6 Key Issues You’re Being Judged On In Your Job Interviews

It's vitally important to be yourself in your interviews—to bring your own authentic, vibrant personality, style and thinking to the conversation, and to not be afraid of demonstrating who you really are.

Anyone who’s ever interviewed for a job knows that it can be a very challenging and nerve-wracking process, with a good number of questions for us (who have engaged in the interview process) left unanswered. Most professionals understand that they are being critiqued during the interview experience, but do we really know what we’re being judged about, exactly? What are the key criteria hiring managers are looking for that we may not be aware of?

To address this question, I was excited to catch up this month with Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Indeed. Wolfe oversees all global human resource functions, including talent acquisition, employee retention, compensation, benefits and employee development. He has over 15 years of experience as a human resources executive having served as a VP and SVP at a number of well-known companies, including Match.com, Orbitz, Conde Nast and Ticketmaster. His specialties include talent acquisition and management, succession planning, performance management and leadership development.


Here’s what Wolfe shares about the questions hiring managers and employers are asking themselves about you once your interview is over:

Would this candidate add to team culture not just fit the current culture?

Rather than looking for new hires that are a good “culture fit,” I am a believer that it is much more important to think about “culture contributor” when we talk to candidates. For example, at Indeed, we are very protective of our strong and positive workplace culture. The key is finding people that are going to contribute to, enhance, and continue to improve our company culture. 

Prior to your interview, it’s important to have past examples of where you added to team and company culture. Can you think of a time where you brought diverse opinions, experience or specialized skills to your team that they were lacking without you? Was there a time you went above and beyond to encourage success within your team or company? Anything that shows you will not only fit in, but will also help overall culture thrive, will set you apart from other candidates. 


What soft skills does this candidate bring to the table on top of their hard skills?

Often times, multiple candidates share the same set of hard skills. While it’s important to highlight these skills, you can also set yourself apart from other candidates by showcasing your soft skills. The top soft skills to keep in mind include: 

  1. Communication
  2. Conflict resolution
  3. Creativity
  4. Critical thinking
  5. Dependability
  6. Empathy
  7. Flexibility
  8. Problem-solving


Highlighting these skills can prove that you will be a top functioning employee, work well with others, and present both yourself and the company in a positive light. Sharing these skills is often an excellent response to the question, “Do you have anything else to add.” The interviewer will appreciate that you’re highlighting areas that might not have been addressed directly, but could significantly impact your ability to do the job. 

But also keep in mind that the interviewer is often forming opinions on your soft skills without you knowing. Be sure to arrive on time, which shows dependability, maintain eye contact and ask thoughtful questions, which shows active listening. And give credit where credit is due, which shows integrity. 


Does this candidate support team and company growth?

In advance of the interview, brainstorm, and have on hand, examples of how you have helped with overall company growth in your past positions. Have you brought in new business, or helped drive success towards company milestones or goals? Have you hired a team that crushed their quarterly numbers? Be prepared with any examples you believe showcase your experience with team and company growth. 

Additionally, it’s important to think through how you might be able to support growth in your new position. Is there a program you’d like to implement that you believe would save time and money, allowing for employees to focus on bringing in more business? Do you have other candidates in mind who you’d like to bring on board? Would implementing a new goal or OKR (objectives and key results) program help with keeping employees engaged and on track? 


How does this candidate react when asked specific questions related to the role they will be filling?

First and foremost, it’s important to read the job description and make sure you understand each aspect of the position. This will ensure you aren’t surprised by the type of questions that come your way. After you’ve reviewed the description, be sure to thoughtfully prepare either an example of how you’ve done something similar in the past, or an idea for how you’d approach that task in the future.

While you cannot always anticipate what you will be asked, come to the table prepared with answers to common questions the interviewer will ask in an effort to learn more about how your qualifications match the job’s requirements, how you problem solve, work with others, take responsibility or show initiative.

Often times, interviews will include a test of sorts to see how you would handle a particular problem or task. This could include writing, skills assessment or emotional intelligence tests. While it’s impossible to prepare for the exact test you could be given, you can likely determine the type of task you might be given for this particular position. For example, a position in advertising might ask you to come up with a slogan for a particular product, while a position in data entry might ask you to quickly review sets of data. Spending a few minutes before an interview to think through possible tests and mentally prepare how you would handle them, will get you in the mindset to conquer those tests should they pop up. 

Additionally, it can be helpful to review their Indeed.com Company Page. Often, people will share their interview experience in their reviews of the company. This can give you insight into what they might ask, what type of tests they requested, and more.


What questions has this candidate prepared to ask us?

Currently, the hiring market is very tight. This is great for the interviewee. This should make you feel empowered to ask questions in the interview process that make sure the company is as good of a fit for YOU as you are for THEM. Now more than ever, interviewing is a two-way street, so be sure to treat the interview as a chance to get all of the questions you want to be answered about the position. 

There are many standard questions that interviewees ask during an interview, such as, “What are the day-to-day responsibilities,” “What’s your favorite part of working here,” and “Who will I be working closely with?” And while these are important in understanding the role, you can often make yourself stand out by asking more insightful questions.

To do this, I recommend doing research on the company, its employees and its competitors. Has the company been in the press recently for negative reasons? If so, does the interviewer believe this will impact job security in the future? Does the company have employees you believe would be good resources for your career development? If so, how much access will you have to these employees? Or, does the company have a large competitor that could potentially knock them out in the future? If so, what are they doing to stay competitive? It’s important to ask these questions without sounding skeptical, but rather asking them as someone who wants to help the company grow but also be as informed about what they’re walking into. The interview is another opportunity for seekers to collect research and further insights about the company and while also showing initiative. 


How does the candidate talk about themselves?

My mantra is always “be bright and be brief.” By the time you’re sitting in the interview chair, the employer has presumably seen your resume and knows about your past experience. While keeping this in mind, this is an excellent time to highlight how this work experience directly relates to the role you’re discussing. What isn’t included on your resume that is relevant for this role? Be sure to keep your messaging brief and succinct. 

This can also be a good time to briefly mention hobbies that demonstrate intellectual development, community involvement or personal achievement. This can include volunteering, reading or learning a new skill. 


* * * * *

Paul Wolfe’s tips here help us understand more specifically what’s going in the minds of our interviewers, and how we can best prepare. I’d love to add one final tip, based on my prior experience as as a senior corporate professional who hired a good number of people over the years, and now as a career and executive coach who guides professionals through their interview processes.

Remember this: It’s vitally important to be yourself in your interviews—to bring your own authentic, vibrant personality, style and thinking to the conversation, and to not be afraid of demonstrating who you really are.

After all, in the end you want to land a job that you’ll love and can thrive in, not one that makes you feel you have to be someone you’re not in order to be accepted.


For more information, visit Indeed.com.

For more from Kathy Caprino on building a successful career, work with her in a Career Breakthrough program and download her webinar The Quickest Path To Your Happiest Career.

Originally published at Forbes