We all like to think that we’re above average drivers, right? But, realistically, that can’t be the case for everyone. The same can be said about interviewing for a job. Are you really as prepared as you think you are?

Abdul Rastagar, GTM Lead at Benchling, discusses why we tend to think we’re better than we are and what makes a truly good marketing candidate, whether they’re just starting out or have been in a game for a while.

Bringing data & narrative to the interview

There’s a massive disconnect between interviewers and interviewees. While most interviewees think they’re above average, about 70% to 80%, the hard truth is that the exact opposite is said by interviewers about the interviewees.

”The prevailing sentiment from most executives is that [interviewees] just don’t meet the expectations in interviews; they ramble, they stumble, they’re not very well organized, and there’s no coherent message or story.” — Abdul Rastagar

If we accept that not every marketer is on top of their game when interviewing, what are some ways to improve? Abdul shares what he’s found that the best marketing interviewees do during their interviews:

  • Show data: Bringing data to show personal outcomes as a marketer is key. Most candidates will come in and talk about activities — losing the message in the process.
  • Tell a compelling story: The interviewer needs a narrative that shows what led you to make the decisions you’ve made in your career.
  • Have a clear strategy: You need to know how to turn the interview into a conversation and why the specific company is the right fit for you.

Preparing for the interview

If you’re supposed to show data and tell a compelling story, when’s the appropriate time to bring that up? The first interview; the second? Abdul’s answer: Answer every question with data and then lead into the story.

And while you might think the time to start preparing this data and story is right after you find out you have the interview, this is way too late. If you’ve already packaged your story before you start interviewing, you can spend your time rehearsing and picking out your best points.

One of the best ways to collect that data and story is to reach out to past interviewers and ask for feedback on where you could improve and where you did well. Continue to store your data somewhere easily accessible like Google Docs.

Biggest mistakes that candidates make

It’s tough to stand out in an interview if you’re making the same mistakes as the person who interviewed directly before you. Not only are you frustrating the interviewer, but you’ve lost any traction you’ve made otherwise in the interview.

If you don’t recognize the pain points most fall into, there’s no way to focus your attention and eliminate them. The following are some missteps to look out for:

  • Prepare for an interview: If you want to work for a company, you need to know everything about them. It’s a sentiment echoed by many interviewers and remains one of the top complaints.
  • Narrow your search: It can be easy to fall into the trap of applying to every position you qualify for. Spreading yourself too thin means less time to prepare and research beforehand.
  • Resume & interview matching: Your resume should reflect the narrative of your conversation during the interview. If your resume doesn’t look like it’s tailor-made for the company you’re interviewing for, it’s not specific enough.
  • The fine line between humility and bragging: When talking about working with a team, give credit where credit’s due; but, carve out a specific area where your contribution specifically aided the process.
  • Not asking questions: If you don’t know what a company’s culture is like or the recruiter’s name, ask. It only benefits you to reach out and ask for this information.
  • Overlooking red flags: On the flipside, if you notice red flags with the company you’re interviewing for, take them to heart and ask yourself if the position is worth it.

Breaking out of your swim lane

It can be hard to switch careers if you have a lot of experience in one position. But it’s a mistake to brush your passions under the rug. Opportunity may pop up where you least expect it as long as you keep that passion at the forefront of your mind.

When you’re interviewing, always mention if your passions don’t perfectly align with your experience. It helps the interviewer know how to help you progress into the company. While you might be great in the role you applied for, you might be exceptional in a position you can grow into with the company.

”I’ve been in product marketing for so long. I feel like I know it really well and that’s how people see me. I’m seen as a product marketer and I want to be more than that, but I can’t break out of it.” — Abdul Rastagar

Focusing on these strategies and avoiding the common mistakes that interviewees fall into can help greatly differentiate yourself when you go into an interview. Always remember to lead with data and create a narrative.