What not to focus on when interviewed for a job

If you’ve never interviewed someone for a job, there’s a good chance you focus on the wrong thing as a candidate.

One of the common issues I see with candidates, especially less experienced ones, is the amount of focus put on their deficiencies, issues, or characteristics that they’re worried might make them less fitting for a certain job posting. Knowing how to focus on the right thing when presenting yourself will be the key for getting further in the interviewing process and nailing that job you are really after.

When coming to an interview the purpose of the interviewer is always more about seeking for the qualities of a great candidate, rather then finding the flaws of a terrible one. Your goal as a candidate should be to help them find the right things.

Some examples of what candidates see as their own deficiencies are spoken languages for expats, years of experience, or specific technologies mentioned in the job posting.

“Hello, I’m Eyal. I hope you had an easy time getting here. Can we get you something to drink before we get started?”

“Listen, before we start, I’m currently working on a personal project and will need to be working from home once a week. How’s your policy on that subject here?”

Putting the focus on trying to avoid failing for a deficiency will only get you to ram the obstacle head-on. This is known as Target Fixation. When you concern yourself with a technical topic you are bound to forget that you’re a really good fit by much more important measures. Those are the ones you should be talking about instead.

Anything you raise as a candidate, especially the first thing, will be perceived as something that’s very important for you. You should not put any deficiency in the limelight, and there are ways to get the information you need without botching your interview.

The expat dilemma

A person who was looking for a job in Berlin asked for help. The job posting was in English, and at the bottom had a bullet point saying German fluency is important.

“Should I have even applied? My German is only basic so during the interview I try and manage expectations. Interviewers don’t seem to understand why I’m even raising the topic. I feel this might be holding me back in the process. I can’t not raise the topic only to fail in the first weeks of work.”

Unless the role itself requires German to be used when speaking with customers or generating something customers will read, it might not be a hard requirement. Instead of asking “is German a requirement? Because my German is terrible!” they could ask “What is the daily conduct like? is email communication and are meetings held in German, or is English used?”

The difference is that instead of shining a light at the level of spoken German, the candidate will be focusing on the company and process. They will learn what they wanted without compromising their chances. These kinds of questions should never come up early in the interview, and the candidate can relax as long as they know they’ll bring it up later.

If you’ve been asked to come to an interview, leave it for the interviewer to test you on what’s important to them. Focus your efforts on showing your strengths that made you apply in the first place. Every minute spent on talking about the wrong thing is a minute less talking about what a great fit you are for the job.

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