By Josh McAfee & Maurice Morgan
You can put a lot of time and effort into a job hunt. From writing the perfect resume to polishing your online image, there’s a lot that goes into preparing before you ever send an application. After all that effort, you’re rewarded with the elation/dread of the interview.
Interviewing ranks among the top most uncomfortable experiences for most people. Some take entire prep courses or hire coaches to help them have a greater chance of success. Ironically, the most stellar of candidates with the most impressive resumes will still fail to get a job offer because they’ve committed one or more basic errors.
Don’t let one (or more) of these 8 blunders ruin your job prospects.
1) Having wounded duck syndrome. We’ve all been in a situation where we feel like the victim or that we’ve been wronged. That doesn’t give you permission to treat someone poorly or run your mouth. Focusing on negative things or indulging in nasty gossip is the easiest way to get your resume tossed in the trash.
When asked about past employers or reasons why you left a company, be honest and direct while also maintaining a positive and humble attitude. Avoid saying your boss was a bad manager, bully, or useless, even if it’s true. Instead try using a phrases like:
- “I’ve learned a lot and am thankful for the experience. That experience taught me that I’d like to focus on finding a team where I can (insert appropriate goals and how you can add value to the company).”
- “In every company there are good things and bad things. My time there and the people I met helped me learn and grow. I’m looking forward to applying that here and making a positive impact as a (insert job title here).”
- “I believe maintaining integrity and staying future focused will ultimately help me to better collaborate with my colleagues and be able to contribute to the company in a meaningful way. Not every job is the right job for you, but it is an opportunity to learn. I learned that my ideal position will include the opportunity to (insert valuable skills or goals).”
Getting comfortable staying positive when people are expecting something negative can be tough and can rip a scab off a healing wound. At a deeper level you may need to forgive whoever did whatever that affected you negatively and caused the wound before it’s going to heal.
2) Being Unprepared. This one just pisses interviewers off. It’s the height of laziness when a candidate can’t even be bothered to actually prepare for the interview they’ve applied for.
Here is a list of research you should be doing well before you walk (or log) into any meeting with a hiring manager:
- Read the description of the job
- Look at other positions that are open for the company
- Research the company history and leadership
- Find out and look up who you’ll be interviewing with
- Try to find out who last held the position you’re applying for or others in similar roles (LinkedIn can help with this)
- Look up the company’s competitors and partners (google “company name” AND competitors)
- Learn about their products and services
Armed with this knowledge, you’ll feel more confident when speaking with the hiring managers. They’ll know you understand their company’s needs and you’re serious about wanting the position.
3) Don’t know what to ask. Qualifying the candidate is half the job of an interview. The other half is qualifying the company. Knowing what you want from your career (goals) and what is needed to succeed informs how you’ll approach and begin building a good relationship with your potential employers.
That research I mentioned before will help you prepare for more than just the questions that are asked of you. Here are some sample questions to consider asking the interviewer:
- What does success look like for this position?
- Is this a growth or replacement opening? If replacement, ask “what things will ensure the next person in the role has the best opportunity for success?”
- What are the company’s growth plans for the next 3-5 years?
- What are the top three things this company struggles with?
- How do you develop your employees?
- Which teams will I be collaborating with?
- How is collaboration facilitated in the company?
4) Choosing a Bad Outfit. Each company has its own dress code that will depend on job function, industry, location, and company culture. If you’re interviewing with a tech start up DON’T assume you have to wear a suit or that you can show up in flip flops. Finding out what a company expects is often as easy as checking out their website and social media accounts. Look at the photos of their current employees and gauge your outfit accordingly. Believe it or not, I’ve had candidates lose out on a job BECAUSE they wore a suit! I’ve also had a candidate that came into an interview with a CEO of a start up on a Friday afternoon in flip flops with a chilled 6 pack of the CEO’s favorite beer. He said he wanted to celebrate his new job with his new team! HE GOT THE JOB! It was a bold move, but this guy had done the research and it really paid off.
5) Being too early or too late. It’s just rude to show up late to anything, especially an interview. That tells the hiring manager that you either don’t value the opportunity, you have poor follow through on commitments, or you can’t keep track of time. They won’t care about the reasons, even if you have a really good excuse. Do what it takes to ensure you’re there when you need to be.
But don’t get there obnoxiously early. Sitting in a chair in the reception area or outside someone’s office for an hour will be awkward for everyone. It could also signal desperation or poor time keeping skills.
The safest bet is to walk in the door with 5-10 minutes to spare. If you’re concerned about traffic and want to leave yourself plenty of leeway, then find somewhere convenient to wait. In your car or at a nearby coffee shop can be good options.
6) Having terrible verbal communication. Chances are that within minutes of hearing you talk, people will be able to tell you’re from the South, India, Canada, New York, etc. No matter what accent you may have, be mindful of how you’re picking, pronouncing, and projecting your words. Avoid mumbling and use complete, well articulated sentences. It’s appropriate to use industry jargon, but follow Mark Twain’s advice: “don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.” Future employers want to know they can trust you to represent the company when speaking to customers, leaders, or peers.
7) Sending The Wrong Signals. You may have the right answers, ask the best questions, and wear a great outfit, but still lose out on a job offer because interviewers get the impression you’re lazy or standoffish. Body language sends subconscious messages about us. Work on these three key signals:
- Body Posture: sit up straight with your shoulder back and chin raised. Avoid fidgeting, slouching or slumping over.
- Eye Contact: look directly at the interviewer. Try practicing with friends or colleagues, if this is difficult for you.
- Smile: look happy and excited to be there. Don’t grin like a fool the whole time, but be mindful of slipping into “resting b**** face.”
- Try to relax. This is just a conversation. The more comfortable you are the more comfortable the interviewer will be.
8) Being Confrontational. I’ve been surprised with the number of interviews that actually turn hostile. Hiring managers can sometimes ask hard questions to see how you’ll react when conditions become uncomfortable or aren’t ideal. This is your opportunity to make an interview a collaborative exploration. Treat an interview like you’re working to solve a problem together.
If they ask a tough question, answer it genuinely and then follow it up with a thoughtful, related question. You can also convert any pain points you find into a discussion on how you’d apply your skills toward solutions. There are a ton of ways to turn something confrontational into an opportunity to collaborate. Collaborative people tend to interview a lot better than confrontational people. Don’t take anything personally and keep a good attitude.
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About the Authors:
Maurice Morgan is the Co-Founder and Management Partner at Humans Doing. With over 20 years in successive recruiting and recruiting leadership roles, Maurice’s strength is building highly effective recruiting teams. He has individually recruited and trained recruiters in effective techniques and strategies, coaching and mentoring many into top industry talent.
Josh McAfee is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Humans Doing. With over 26 years of recruiting and team-building experience, Josh has worked with startups, SMBs, and large companies to determine hiring needs, develop recruiting strategies and processes, and connect top talent to fuel growth.