Job Interviews: Are you failing them before they start?

how to interviewThere are innumerable ways to seriously screw up an interview before you even walk into their office. If you just love rejection, here are some sure-fire ways to keep those “thanks but no thanks” notes filling up your mailbox.




1. Drink the Kool-Ade and memorize the “perfect” interview answers. That’s just BS. There are no right answers.

True story: A woman was applying for a very competitive position at some sort of science/research place (I’m not really a science person). You had to be off-the-charts smart to even be considered for this position. One of the interviewers asked her what the last book she had read was. She decided to be truthful: “Just some fantasy novel.” Clearly this woman was a mind-reader because just before she walked in, one of the interviewers had said she was so sick of people trying to impress her with the books they read, she wished someone would just say they read some fantasy.

So case in point – there are no “right” answers.

2. Be rude to the receptionist. There’s no reason to be rude to anyone, but some people are. Maybe you’re nervous and sick of this whole job thing and you already know they hate you. Just calm down. Your conversation with the receptionist is the first part of your interview. Introduce yourself and shake his or her hand. If they’re busy, be respectful of their time and take a seat. But if not, try to make some friendly small talk. Wow, it’s freezing out there. It’s supposed to be nice this weekend – finally! You can even throw in a bit about the company – how do you like it here? You don’t have to overdo it and if you know you’re not good at this stuff, you don’t have to do it. Just make sure you’re polite. If they offer you a drink or food, it’s okay to accept water but otherwise politely decline. You don’t want anything on your clothes or hands…and it gets awkward when the employer comes out and you’ve got a coffee cup in one hand and a donut in the other.

3. Have no idea what the company does or who works there. If you don’t know what they do, it tells the employer you’re basically interviewing for a paycheck. A fast and efficient way to do research is to just google the company. Anything interesting about it that you could bring up in the interview? Did they discover a niche that needed to be filled? Increase profits during a recession? Also, the quality and ease of use of the website can tell you whether they value cutting edge technology, or are more traditional. As for who works there – the company website can help you out with that. Google those names and check them out on linked-in. You can usually find out their educational background and their career, and from that, make an educated guess about what kind of person they’d share an office with.  Is the CEO also the founder? How fast did the company grow? Was the Director of Customer Service working at GameStop five years ago but gradually climbed the ladder? You can learn about what the leadership values, and that can inform how you respond to their questions.  Remember, the interviewer not only wants to know if you’re qualified – they want to know if they’re gonna enjoy being around you 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Show that you’re interested, engaged, and committed.

4. Don’t prepare what you’re going to wear …just figure it out that morning. Think back to your first day of high school. Even if you wore a uniform – you obsessively prepared what you were wearing. Think of this interview as your first day of high school. Try on your outfit. Ask for opinions. Try it on again. Change the shirt. Change the tie. How are your shoes? How’s your hair? Do you need to get it cut? (but this isn’t the time to try something new with your hair…). I’m not going to describe in detail what to wear for an interview – there are lots of websites out there that can help you with that as well as more and more youtube videos. Just don’t throw it together the morning of.

5. Don’t prepare any stories about times that you: managed a difficult co-worker, assisted a dissatisfied customer, or exhibited leadership qualities. These are very common questions at an interview – soooo….. yes, you definitely have a few examples you’d love to share. Spend time thinking about this before you’re sitting in front of the firing squad. Who didn’t you get along with at work? How did you manage? However, never criticize your former/current boss or company. This is just unprofessional.  It is also good to throw in something about a way that you’ve grown. And when they ask you what your weaknesses are, don’t say “I work too hard.”  (I’ll cover how to answer those questions in a later post.)

Other “duh” tips:

–         Don’t swear.

–         Don’t smoke before you go inside. (Or ever.)

–         Brush your teeth, floss, use mouthwash and pop some gum but TAKE IT OUT before you get inside.

–         Use the restroom and wash your hands before the interview if at all possible. Unwashed hands feel gross, even if they don’t look dirty.

–         Have some tissues or a handkerchief just in case you have nose “issues.”

–         If you’re really sick, reschedule the interview. Again, the grossness factor.

–         Ladies: Go easy on the makeup. No perfume. No short skirts (hits the knee or longer). Close-toed pumps.

–         Guys: No cologne. If you’ve gained weight – get clothes that fit you. (guys wear tight clothes more often than women. Wearing a size 34 waist doesn’t give you a size 34 waist.) Wear a tie. Button the top button.

–         Nice bag, nice shoes. One bag for guys, a bag and a purse for ladies.

–         Have a fresh legal pad and pen and take notes during the interview.

–         If they ask you if you have any questions – YES, you do. “How do you like working here?” shows that you’re…maybe a little hard-to-get. You care about the work environment. You want the job to be a good fit as much as they do. You’re not desperate.

–         The handshake: don’t hand them a dead fish and don’t break any bones.

–         Eye Contact: Yes. Just not daggers.

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