Whenever you go to a job interview there are things that can go wrong. This article will talk about several of possible mistakes you can do and how to avoid them. It is important to know that no one interview will be the same as another one because every time you are dealing with different individuals and different levels of stress. Stress is one of the most important factors that can influence the outcome of an interview, but there are certainly other factors and we will look at those now.
Dress up for success
This tip is an Oldie but Goldie so to speak. Dress up for a job interview and your chances of getting the job increase dramatically. After all there is only one chance for a first impression. Unless you know what the work environment of a company looks like you should definitely wear a suite including a tie. Dress code for women should be a skirt or pant suit and definitely no dangly jewelry. Also, stay away from ties that you bought at Disney World or that show the logo of your favorite sports team. Back in the dot com days of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s you found many startups that allowed shorts and T-Shirts and so it seemed inviting for applicants to dress down. If you are going to apply for a job at a company where you know that shorts and T-Shirts still dominate the work culture, you should still dress up. Suit and tie will be overkill, but upper level business casual is the recommended dress code for such an interview.
This should be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people still leave their cell phones turned on during an interview. Many years ago I was actually conducting interviews for a junior system administrator position at a company where I worked. A young guy with a great resume was playing with his BlackBerry all the time + suddenly the phone rang and he even picked up the call without any hesitation. He kept it short, but the damage was already done. Always (!) set your phone to silent (not even vibrate) before going in for an interview. No exceptions. If you are that important that you cannot “drop off the earth” for 2 hours, then why are you interviewing for a new job anyway?!
Don’t debate, Don’t be ambiguous.
Don’t start a debate about certain items. A job interview is the wrong time to start debating topics, especially if it involves company politics or strategies. Even if you think you know the reasoning behind certain politics, it is not your job to discuss and to eventually criticize or debate back and forth about it. Don’t make suggestions hypothetically for their company. Though it is very important to have a specific point of view about strategy or politics, there’s a very fine line between expressing an opinion and to actually making suggestions. If there are items you do not like, ignore them during the interview. You can always walk away from a company after an interview and decide that you do not feel comfortable in such an environment.
Don’t talk bad about current or former employers
No matter how much you dislike working for your current employer, do NOT talk bad about that company. Say nothing negative about anything or anyone, no matter how sympathetic the interviewer may seem to appear. There are many ways to deliver the message why you are leaving as an example. One thing that has worked well for many people is to rather talk about stagnation and missing opportunities as reasons to leave. Especially stagnation works very well as a reason if you take it as a foundation to explain you like to be pro-active and would like to stay up to date in your field. It shows initiative and that you are always interested to learn new things.
Don’t say “To be honest with you …”
Let’s assume you get asked a certain question during the interview and you would reply with “I’ll be honest with you …” or “To be honest with you …”. By saying this you would imply that you have been lying up until now. The assumption would that you have not been honest with your earlier answers. But how can you get around it? You could say “To be straight forward with you …” instead. Still, not a perfect way to form a reply, but way better than being “honest with you” and appearing to be dishonest.
Don’t get comfortable
The headline for this section could also be “Don’t get too comfortable”. The moment you become comfortable with the interviewer and the interview your guards will go down and it is easy to make simple, avoidable mistakes. Keep your guards up and be alert. Sit upright and don’t slouch around on the chair. You would risk looking apathetic to your would be employer and that is the complete opposite of what you are trying to accomplish. You want to look energetic and dynamic.
Food or Drink
You would be surprised, but there have been cases where the job candidate walked into a job interview with a meal bag from McDonald’s and a Super-Size Me cup of Soda. The rule is absolutely no food. Period! And while it is Ok to carry a small water bottle into an interview, a soda cup from your favorite fast food joint is a big ticket item not to do. Most companies will offer you water, but some do not. If you know that your throat will throw wrenches at you, then carry a small water bottle with you. If you’re comfortable to go without water for a while then leave the water bottle in your car. The higher up the position is you are interviewing for, the higher the chances you get offered water or coffee for the interview. I personally would stay away from anything caffeinated as a high level of caffeine might trigger the need to visit the restroom urgently (it’s just how caffeine works). It really depends on how your body reacts to caffeine. Definitely stay away from sodas even if the interviewer offers them to you. Coffee and water are the drinks of choice.
Don’t talk about money or benefits
This is a very simple rule to keep in mind. Don’t talk about money or benefits unless the interviewer brings it up. If asked about your current salary, always talk about your salary as the base salary. Don’t provide a fake number – especially if you can expect that they check on this or have other ways finding out about it. If you are asked about how much money you are looking for, provide a range and again – talk about it as the base salary. In regards to using a salary range for your reply, what seems to work well is a $10,000 range. As an example your answer to such a salary question could be “I’m looking for anywhere between 90k to 100k as the base salary.” Put emphasis on the phrase “base salary”. If you are shooting high and want to leave a backdoor open in case the employer might think you are too expensive you can point out that you are really interest in working for them and that you are prepared to entertain their best (or strongest) offer. It shows flexibility and leaves the door open. Unless they mention benefits during the interview, do not ask. Let’s assume you ace the interview and they want to make you an offer, then it is time to inquire about benefits. For me, a combination of salary and benefits should be used to decide yes or no for a job offer.
Conclusion: As a job candidate going to a job interview you can beat the competition by avoiding common mistakes. Many companies have actually turned down those job candidates who eventually possessed the best job related skills because of character issues or certain mistakes these candidates made during the interview process. The list of common interview mistakes shown above will help you to better ace an interview and to eventually be considered as the final job candidate for the open position.