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Five traps candidates fall into during their job search and interviews

By Nick Walters. Nick is a consultant at Zeren, working within our Product team, based in our London office.

Not reading the job description thoroughly before applying

The job market has changed. With the unfortunate layoffs of tens of thousands of staff at the end of last year and the beginning of this year, companies have far more available candidates to choose from. This means that the ‘perfect’ candidate is more likely to be out there and ready to move than previously and job requirements, therefore, have to flex less.


  • Does the job description say it’s hybrid? Can you make it into the office 2/3/4 days a week?
  • Do you have the right to work in the country where the job is situated?
  • Be honest with yourself, do you have demonstrable experience for the skills required?

If not, through purely the amount of applications companies receive from people who tick the initial boxes on paper, you might not hear back.

Instead set yourself up for success:

  • Make sure your LinkedIn is as detailed as can be, especially if you’re job title and responsibilities don’t necessarily align
  • Target companies or industries where you know you can add value from day 1
  • Connect with a recruiter who specialises in your industry/specialism, they maybe able to open doors for you that you never even knew existed


Not taking the first call with a recruiter (either internal or agency) seriously

If you’ve arranged a time to speak to a recruiter, whether they work in-house or are an agency working on the role, don’t take the call for granted. First impressions count! Treat it as the first interview, that’s not to say you need to be a subject matter expert but if you’re distracted, disengaged and/or disinterested it will show, even over the phone. When recruitment or internal talent report back to the hiring manager, you want your name up in lights for being enthusiastic, engaged, asking great questions and generally being an all-round good person. Senior candidates tend to be far better at this than people in the early stages of their careers, it’s definitely a skill to learn quickly.


Not doing enough prep for the interview

This may sound really obvious, and it is. But, a lot of candidates fall at this most basic of hurdles.

A non-exhaustive list of prep is below:

  • Research the person you’re speaking to on LinkedIn. Do you have mutual connections? Where have they worked previously? What do they post about that you can maybe reference on the call?
  • Research the company thoroughly. Are you confident you know exactly what the company does (especially if they’re offering complex products)? Who are their major clients? Do you share clients? What are the company’s mission, vision and goals?
  • Read the job description thoroughly. Make sure you have detailed examples and outcomes of the requirements listed.
  • If you’re being asked to present some of your own projects, make sure you know everything there is to know about them. This is your own and likely best work, be proud of it and let that show
  • Interviewers can tell as much about you as the questions you ask as by the answers you give. Have well-thought-out questions, about the role, the business, and the people.


Getting stuck down a rabbit hole during the interview

It’s easy during an interview, especially if it’s a relaxed, conversational format to get sidetracked and spend 20 minutes of the hour talking about a topic that might not be role related. Whilst you maybe really interested in a specific point, keep the job description in the back of your mind. The interviewer wants to know in the main that you can do the job that they’re hiring for. By all means, talk about the stuff that really interests you and is probably one of the reasons you’re interviewing but save it for the questions at the end. Make sure you show your value to the role, first and foremost.


Not using a competitive advantage

Whilst we’re all pretty comfortable doing interviews remotely now, it doesn’t really replace meeting the team in person and seeing how the wider organisation works and interacts with each other. That being said, the huge advantage of remote interviews is that 99% of the time you’re going to have the direct email address/contact details of the hiring manager. Now there is no real excuse for not sending a follow-up note thanking the person you’ve met for their time, how much you enjoyed their conversation and that you’re looking forward to hearing back. Going one step further, did you feel that you weren’t as clear on a specific point during the interview as you wanted to be? Send a short follow-up, with a few bullet points explaining the bit you missed. It might be too late and minds might be made up, however, there’s no harm in trying!


Zeren exists to empower the world’s change makers. We do this by building high-performing teams in the world’s most innovative businesses, to accelerate growth by connecting visionary leaders and ambitious talent.

We are a leading global Executive Search & Recruitment firm with teams and offices in San Francisco, Houston, New York, London, Berlin and Frankfurt.

We partner with high-growth, VC/PE-backed businesses and ambitious Corporate brands placing senior leaders, building exceptional teams, or providing critical interim and consulting talent.

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