What the %#@! are interviewers really looking for in an applicant? If you’re looking for your next job or gig right now, it’s one of the most perplexing questions imaginable. The truth is, there is no magic formula to get inside an interviewer’s head - interviewers, like people, are all different. That said, we recently brought on board a junior designer and I’d like to share with you reasons why some applicants weren’t chosen and others continued through the interview process. As a final caveat, I just want to remind you that this was our criteria and process, so please don’t take it as gospel (every interviewer is different). Instead, use the information below as a guide as you interview for a new job or gig.
In looking at applicants, we had the following questions in the back of our heads (even though that hadn’t been formally written down):
- Can the applicant do the job?
- Does the applicant want the job?
- Is the applicant a good fit for the team?
- Can the applicant follow directions, listen and communicate effectively?
- Is the applicant likely to leave as soon as they have another opportunity?
- Does the applicant have the right skill set and experience for the position (will they need too much help or will they be bored?)
Some of the reasons candidates were not chosen:
- Poor grammar
- Didn’t follow instructions
- Were way too overconfident (came across pompous or arrogant)
- Didn’t appear all that interested in the position
- Portfolio didn’t match the style we were looking for. Some portfolios featured strange works of art that were at the least unprofessional and would not be appreciated by our clients, at worst, the artwork was kind of scary.
- Didn’t listen during interview. We could tell they could hear us, but they weren’t listening - they were just waiting for their chance to talk
- Talked about other opportunities during the interview
- Had issues or possible complications with their schedule
- Didn’t have an online portfolio (this immediately disqualified people)
- TMI. Some applicants didn’t know when to turn their mouth off. They provided a little too much information.
- Arrived late to interview, or said it was "hard finding the place." Note, never tell the interviewer that their business was hard to find. Do NOT complain about the traffic, weather or having to find the business.
- Seemed way too desperate. Yes, letting interviewers know you want the job is a good approach - looking or sounding desperate is something you need to avoid.
These aspects didn’t disqualify an applicant, but they didn’t help:
- Emailed us at odd hours (this just looked odd)
- Demonstrated and showed passion for skills that were well beyond the scope of the job. For example, fine art, 3d modeling, CAD, sculpture, etc. These are wonderful talents to have, but it made us feel that the applicant might be bored in the position that was offered. It appeared that she/he was only applying for the position because they needed the money - not because they wanted the job. There’s nothing wrong with needing money, but we wanted someone whose artistic talents fit the position. The takeaway here is that if you have talents that go beyond the job you’re applying for, you’ll want to minimize them and focus on the talents that are directly applicable.
Why we selected who we did
- Seemed honest and upfront
- Had basic skill set, and was willing to learn
- Pleasant personality that would fit in well with the rest of the team
- Humble. Could clearly tell the applicant was not a design diva
- Could clearly tell the applicant wanted the position
- Had a respectable online portfolio that sort of matched what we were looking for. From the applicant’s portfolio we could say, “Yes, we can see that this person can probably do what we’re looking for them to do.”
- Didn’t have a lot of artistic talents outside of what we were looking for.
I hope these points have provided a little value to you. It's a tough market out there, so if you have any specific questions about your job search, feel free to leave a comment and I'll type out a response. Best wishes,guys.