With the job market extremely tight, even the small stuff counts, especially when you’re on a job interview. That’s why it’s so important not to say or do the wrong things, since that first impression could end up being the last one.
With that in mind, here are seven deadly sins of job interviewing.
1. Don’t Be Late To the Interview
Even if you car broke down or the subway derailed, do everything you can to get to that job interview on time.
“If you have a legitimate excuse it’s still hard to bounce back,” says Pamela Skillings, co-founder of job coaching firm Skillful Communications. “People are suspicious because they hear the same excuses all the time.”
On the flip side, you don’t want to show up too early and risk appearing desperate, but you do want to be there at least five minutes early or at the very least on time.
2. Don’t Show Up Unprepared
It seems simple, but countless people go on job interviews knowing very little about the company they are interviewing with when all it would take is a simple Google search to find out. As a result, they end up asking obvious questions, which signal to the interviewer that they are too lazy to prepare.
“Don’t ask if the company is public or private, how long it’s been in business and where they do their manufacturing,” says Mark Jaffe, president of Wyatt & Jaffe, the executive search firm. “Sharpen your pencil before you go to school.”
3. Don’t Ask About Salary, Benefits, Perks
Your initial interview with a company shouldn’t be about what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company. Which means the interview isn’t the time to ask about the severance package, vacation time or health plan. Instead you should be selling yourself as to why the company can’t live without you.
“Your interest should be about the job and what your responsibilities will be,” says Terry Pile, Principal Consultant of Career Advisors. “Asking about vacation, sick leave, 401K, salary and benefits should be avoided at all costs.”
4. Don’t Focus On Future Roles Instead Of The Job At Hand
The job interview is not the time or place to ask about advancement opportunities or how to become the CEO. You need to be interested in the job you are actually interviewing for. Sure, a company wants to see that you are ambitious, but they also want assurances you are committed to the job you’re being hired for.
“You can’t come with an agenda that this job is just a stepping stone to bigger and better things,” says Jaffe.
5. Don’t Turn The Weakness Question Into A Positive
To put it bluntly, interviewers are not idiots. So when they ask you about a weakness and you say you work too hard or you are too much of a perfectionist, chances are they are more apt to roll their eyes than be blown away. Instead, be honest and come up with a weakness that can be improved on and won’t ruin your chances of getting a job.
For instance, if you are interviewing for a project management position, it wouldn’t be wise to say you have poor organizational skills, but it’s ok to say you want to learn more shortcuts in Excel. “Talk about the skills you don’t have that will add value, but aren’t required for the job,” says Pile.
6. Don’t Lie
Many people think its ok to exaggerate their experience or fib about a firing on a job interview, but lying can be a surefire way not to get hired. Even if you get through the interview process with your half truths, chances are you won’t be equipped to handle the job you were hired to do. Not to mention the more you lie the more likely you are to slip up.
“Don’t exaggerate, don’t make things bigger than they are and don’t claim credit for accomplishments you didn’t do,” says Jaffe. “You leave so much room in your brain if you don’t have to fill it with which lie you told which person.”
7. Don’t Ask If There’s Any Reason You Shouldn’t Be Hired
Well meaning career experts will tell you to close your interview by asking if there is any reason you wouldn’t be hired. While that question can give you an idea of where you stand and afford you the opportunity to address any concerns, there’s no guarantee the interviewer is going to be truthful with you or has even processed your information enough to even think about that.
“All you are doing is prompting them to think about what’s wrong with you,” says Skillings.
Having just made the jump to full-time freelancing, I’ve been confronted recurring question: “What exactly do you do?”
I’ve primarily been focused on my existing clients, but am starting to get a number of new requests to work together; so I wanted to tell everyone what it is I do – and how you can start working with me.
There are three primary ways I’m engaged:
1. True Consulting: I have built several relationships with global marketers using this method. The marketer, or agency, hires me to review materials & provide an opinion on how to proceed based on experience, research, stakeholder interviews etc. I’ve generally begin a relationship consulting on an ad-hoc basis, invoicing the client on a project basis. I’ve recently been retained by a couple clients who wanted the flexibility to engage me anytime, on multiple projects, by paying for a number of yearly hours upfront.
2. Integrated Project Consulting: I’ve worked with several marketers & agencies in this method. This normally happens when the marketer, or agency, has a process & a team assembled, but is missing an element. I’m normally engaged to fill a missing strategic roll or to fill a missing user experience roll. I prefer to use this method, it allows me to engage with the team early, and stay engaged throughout the project. Getting the opportunity to review design & final development allows me to ensure the interpretation of strategy or UX doesn’t compromise any elements.
3. Document-Only Consulting: This is a low-impact, easy way to engage with me. The document-only method is generally used by marketers or agencies who have a very specific need on a project. For instance, if a marketer needs a second opinion on a set of wireframes, or social media governance document, he will engage me to create that specific document. I’ve also been engaged by agencies to simply create a site map, or conduct a forensic audit of an existing site. This is generally not the best method, unless we’ve done work in the past and I’m familiar with the client.
That said, I have been asked about what types of documents I generally create throughout a project. Although every project is different, and may require customizations, here are some documents I’m engaged to create often:
**Note: If you’re not sure which of these documents to use, or when to use them, skip this section.**
Strategic Models: Modelling is a visual way of strategic planning. Models without the right background research, context, or explanation can be good visual aids, but are poor investments. The point of modelling is to show why a strategy works, why some strategic elements were selected & others excluded. Complicated strategies may be governed by several models.
Strategic Road mapping: Mapping out a high-level strategic roadmap & detailed campaign-based roadmaps help avoid misunderstandings between stakeholders, and allow teams to have a unified view of upcoming activities.
User Personas: I was engaged by the Ontario government to create one of the largest sets of user personas I’ve ever created. It was 8 months in the making, and involved a 15 person team performing a month-long ethnographic study. Most persona development doesn’t take that long, but it is a substantial investment that pays off over time. Understanding who your users are, and what they want, allows you to customize your campaigns, strategies, and offerings to speak to the most interested audience at the most relevant time.
Mental Models: I generally like one-page mental models to identify gaps, opportunities, and cognitive processes. Creating mental models are useful throughout the project in multiple ways, from focusing creativity, to managing scope. If feature-creep begins to happen, the mental model can be used to eliminate irrelevant features.
eCRM Strategies: A strategy generally pulls together several documents into one cohesive deck. I have my own style & template for a eCRM deck, but can adapt it to match your internal style if required. An eCRM strategy is somewhat complex in the sense it deals with multiple platforms, content strategy, communications strategy, social media strategy, and data segmentation. That said, everyone has to start somewhere – if you don’t have an eCRM strategy, it’s time to get one ready. Even if it’s a 3 or 5 year plan, it’s better to be working toward a goal than not to have a goal to work toward.
Social Media Strategies: This is another strategic deck (see eCRM Strategies) that I can customize to match your internal template. This is a document where I’ll make recommendations on content, moderation, community management, platform selection, monitoring guidelines, integration opportunites etc.
Experience Maps: Is a broad term that refers to swim-lane-like documents that map out a unique campaign experience, platform experience, or an entire customer experience. This can be mapped back to business objectives, or to a mental model.
Site Maps/ IA’s: A good first step in any digital project is to create an information architecture or site map. This visually shows the parent-child-sibling relationships, as well as being an overview of all pages. In addition to standard labelling, site redesigns may append template letters to the site map which will indicate which template governs each page.
Navigation Design: It’s somewhat rare to be asked to do a navigation design without being engaged to do the entire site redesign, however it’s happened before. In this document, I propose a new or enhanced navigational system & structure. This might involve re-categorization, but might not. I’ll show how parent-child relationships are shown, where user-feedback is required, and how navigational buttons behave.
Forensic Audits/ Content Inventories: This is a must-have document for all site re-designs. If I’m being engaged to do a re-categorization, or any part of a site redesign, I will complete a forensic audit of the existing site (if one isn’t provided) & will deliver a content inventory of the proposed solution. This will generally be delivered as an Excel document, unless otherwise specified.
Wireframes/ Prototypes: There are many different programs & methods of creating wireframes & prototypes. Unless otherwise specified, I tend to either use Omnigraffle or Axure to create these. I have my own style, but can adapt it to mimic your internal style. I prefer to go through two rounds of wireframing, a preliminary-draft round and a detailed round. Sometimes these are delivered with additional supporting documents like a site-map, user flows, user stories, or a functional specification.
User Testing: User testing is always a good idea on every project. At least one round of user testing should be performed prior to handing off prototypes to design. Ideally, a second round of user testing will be performed after implementation; with a focus on iterative improvements. MVT should be an ongoing process in addition to qualitative user tests.
Re-categorization/ Card-sorting: When users are having a hard time finding what they’re looking for, you might need to re-examine your sites taxonomy. For smaller sites, this can be an easy exercise, but can be much bigger for e-commerce or informationally-heavy sites.
For those of you who are confused about these documents, don’t worry; there’s an easy way to figure out what you need. Ask me.
Again, these are just some of the most common documents. These certainly don’t speak to all the methods & documents I use to help define goals & objectives, or the documents I can create to help project teams document requirements.
Mixing and Matching
I know that deciding to hire a consultant can be challenging. No one wants to introduce an unknown element to a team dynamic. Although I’m generally a great team-member, there are certain atmospheres that I work better in. Setting up an initial interview is always a good way to begin to get to know each other.
I’m easy with regards to meeting in person, over the phone, or via email. An interview will give me the ability to find out what your goals are, what your customers goals are, and how I can help. It’ll also give you the opportunity to get to know me better.
I’m often engaged to perform a mashup of responsibilities. For instance, a number of clients engaged me for true consulting on an organizational level & document-only consulting on a couple projects. This worked out well. It allowed me to stay involved at a high-level on all ongoing projects, and allowed me to lead the UX design for the intranet-redesign.
I recently went online to pay a credit card bill with a well-known financial institution. Upon logging in, I was presented with a promotional advertisement for the company’s iPad application. As a designer, I was naturally curious as to how the app differed from the Web experience, assuming it might just surpass my expectations. And why not? The iPad presents a blank slate on which many organizations can create a unique experience free from legacy constraints inherent in a long-standing Web application. With this in mind, I quickly abandoned my bill-paying task to download the application on the iPad. A few minutes later, I was happily logged in and navigating the iPad application.
The interface was slick. But there was one major issue: I couldn’t do what I originally set out to do–I couldn’t pay my bill. Not only that, but the iPad app had a completely different look and feel from the Web application. Ultimately, it was a confusing and disappointing experience and convinced me to stick with the bank’s old-school Web interface for the foreseeable future.
How does this happen? My hunch is that this design fail was the result of designing in a vacuum. This generally happens in one of two ways:
- “Expert” design: When the design of a product (or service) is considered without understanding the needs of those who will be using it. While there are cases where expert design may be appropriate, it’s also quite risky. Without user insight and feedback, you have little way of knowing whether your new product will resonate with its intended audience, yet it happens all the time.
- Siloed design: When the design of a product (or service) occurs without a truly cross-functional and collaborative team effort–that is, when design happens in its own functional silo within an organization. Not surprisingly, the finished product doesn’t necessarily mirror what the designer had intended.
At EffectiveUI, we see examples of this all the time. Aside from the fact that large organizations struggle to understand their customers’ needs as they relate to a changing digital ecosystem, these organizations also create (or inherit) false internal structures that prevent great design work from happening in the first place. It’s all too common to see an organization where the Web team is a completely distinct unit from the mobile team.
Here’s the problem: The end user doesn’t care how your company is structured. Customers view brands as a unified entity, and they expect that brand’s value to be delivered across all channels with an equal degree of integrity. The good news is that the digital landscape is forcing all of us to re-think how we work. The bad news is that we’re trying to crawl out of a work style that was better designed for Ford’s assembly line than for digital ecosystem consistency.
Personally, I’m excited. While there’s certainly a ton of disruption (and serious failure) happening across many industries that long thought they were invincible, there are some incredibly bright spots across the businesses that are reconsidering a new way of working so that design’s true values can be brought forward. In a world full of sameness, design can act as a key differentiator. Organizations that never had a design department are now hiring designers at a rapid clip. That said, there’s a ton of work to be done. Adding designers to your staff won’t make much of a difference if the organization can’t understand its customer needs or create a brand-consistent digital ecosystem that serves those needs.
So, how do we move forward? At a fundamental level, we need to resist the way we’ve been taught work happens: Departmental and functional silos are working models of a past era. Obviously, some of the issues addressed here occur at a very deep organizational level. While outside consultants have been brought into large organizations for years to diagnose certain organizational challenges, I believe that designers are in a prime position to observe, interpret, and model back a different way of working.
If we can agree that consumers see a brand as having one “voice,” I’d argue that the internal organization’s infrastructure should be set up to reflect that singular voice: No more Web team, separate from the mobile team, separate from the development team. The unifying principles that guide these teams should center around what customers actually need, not what new technologies we want to throw at them. These needs exist regardless of platform, and they act as a sounding board in conjunction with the core business objectives.
Telling designers to “create organizational change” is like saying “we put our customers first.” Both things are easier said than done. What I’m advocating is simply changing the conversation at a grassroots level by modeling different behaviors.
Your challenge? Re-think the way you’ve been working. Break your old habits. For example, rather than generating a 50-slide PowerPoint to sell your new digital concept, facilitate a conversation with your team in a workshop. Rather than presenting a fully baked concept, sketch something out for early feedback. Present a prototype for user feedback instead of launching a fully functional application. Get out of the design vacuum, bring other perspectives to the table, and ideally, get others to reconsider how they’ve been working to date.
Generating space for design is challenging amidst the general pace of business, but with the right mindset, dedicated team members, proper cross-functional collaboration, and a clear focus on the voice of the customer, digital products and services can be conceived with a fresh perspective.