Let’s be frank, the list of how to do something “wrong” is endless -- so let’s not go there. Instead, let’s look at some common interview mistakes and focus there. These six come up for a lot of candidates – don’t let them happen to you.
1. Lighten Up! Being nervous before an interview is common. However, successful candidates are often those who have learned how to channel that “nervous” energy into “excitement” and interview preparation. When the mind is relaxed (yet alert), it is better able to accurately assess and respond appropriately to circumstances and, in turn, take advantage of opportunities to “shine” that might otherwise be missed. Our advice? Do what many elite athletes and business people do:
- prepare in advance
- practice controlled breathing and
- mentally visualize yourself successfully managing the task (i.e., effectively handling the interview with professional grace and personal style)
If it isn’t “too silly” an exercise for Olympic athletes and Fortune 500 executives, it isn’t “too silly” for you.
2. Avoid Off-Color Comments. Regardless of how comfortable you are with your interviewer, never use profanity, off-color humor, insensitive remarks, or express any political, religious or potentially “controversial” view or preference at any time during an interview (even if the interviewer does!). This is a fairly common error made by well-intentioned candidates who mistakenly let their guard down in an attempt to “bond” with the interviewer often as a result of the interviewer’s own informality during the meeting. In the unlikely event a potentially controversial topic arises during the interview, carefully steer the conversation back to the subject of the interview (i.e., “That is certainly a topic that is getting attention these days. Before I forget, I wanted to ask you some more questions about the training we were discussing earlier…”).
3. Avoid Personal Quirks. If body language gaffs and "interview faux pas" weren't so common - even with the most-high level candidates - this section would almost seem too obvious to review and frankly, a bit comical. But for those otherwise great candidates who got passed over and just couldn't understand why, it wasn't obvious enough probably because they weren't even consciously aware of their own actions. Our advice? From the moment you leave your car in the parking lot to the moment you get back into it at the end of the interview, NEVER do the following:
- roll your eyes at anyone (even the parking lot attendant)
- exhale in a frustrated manner (i.e., "huff")
- check your wrist watch
- answer your cell phone (and be sure it's turned off!)
- check your blackberry, Iphone, etc., or voice mail
- twirl or otherwise "futz" with any part of your hair, clothing, accessories or jewelry
- chew gum / eat candy
- apply makeup, lip balm or open a makeup compact, or
- repeatedly scratch, pick-at or rub any part of your face or body.
These gaffs, and many more just like them, are all the little things people do when they are nervous or are trying to act like they aren't nervous, or are trying to act like they are "important." Don’t do it.
4. Don’t “Badmouth.” Badmouthing past employers or coworkers, no matter what the facts are, make you appear unappreciative, self-absorbed and potentially subversive to the prospective employer’s efforts. If you are not happy with your current employer (or a past employer), you can express that by saying that you feel you are at a professional “standstill” and are looking to make a new home with where you feel you can thrive professionally. Be prepared to answer follow-ups, like, “what about that job made you feel you were at a standstill? or “what is it about a particular opportunity that would allow you to “thrive” professionally? The bottom line is -- a good interviewer will be careful to ferret out a potential problem employee from a “star” candidate who is going to help them move forward. Your objective to express appreciation for prior roles, while showing an inherent desire for professional improvement and growth.
5. Don’t be “All About The Money.” Money and convenience are almost always factors in candidate’s decisions, but the moment an employer senses that you are primarily motivated by such factors, you will likely lose the opportunity. The reasons are simple: employers generally view such candidates as 1) more easily drawn away for more money and easier commutes, and 2) not truly professionally committed to the employer’s important challenges. Don’t make the mistake.
6. Not Your Job? Really? Nobody wants to hire a candidate who thinks herself “above the team,” or more importantly, above the effort at-hand. Employers want team players who have the humility to roll-up their sleeves when need be and get the job done, and they are going to judge whether you are likely to be that type of employee, in part, based on how you talk about your most menial of roles.