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What your Entry-Level Interviewer wants to Hear

As stated in the previous post, I've conducted my fair share of interviews (over 40). All were for entry-level roles or were mock interviews for high school and college students. Through-out the process I've heard a lot of bad interviews but I've also had some "diamond in the rough" candidates. Every Aladdin candidate has been able to effectively communicate the following.


Personality

For an entry-level role an employer is going to care greatly about culture fit. Because you may not have had much job experience, the most important thing to that employer may be knowing you will get along well with the other employees of the company. (Unfortunately, this is often how companies end up making sexist, racist, and ageist hiring decisions but that's another rant for another day).

At my current company we are all...well we're all nerds. We have multiple D&D groups, we play board games Friday afternoons, and we like to talk about physics and space in our down time. When two engineers are neck and neck for an open role 9 times out of 10 we will hire the individual who also wants to throw down in a debate about when interstellar travel will be possible and how we'll handle the cosmic radiation problem.

Communicating your personality doesn't mean you have to fit into the company culture perfectly but having your interviewer actually like you gives you a huge leg up. To get someone to like you, you will need to let who you are shine through. Be prepared to answer questions about your hobbies and interests outside of work and don't be shy about your passions. Let the employer get to know the real you (unless the real you is a dick...in which case just pretend you're nice).


Mistakes

My favorite question in every interview I've ever given is "Can you tell me about a time you made a mistake and explain what you learned from it?" The reason this question is asked is not to prove that you don't f*** things up...it's actually the opposite. Whenever this question is asked your employer is looking for two things: can you own up to a mistake and can you learn from it.

All you humans have flaws and all humans are going to mess up. You're employer understands this and if you answer with "well I can't really think of any" or use it as an opportunity to bash your previous coworkers all we hear is that you cannot admit to your own mistakes. This makes you a liability.

When going into an interview and are asked about mistakes be prepared to admit to an area where you failed; not your team, not your company, but you. Next explain the brevity of the failure. Finally, explain what you learned from the failure to ensure you do not repeat it. For example: "When I was a team lead I once sent out inaccurate pricing emails to all of our clients. This resulted in hundreds of customers asking for refunds. It happened because I did not have the email proof-read as I should have. From that moment forward I always followed email protocol."


Knowledge of the Company

I'm about to sound like a mom big-time but...DO YOUR HOMEWORK GOSH DARN IT. It is always impressive when a candidate actually knows about the company they are interviewing for but it is surprisingly rare that they do. If you are taking up a company's time to interview with them, the bare minimum you can do is google them.

I've had interviewees go as far as to look me up personally on LinkedIn before the interview and ask me questions about my career path. While this was a little creepy and you should definitely read the room before bringing up any personal details I was impressed overall with the amount of effort they'd put in before the interview.

If you're about to interview at a company LOOK THEM UP. Read their company website, read recent news about their acquisitions, read their yelp reviews, and (most importantly) take notes. During your interview display the knowledge you've gained by asking specific questions about the company during the question portion of your interview. (PS- If you are given a time to ask questions you must ask questions. Have at least five prepared beforehand).


In short...

For an entry-level position your employer is really looking for three things:

  1. Do you play well with others

  2. Can you admit your mistakes

  3. Did you do your research

If you can communicate these three items you'll do great. Best of luck!

What is the best answer you've ever gotten in an interview?


Are you an interviewee? Do any of these questions stress you out?

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