Interview mistakes

Did you know that half of all hiring managers say the biggest mistake you can make for an interview is dressing inappropriately?  What’s a worse interview mistake?  Dressing inappropriately and badmouthing a former boss!  During a phone interview, can you imagine using the bathroom, then flushing the toilet as your interviewer listens?  Would you consider asking your interviewer if someone can give you a ride home?

These are some of the things you should never do during an interview, and while they may appear obvious to some, hundreds of people commit these interview faux pas’ every day, then wonder why they’re passed over for the job.  How can you avoid the obvious, and the not-so-obvious interview mistakes that can cost you your future job?

  1. There are things that a hiring manager does, and does not, want to hear; cell phones, your latest iPod tune, and complaints about how people have treated you unfairly are on the list of things a hiring manager does not want to hear. Instead, try these more appropriate topics on for size:

Are you qualified for the position? Simple statements work here – cover your education, training, and pertinent experiences.

What motivates you? Discuss what thrills you about this work.

What are your “negative” factors? Be brave – nobody is perfect.  Talk about these frankly, but be sure to include a positive evolution from the condition or the results!

Are you a good fit? Is teamwork your preference, or lone activites?  Are you an introvert or extrovert?  Do you have strong and positive work and social ethics?

Why do you want the job? Focus on how the company can lead their competitors with your help.  What benefits will you bring to the job?

  1. Don’t use your interview time finding out things about the company that you should have researched ahead of time! You should be well aware of the company’s history, goals and current activities in your job area before taking a seat in that interview chair.
  2. Don’t be a know-it-all, and don’t lie!  If you don’t know, admit it; then, explain how you would find a solution given what you do know, or suggest your interest in learning more.  Remember, showing off your problem-solving skills in an interview is never a bad idea.  Lying on a job application or during an interview might not be immediately noticeable, but it’s definitely a huge interview mistake!
  3. Don’t mistake a comfortable setting as an invitation for an unprofessional demeanor. You’re there to interview as a candidate for a business relationship.  Your conversation should stick to business.  Avoid offering personal comments and details that might be controversial or off subject.  Remember, an interviewer is prohibited from asking you questions about your marital status, religion, sexual preference, or your family situation – you should avoid this big interview mistake, and steer clear of these topics too.
  4. Prepare yourself to answer the tough questions. Today, more than 70% of all interviewers ask behavioral questions created with the assumption that past performance indicates future results.   If interview questions seem engineered to expose your weaknesses, be ready with answers that show you’re aware of your imperfections, while quickly offering examples of learning from your mistakes, or overcoming them and leaving them behind.
  5. If you can’t say something nice… Interviews are not the occasion to air past grievances about previous bosses or work situations.  Remember, during your interview, any discussion about past performance indicates future results.  As far as your interviewer is concerned, if you’re complaining now, you’ll still be complaining on the new job.  Employers are looking for loyalty and team players, not for someone who blames events and misfortunes on others.

What are some other surprisingly common interview mistakes? 

  • A candidate for a high-level job answered their cell phone during the interview, and then asked the interviewer to leave her own office because the candidate needed to have a “private” conversation.
  • One applicant (I’ll bet there are others!), smelled his armpits on the way to the interview room.
  • Late, out of breath, and a bit flustered, the applicant couldn’t shake hands and greet the interviewer because they were brushing their hair with one hand, and holding their sunglasses with the other.
  • After arriving 10 minutes late, one interviewer inquired about how long the interview would take. Apparently, friends meeting at the local bar couldn’t be kept waiting.
  • After complaining about a confusing and overwhelming transportation problem, one job candidate asked if the interviewer could give them a ride home so they wouldn’t have to spend any more time or money on a bus fare.
  • One Applicant told the interviewer he would only be able to stay on the job until his uncle died. Since his relative was leaving him an inheritance, he wouldn’t need the job after that.
  • While interviewing for an accounting position, the job applicant boasted about being quite a “people person” not a “numbers person.”

Things you should do during your interview…

Leave them wanting more – your interview strategy should include just enough information about what you want, why now, and why you’ve chosen them, to make them want to invite you back for another interview.

Personal growth compliments professional success.  Talk about the things you’ve done up to this point to invest in yourself and your professional development.  Exercise caution about mentioning organizations or activities that suggest a specific social or ethnic affiliation unless it’s a well-known and appropriate group or subject.

Use questions to avoid boring your interviewer with constant statements about your past work or accomplishments.  “I really admire your new product line, and I’m certain from my past experiences that your pipeline customers will be very interested in these new features.   What are your salespeople doing to bring these new products to your clients’ attention?

Let your passion show – talk about what attracted you to the industry and the opportunity, and let your interviewer know why and how you’re motivated to come on board and do a great job!

Avoid painting yourself as a superhero.  You can mention a variety of your skills and describe how they fit several of the employer’s requirements and qualifications, but you don’t have to know everything about all the items on the employer’s list.  Relationships, even employment relationships, need to work both ways.  If you let your interviewer know the company can offer you growth and learning opportunities as well as opportunities to use your existing expertise and skills, they’ll know you’re likely to have initiative in pursuing new experiences, and enthusiasm for the growth they can offer.