By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter
You spent years honing your career, driving your on- and offline brand, and equipping yourself with the right resume. Now, you've been invited into that all-important job interview. To succeed, there are several things you should always do, but perhaps more importantly, there are also things you should avoid at all costs. Here are 10 ways you could fail at your job interview, and ways to steer clear of them:
1. Arrive late.
There is no excuse for interview tardiness. MapQuest and auto navigation systems are at your fingertips to set your on-time driving course effortlessly. Plan for traffic jams and other logistical obstacles by leaving for your interview way ahead of your appointment. The worst that can happen is you arrive early. Use the bonus time to review your prep materials.
2. Dress inappropriately or appear ungroomed.
Women: Are you displaying excessive cleavage, wearing a too-short skirt or globbing on the makeup? Men: Are you arriving unshaven, sporting long hair or stifling the room with aftershave? Also keep in mind that body piercings and tattoos can be distracting to an otherwise open-minded interviewer. Consider expectations of interview process formality; often, the most flexible cultures anticipate a conservative presentation during the interview meeting. Instead of asserting your unique personal style, focus on what's important: dialogue that convinces a hiring manager that you will contribute to the company's bottom line.
If your response to the question, "Why do you want to work for ABC Company?" is a deer-in-the-headlights stare, then you failed. This seemingly innocuous question is actually a power-packed opportunity to genuinely demonstrate why the company should be interested in you. Be specific in identifying one or two key reasons the company's culture, leadership, product, or service appealed to you and then couple that with a particular example of how YOU will fit in/add value. With today's access to deep-Web insights (via Glassdoor, LinkedIn, corporate websites, and Google searches), there is no excuse not to brush up on a company before the interview.
4. Behave disrespectfully.
Whether it's the front-line receptionist greeting you in the foyer, the human resources professional pre-screening you, or another employee passing you in the hallway, mind your manners through each interaction. Everyone with whom you come in contact is a potential influencer to the decision-maker who impacts your future.
5. Chew gum or fidget.
While nerves may be in check before the interview, the simple act of crossing the "threshold" into the interviewer's quarters often triggers a visceral reaction that can induce excessive gum chewing, fidgeting, and/or sweating (or all of the above). Have a plan of action to manage your nerves so that they don't manage you. Spit out your gum; practice crossing your ankles and folding your hands, and/or wear sweat-resistant clothing or special deodorant.
Preparing a flexible script ahead of time will help avoid rambling as you search for the right words. Typically, there is a common pool of questions from which interviewers draw upon. By preparing for 15 to 20 of those, you will be equipped, to a large degree, for many possible questions. You can pull from a combination of those practiced (but not memorized) responses to create succinct, intelligible replies.
7. Forget your resume.
While it's likely you were called into the interview based on the resume that the recruiter, human resources professional, or hiring decision maker received, don't assume they won't appreciate a hard-copy resume at the time of the interview. Bring several printed copies to the interview, as you may be meeting with a series of folks. Each one deserves his or her own fresh copy.
8. Bring a bad resume.
Amateurish, outdated, and non-value-add resumes can be a strike against you. Executed poorly, a sluggish, old-school, inarticulate, and unfocused resume may be just the reason to eliminate you from the running in a tight race.
9. Forget to say thank you.
Demonstrating appreciation for the interviewer's time during, as well as following the interview is critical. Manners matter, always.
10. Think the interview is mostly about you.
The interview, at least initially, is about the company's requirements. It is considering hiring and paying you to fill a void. You must prove you can fill the employers' particular needs; that you can remove pain, solve problems, fix customer issues, save time or money, generate more revenue, build upon profits, and/or reverse declining market share.
Yes, you will be choosing a company that fits "your" needs, too, but initially at least, your primary focus is to influence them to want to know more, and ultimately, extend an offer.
Many of these interview-derailing behaviors will be exacerbated by the inherent stress of employment meetings. By quashing them now, you can take necessary steps to reduce chances of failure and increase opportunities for new job success.
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter is a Glassdoor career and workplace expert, chief career writer and partner with CareerTrend, and is one of only 28 Master Resume Writers (MRW) globally. Jacqui and her husband, "Sailor Rob," host a lively careers-focused blog. Jacqui is a power Twitter user, listed on several "Best People to Follow" lists for job seekers.
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