Good Interview Candidate, Bad Interview Candidate / by Lewis Lin


Good interview candidates apply to a small handful of jobs because they know what they want. Bad interview candidates apply to all jobs because they don't want to miss out.

Good interview candidates write cover letters that are brief, relevant, and when appropriate, entertaining. Bad interview candidates cut-and-paste cover letters, leaving the reader to figure out how they are different from everyone else.

Good interview candidates know the company, the customer, the products and the competition. Bad interview candidates tell themselves that they'll learn about the company, customer, and products during orientation week.

Good candidates anticipate what questions interviewers are going to ask. Bad candidates don't know what to expect at the interview.

Good candidates write down their interview responses in advance. Bad candidates don't see the value of clarifying their thoughts in writing, before they speak.

Good candidates verbally rehearse their written responses so they don't have to worry about what they're going to say. Verbal practice helps them appear casual, conversational and relaxed. Bad candidates prepare for interviews by spending countless hours passively reading about the company.

Good candidates know what the hiring manger is looking for. They redline the job description. They've circle all the important keywords including skills and experiences they're looking for. They ask the recruiter (or friends at the company) thoughtful tips and clues about the hiring manager and the position: What is he looking for? What are his pet peeves? What did he like or not like about other candidates or (if applicable) the candidate's predecessor?

Good candidate promote themselves effectively. Good candidates think about the story they want the interviewers to share at the water cooler. Bad candidates think about covering every career moment on the resume. Good candidates use the right keywords, using vocabulary and concepts familiar to the interviewer. Bad candidates use language familiar to only themselves.

Good candidates ask the interviewer questions. Bad candidates react to interview questions. Good candidates assume interviewers are really smart. Bad candidates assume that interviewers are dumb and can't tell if the candidate is "winging it."

Good candidates are precise in the words that they use. Bad candidates use business jargon that everyone else is using. Good candidates can explain the meaning behind the words they choose. Bad candidates can't explain what their words mean for more than 10 seconds.

Good candidates talk about their careers with passion, detail and conviction because they love what they've done, what they're currently doing, and what they will do. Bad candidates avoid talking about their careers. They make excuses for not speaking. But the truth is that they either don't know what to say or too afraid to say something that hurts their chances at getting the job.

Good candidates have interview responses that are complete, logical and satisfying. Bad candidates have interview responses that are fragmented and illogical. Bad candidates shift the burden to the interviewer and let the interviewer do the hard work of figuring out what the candidate is saying.

Good candidates explain their careers in way that it sounds fun. Bad candidates explain their careers that it sounds boring.

Good candidates send thank you notes because they appreciate the interviewer for taking time out of his or her busy schedule. Bad candidates don't send thank you notes because they take the interviewer's time for granted. Or they don't have the discipline to write a thank you note when they're busy.

Good candidates demonstrate value to the prospective employer before, during, and after the interview. They redesign their web page, create a new marketing brochure, or propose a new product and share it with the interviewer. Bad candidates wait until they are on the job to demonstrate their worth.

Good candidates welcome job offers with excitement and gratitude because they know it's what they want. Bad candidates hem and haw when receiving a job offer because they don't know how a company fits into their life plan.

Good candidates enjoy their new job because they are eager to learn, adapt and change. Bad candidates complain about their new job because it's not comfortable.

Inspired by Ben Horowitz's article

Photo Credit: Alex Gorzen