Recently, I was involved with several interviews for a leadership position at one of my client’s businesses. As is customary, we set up interviews with 3-4 candidates who, at least on paper, were well qualified for the job.

Our interview committee was well prepared, we had updated the job description, prepared relevant interview questions, identified acceptable answers we needed for each question and even created an interview matrix to “score” each interviewee’s performance following the interview.

Then came the actual interviews. One by one each applicant came in for a face-to-face group interview with our selection committee, where it quickly became evident we had a front runner for the position. However, we continued to carefully follow our process. After completing all the interviews the committee held long, intense discussions about each candidates’ qualifications and responses and what we had learned through the interview. Here’s the top 10 things we learned about those who did or didn’t get the job:

  1. Be prepared! Whether you’re an internal or external candidate, the interview is a serious process designed to match the best candidate to the job. So come prepared for a serious discussion.
  2. Don’t try to wing it. Interviewers can tell if you’re making up answers on the spot – and that won’t get you the job.
  3. Answer the question! I can’t tell you how many times we asked a question only to have the candidate either ignore it completely, answer something else or hem and haw hoping we would forget what we had asked. We didn’t and you lost major points for simply not answering the question. Not answering the question is worse than answering in a way contrary to how we would have done it.
  4. Give examples. When interviewers ask for an example, give us an actual example from your previous experience. Don’t tell us what you “might” do in that situation – that’s not what we asked. Tell us what you actually did do in a previous situation.
  5. Conduct research on the company and the job BEFORE the interview. Know the company, their values and philosophies and the job you’re interviewing for BEFORE arriving. In this case, we were interviewing for a leadership role. We expected candidates to come prepared to demonstrate HOW they would lead.
  6. Be a problem solver. The role you are interviewing for is open because the organization has a problem and is looking for the best problem solver. If you aren’t sure you can solve them problem, then why should we hire you?
  7. Be decisive – be prepared to demonstrate how you will identify issues, get to the root cause of those issues, decide on next steps, take action and produce results. See previous answer if this isn’t clear.
  8. Timing is EVERYTHNG. The interview is NOT the time to ask how much vacation you get, how many breaks are provided during the day, when you will get a raise, etc. Learn about the company and the job and ask questions that will help you evaluate if the company is a fit for you as much as we are evaluating if you are a fit for the company. The other questions are important, but timing is everything.
  9. Ask pertinent questions. I want to know you want this job and have already begun to see yourself being successful in it. Prepare and ask questions that demonstrate your thought process.
  10. Follow-up. It seems old fashioned, I know, but follow-up after the interview to reconnect with the team and keep your name top of mind.

Yes, there are unethical or even discriminatory organizations in the world, but for me and my interview team, it’s all about qualifications and fit and we don’t care about any your personal characteristics. If you can’t measure up to these 10 metrics, you won’t get the job.