Common Interview Mistakes

Here is a post I wrote for the Microsoft JobsBlog:

Dear Microsoft JobsBlog:

What are some of the lesser-known but still common interview mistakes that candidates make?

This is a great question since I have been compiling a list in my head for the past few weeks. Glad I can write a post and get my thoughts out, not to mention potentially help Microsoft interviewees in the process!

1)      Lacking self-awareness during the on-site interviews – One of the key traits we look for in candidates at Microsoft is self-awareness. What does it mean to be self-aware? It means having a solid understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, and how your actions and behavior can impact others around you. During the interview process you may be asked, “How have your interviews gone so far?” The candidates who possess a fair degree of self-awareness will be apply to reflect on each interview in order to determine what went well and what areas could have been improved. So, during your interviews, really think critically about each interview in order to provide a well-thought answer if you are asked how your interviews have gone.

2)      Not taking feedback to heart from interviewers – Besides self-awareness, we also look for candidates who are “coachable.” What does this? Microsoft looks to hire strong candidates who are willing to take feedback in order to improve themselves. During on-site interviews, candidates will often receive direct feedback from interviewers such as different ideas of how to approach a problem, tips for future interviews, and areas to improve. The goal in providing feedback to candidates is not only help candidates excel in the interviews but also to see if: a) they are actively listening b) they can learn and grow in a short period of time c) they don’t have the mentality of, “it’s my way or the highway.” Those candidates who are able to accept constructive feedback and accept/implement ideas from others, will be the ones who really standout in the interview process. We see these types of candidates as having enough mature and confidence to work effectively with others and grow in their careers.

3)     Forgetting to relax and have fun! – Let me preface this interview mistake with a personal story that will (hopefully) help clarify my point. During college I ran cross-country and during a training run one day, I was cruising along at a fairly decent pace. My coach came up beside me and asked a really pertinent question, “Colleen, do you realize how much faster you run during practice than in meets?” What I hadn’t realized is that my relaxed self who absolutely loved to run for the fun of it, performed so much better when I wasn’t putting expectations on myself. When it came to race day, my body tensed up and I became plagued with fear. The result: slow race times.

 I often see candidates so nervous during the on-site interviews that they often have trouble thinking clearly, just as in my situation when I couldn’t run fast during races due to an overly tense body. The more relaxed and at ease we are in situations, the more we will allow our strengths to really shine through. The key is to not put expectations on yourself but instead, just to have fun and see the interview process as an opportunity to meet some really dynamic people, solve some cool problems, and learn more about Microsoft.






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