uncomfortable asking for the answer during the interview, it’s ok. Make a note of that question. Get back home. Dig for answers, either through books, blogs, online, whatever it takes to get the answer. Mail it to the interviewer with mention of the sources you used to get to the answer. This is an approach that very few candidates take and it could help you stand out in a crowd. Your efforts will definitely be recognized by good interviewers.

Saying “I don’t know” is one of the easiest answers for a question that one doesn’t know the answer to. It’s what you do about the don’t-know-part that counts.

Good luck!