We just completed a seriously exhausting and rigorous hiring process to find three new team members for MerchantOS. By the numbers our process looked something like this:
- Two Posts to Craig’s List, one each for Customer Hero, and Office Admin
- 117 applicants for Customer Hero
- 203 applicants for Office Admin
- 106 phone interviews (~10 minutes each)
- 43 short in person interviews (~10 minutes each)
- Seven long in person interviews (~1 hour each)
- 30+ Hours Of Interviewing Candidates
- Three awesome folks hired.
I’ve already covered our phone interview process pretty extensively: Why You Failed Our Phone Interview. So, here’s what I’m looking for in an in-person interview.
Preparation – You Ready For This?
At this point, we’ve weeded out the truly un-prepared during our phone interview. Yet still, amazingly, some people walk into an in-person interview completely unprepared. There isn’t too much to say on this one, except: do some preparing. Eat your Wheaties, get a good night’s sleep, dress appropriately (I’ll cover this a little more later), read over our website, and generally do whatever you need to do to walk in confident and prepared.
Bonus: Take some time to think about why you want this job in particular. How does it fit into your goals professionally and personally?
Nerves – The #1 Interview Killer
This one is especially hard for me to critique because I wouldn’t consider myself a super confident person socially. However, I think I can fake it long enough to get through an interview, and I think you can too. For the lucky few of you who don’t have this problem, skip on down to the over-confidence section!
Here are my main tips for playing it cool and not letting your nerves get between you and the job you want:
- Pump yourself up for the interview. Do some laugh yoga, or whatever it takes to get yourself in a positive mood.
- Cover the basics: smile, make eye contact (with each person in the interview), shake everyone’s hand, introduce yourself clearly.
- Don’t be afraid to joke around during the interview. This is a little tricky, because you don’t want to treat the whole interview as a joke, but don’t be afraid to laugh or throw out a few puns.
- Remember: we are people just like you.
- Speak clearly.
- Bring some water with you. If your mouth gets dry and it’s bothering you. Take a second to take a drink. If Steve Jobs could sip from a water bottle during a key note, you can definitely do it during a job interview.
Why it’s hard to give a thumbs up to a super nervous candidate: I just can’t accurately judge your personality. Your nervousness obscures who you really are, which is what I’m trying to find out. If I can’t find out who you really are, what motivates you, how you’re going to interact with me and the rest of the team, then I’m left with a big question mark. I’m looking for a candidate that gives me positive signals that they are the right one for the job. Nerves obscure these signals.
You Can Be Overconfident
Nervous people, skip this, it doesn’t apply to you.
Don’t walk in thinking you’ve ‘nailed it’ before you actually have. We’re interviewing a lot of people. Assume that a lot of those people are awesome too. There isn’t a lot I can say on this subject, it’s fairly straight forward–have some sprinkling of humility. Typically this is more of a problem for men, for whatever reason.
What Not To Wear
What to wear to an interview totally depends on where and with whom you are interviewing. If you’re not sure if you should wear a suit or sweat pants, you should probably ask. You need to wear something that fits with the company and people you are interviewing with. This doesn’t mean you have to look just like us, it just means you shouldn’t come in a 3 piece business suite and tie if I’m gonna be in jeans and flip flops (well that’s really Ivan’s role). It’s going to make us both uncomfortable.
Why is it important? Whether we want to or not, in some ways we are going to judge you based on your appearance. It’s just human nature and it’s extremely hard to override.
Tip: Figure out the company culture. Is it super professional (lawyer’s office?), or is it casual and laid back? Try to fit your apparel choices to this. But, I’d say it’s ok to dress up more than you think you would just coming to work on an average day. You still want to look put together and like you are taking the interview seriously.
Bonus: Think about the position you’re applying for and what sort of personality we might want to hire for that. We usually give some clues in our job description. We are not totally superficial, but again it’s human nature, and it definitely can’t hurt your prospects to try to craft your image a bit to what we are looking for.
Age, Race, Gender, Or Other Protected Status
We’ve had candidates draw attention to these issues regarding themselves during the interviews. If you do feel the need to bring it up, say, if you want to make sure it’s not an issue: Keep it brief, to the point, and then move on.
Why? Because we won’t be able to say anything in response. The only thing we can say is something really generic like “we don’t discriminate on the basis of…”. If you bring it up over and over, it makes it an uncomfortable conversation because there is nothing for us to talk about.
For example if someone is significantly older than me and they repeatedly mention this throughout the interview. I start to think “is this person going to have issues working for someone way younger?”.
We keep these issues off the table when making a decision on a candidate, and you can help by not making it the focus of your interview.
This is a big one. Why do you want to work here? We know that no one is going to work for us forever, but we still want to know that this job is something you want to do (for reals) and you are going to be happy doing it. Hopefully you’ve thought about this before you even applied because if you really don’t want to do this type of job you’re wasting both of our time.
This is like ‘Location’ in real-estate. And unfortunately it seems you either have it or you don’t. That’s not to say that one personality is right for every job. It takes all kinds. But there are certain personalities that don’t work for a particular job. For example, if you don’t like to talk, then talking customers through problems all day on the phone is not going to work for you.
Most of the stuff I’ve written about up to this point is to get you to the point where we can fairly evaluate your personality and fit with the position. I’ve come to rely on personality as my main final criteria in picking candidates. I’ve been burned when I’ve ignored it, and delighted when I’ve focused on it.
That’s what it looks like from our side of the table. I’d love to know your opinion. Please leave a comment below.