By the time you get to the interview, you have passed the initial resume screening. You may have also passed a phone screening designed to drop people from consideration. You are one step closer to getting the position you are seeking. Now is not the time to slack off – in fact it’s the time to kick it into higher gear and make sure you don’t commit one of these classic mistakes.
Not Being Professional
Ask any human resource professional and you will hear horror stories of candidates arriving late, dressing inappropriately, answering a cell phone call in an interview or telling off-color jokes. Needless to say, these are the candidates that are immediately excluded from consideration for the position.
Inappropriate clothing basically means any clothing that does not fit into the position you are seeking. This could be anything from a skirt that’s too short, pants that are too tight, shirt that’s buttoned too low, dirty clothing or scuffed shoes.
Never answer your cell phone during the interview and never text during the interview. In fact, it’s imperative to turn off your cell phone before you even walk into the door and forget about it until after you walk out of the door. If there is a true emergency and you must keep the cell phone on, make sure to briefly explain your predicament and ask for permission to keep the phone on.
Always mind your manners. This includes shaking hands, saying “please” and “thank you,” looking people in the eyes and waiting to be asked to sit prior to taking a seat at the table. It also includes not getting too personal or commenting on sensitive issues. Always let the interviewer take the lead in terms of the tone of the interview. And never, ever, interrupt the interviewer when he’s asking a question.
Hint: Be courteous to everybody – the interviewer, the person holding open the door for you, the person you run into in the washroom, or the front desk receptionist.
There is no reason for any candidate not to have great answers prepared for the most commonly asked questions. Keep your answers short and to the point, while making sure to give enough details to thoroughly address the questions. When preparing, count the times you use hesitancy words, such as “um” or “like” and keep these to a minimum.
You will be getting questions that are difficult to answer, such as being asked to describe a time when you didn’t get along with a co-worker or a time that you didn’t agree with your boss. Practice these questions a few extra times. You must make sure to answer the question without sounding like you’re complaining or bad-mouthing someone else.
Not researching the company or the position is another big mistake. Even for private companies, there are too many online networking sites where items such as culture and expectations are discussed that there is no reason to walk into the interview blind. If all else fails, call the person who set up the interview with you and ask questions about interview expectations, company culture and dress code.
Hint: Business disagreements are common, so if you’ve had a difficult relationship with a former boss or peer, keep your answer at a business level. You may say something like “We disagreed on how to handle the situation, but she was my boss and I followed her lead.”
Not Being Confident
An interview requires you to sell yourself as the top candidate. Make sure to have on-point answers relating specifically to why you are a great candidate. These answers should directly link your skills and experience to the requirements of the job.
Being confident in yourself also means your experience and education can stand on their own. Those who do not have confidence may lie or stretch the truth. Once a candidate is caught in a lie or a misstatement, the interview is basically over.
It’s also important to watch your body language. Signs that you may lack confidence include fidgeting, hair twirling, nail biting, or toe tapping that could indicate you may not be so sure of your skills and abilities. If you are confident, but nervous, practice some deep-breathing techniques or calming techniques that you can use right before entering the interview to eliminate some of the nervous tics.
Hint: Be yourself and know you either get the job on your merits or you will find something better that does fit your skills and experience.
Not Participating Fully in the Interview
There are candidates who will show up for the interview, will answer questions with a minimum number of words and never volunteer additional information. When a hiring manager has to make a decision between two candidates of equal skills, he will almost always pick the candidate that shows the most interest in the position.
Most hiring managers will provide additional information about the business or the position during the interview. They may let on that they expect the department to grow within the next year or so or they may indicate that a promotional opportunity may open soon. When those types of hints are dropped, you need to convey your curiosity about the new information.
It’s also important to remember that the hiring manager is almost certainly going to check you out on social media. Look at your online presence as an integral part of the interview and give it the same attention you would as to your dress. Remove offensive personal information and update your profile to portray you in a professional manner.
At the end of the interview, you are expected to ask about what happens next in the process and you are expected to thank the interviewer. If you don’t, you may be signaling that you just aren’t interested in the position.
Hint: Make sure to have a few questions ready to ask during the interview. These can include questions such as “What is the biggest goal for the candidate to meet during the first six months?” or “Tell me about the last person who held this position and why he was a great employee or not?”