An Interview Gone Wrong

Congratulations! You landed an interview for your ideal job. You have just started discussing your education and experience, when your cell phone rings – set at ‘very loud’, and playing your favorite head banger tune. The interviewer will not be amused.

Don’t let foolish mistakes or a lack of preparation cost you the job. Here are few examples of mistakes and areas to avoid in your job-seeking efforts:

Pagers and Cell Phones – Leave them in your car. Don’t risk the distraction and disrespect of an incoming call or message during the interview. If you forget and the phone rings, apologize – stating that you thought you had turned it off. Do not take the call. This rule, along with not texting, applies while picking up applications and while you are waiting for your interview appointment.

Talking too much – The more you sell yourself, the better, right? Wrong. Nonstop talkers appear nervous and self-centered. Employers assume the way you act in the interview is the way you’ll perform on the job. Rather than reviewing your entire career, focus on the skills and talents that are complimentary to the job at hand.

Criticizing Others – Never criticize your current or previous employer. Pointing fingers or holding grudges doesn’t convey the teamwork employers are seeking. If asked why you are looking for a new job, say something like, “I’m looking for an opportunity to fully utilize my skills.” This places no blame, and it suggests you have more to offer than your work experience implies.

Being Unprepared – The minimum research you should do before any interview is to check the firm’s web site or walk the aisles if applying at a retail establishment. If you are truly interested in the job, arrange to meet with a current employee or someone from the Human Resources department to discuss the requirements of the job. Mention your preparation efforts at the interview.

Wasting the Interviewer’s Time – Some people suggest interviewing for jobs you don’t care about, just to get interviewing experience. If you have no intention of accepting the job if offered, don’t apply.

Tobacco or Alcohol – Some people are allergic to tobacco smoke or odors. My advice is not to smoke after you have changed into your interviewing clothes. The use of alcohol prior to the interview should always be avoided. The smell of alcohol will be a red flag, and could easily eliminate you from consideration.

Inappropriate Appearance – Your dress should err on the side of conservatism. The interviewer should remember your skills, not what you wore. Avoid strong cologne, excessive jewelry, body piercing or anything else that may be distracting. Make sure your shoes are clean and shined.

Multi-Page Résumé – Keep it to two pages. There is no need to include jobs you held early in your career, especially if you have been in the workforce for more than 20 years. For older job seekers, it is acceptable to remove references to your age, including school graduation dates and your early employment history.

Incomplete or Sloppy Application – Employers look for applications that are complete and easy to read. Review the entire application before completing. If something doesn’t apply, write N/A. Complete each section on the application. Don’t write ‘See Resume’ across the application. If asked about skills and qualifications, list key words instead of sentences. Make a copy, completing the draft in pencil, and the final in black ink. Have someone review your draft for errors before beginning your final version.

Arriving Late – This may seem obvious, but if you’re not on time for your interview, the game is over. Getting there early allows you to take a few deep breaths, organize your notes, and review your resume. It also allows you to visit the rest room and to make any last-minute appearance adjustments.

Lack of Follow-up – Follow up each interview with a hand written thank you card or letter. This gives you a second chance to stress a particularly important point and thank the interviewer for their time. Since 95% of applicants don’t follow-up this way, this may be what it takes to set you apart from the crowd. Hand deliver the note when possible.