Select Page

Last week, I found myself in the midst of a disaster of a phone interview.  On paper, the candidate looked fantastic:  college degree in Communications from a solid university with several interesting projects highlighted, summer internship in social media marketing, current position in the family business.  In the email exchange to gauge interest and set up the phone interview, she was bright, articulate, and responsive.

My first question after introducing myself on the phone was “Is this still a good time?”  The answer of “I guess” did not fill me with confidence, but I pressed on.  Three questions later, I was expecting my team to jump out and yell “Gotcha!” since this candidate was the epitome of every bad millennial stereotype rolled into one.  I asked the one final question that found the truth, “You do not seem to be enjoying the interview—why did you apply for this position?”  Turns out, she did not apply.  Her mother wrote her documents, submitted them, emailed with me, and then handed her the phone.  In truth, the candidate’s current desires were to enjoy the life her parents provided for her without joining the workforce.

Short of calling Dr. Phil, I cannot help that family; however, I know there are other younger millennials striving to find positions that will fit who they are and where they want to go.  As a member of a company that enjoys hiring and mentoring young talent, I have the pleasure of speaking with many millennials and would like to offer advice in the form of five verbs to utilize in your next interview process.

1.  in·ves·ti·gate /inˈvestəˌɡāt/  verb
Sample Question:  From your review of our website, how would you describe what we do?
Wrong Answer:  I actually did not look at your website, but I will read it on my first day of work.

Prepare for an interview using those digital stalking skills you have perfected in your personal life.  Research the company checking out their website, socials, and any articles that google provides.  If you know the name of any of your interviewing team, check out their LinkedIn profiles.  If you discover a connection with a current employee, reach out to ask about the culture and their experiences.  Take notes and have a few of them with you to help in the conversation.

2.  in·clude /inˈklo͞od/  verb
Sample Question:  Describe a time when things went wrong on a project—how did you get it back on track?
Wrong Answer:  I just buckled down and worked harder.

Every project goes off the rails at some point—acknowledging that is certainly important, but this question is looking for specific examples.  You want to briefly describe a project, what went wrong, and what specific choices you made or changes you used to reach a successful ending.  If you were not the lead on the project, be honest about your role, but describe specifically what you learned by watching the leader on the team.

3.  im·press / imˈpres/  verb
Sample Question:  Can you please describe an accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?
Wrong Answer:  I was the first of my friends to post a picture on Instagram that received 1000 likes.

This answer might be satisfactory if you are applying for a position in social media marketing and it is followed up with more detail, but in most cases it won’t work.  You want to select an accomplishment that you can describe while highlighting some of your best qualities.  Employers look for team members with a strong work ethic who will bounce back after setbacks and keep their eye on a prize.  It does not need to relate specifically to the job you are interviewing for, but should highlight your strengths.  I interview many software developers and hear about great project accomplishments; however, the developer that first comes to mind described how valuable becoming an Eagle Scout was to him in a way that made me want to give him an interview badge.

4.  in·quire /inˈkwīr/  verb
Sample Question:  What questions do you have for us?
Wrong Answer: I have no questions.

Show interest in the company by having several questions prepared in advance that will demonstrate you are truly interested in discovering if you and the company will be a good fit.  Ask questions like:  How would you describe the right candidate for this job?  What would success look like for this candidate three months into the role?  Are there any resources you would recommend for a candidate to review before stepping into the job?  This question usually occurs at the end of an interview and having no questions prepared leaves the hiring team believing you are just not interested in the job.

5.  in·spire /inˈspī(ə)r/  verb
Sample Question: Is there anything else we should know about you before we end the interview?
Wrong Answer:  I think I have shared everything.

Kate White, former editor of Cosmopolitan, often wrote and spoke about interviewing and hiring.  One of her best pieces of advice is to avoid the cool cucumber and hire the hot tamale.  Companies need passionate people.  We want you to want us as much as we want you.  Demonstrate your excitement for the opportunity to discuss your passion for X and your desire to learn more about Y.  Be confident, but make it clear that you really want an opportunity to grow.

Although I identified these as the Five I’s of Interviewing, these verbs will keep you on a strong path after you are hired, as well.  If you tackle your projects by investigating first, including strong details, impressing with your work ethic, inquiring with strong questions, and inspiring your team and clients with your passion, you will be on a successful career journey.

On a side note, we are hosting a batch of bright college seniors in a full day interview experience next Monday.  Several of you may be chosen as members of our new class of developers and offered jobs that start after you graduate next spring.  Will any of you earn bonus points by mentioning this article to me?