What you shouldn’t do during the job interviewI’ll give you some links later on to posts that talk about what you SHOULD do, but first here are some tips to get you started thinking about the interview from the perspective of how you are being assessed by the employer … and the impression you leave behind:
- Don’t kick yourself for being nervous – Interviewers expect some nerves. In fact, if someone is too perfectly cool and calm, they might come off as wooden and less easy for the interviewer to connect with. Not that I’m suggesting dripping with sweat should be a goal, but nerves are normal. If you want to help tame them, this post may help.
- Don’t come to the interview without knowing your resume well – The interviewer most likely will have your resume in front of him. So expect a question about any part if it, even some of the older stuff. If you don’t know it says or tell them a different story, it will put them on guard about everything else. Also remember to bring a spare copy of your resume just in case they ask.
- Don’t wing it – When I was young and brash, I approached interviews like a daredevil – I just came into the room and expected charm to win me the job. I soon learned it helped to prepare for each interview. Even daredevils practice – again and again – before taking that leap.
- Don’t casually call the interviewer by his or her first name – If you’re trying to win them over by being warm and friendly, stop short of crossing to the wrong side of the respect line. Call them by their last name, at least at first, using the appropriate title: Mr. Jones, Ms. Jones, Mrs. Jones, Miss Jones, Dr. Jones, etc.
If possible, it’s good to get their preferred title from your contact person before you arrive. (Also helps with your thank you note.) Of course, if they say to use their first name – “Call me Bill”- or you know for sure it’s ok because of the type of position, industry, or your career level, then by all means do that.
- Don’t act like you know it all, trying to impress – That’s pretty self-explanatory. I added this because I’ve interviewed people who looked good on paper, but then blew the interview by being overbearing, the glowing star of every story (as if no one else had been there), and even at times corrected me or one of the other interviewers about something they didn’t fully understand.
- Don’t act like you know nothing, trying to be humble – On the other hand, you’re not going to win the job by sitting hunched over as if you want to disappear into the chair, and then answering every question in subdued tones without telling a strong story about things you made happen. If you’re worried about going too far and being overbearing, then you probably aren’t someone who knows how to be overbearing.
- Don’t act like you’re hanging out with a friend – Yes, you want to be natural and carry on a conversation, rather than sit stiffly as if being grilled. But this is still a job interview, and you need to show your best business presence.
That means don’t slouch, don’t put your hands behind your head, turn your cell phone OFF, don’t slurp a drink or eat food (sipping water is fine), don’t interrupt, and don’t tell jokes. Although if you’re careful to take your cues from the interviewer, depending on the situation, some kidding around is fine … just remember that less is more here. Keep it conversational, but with respect.
- Don’t try to end the interview before they do – I’ve had applicants who, toward the end, seemed to be ready to leave before I was ready to end the interview. It was almost as if they were either apologizing for taking too much time, or simply so glad that the pressure was almost off them, they lost their energy. Keep the energy full until the end – and even as you walk out the door. You are leaving an impression every minute you are in the room – and even in the building.
- Don’t think ahead to your next answer or back to your last one – If you’re busy thinking about the past or the future, you are not there in the present with the interviewer – the one person you need to connect with! Listen CAREFULLY and do your best to be fully engaged with the other person, making sure to have good eye contact, and body language that helps establish a connection.
- Don’t forget to be yourself – Maybe this one seems obvious when you read it, but I have interviewed a LOT of people who somehow change in front of my eyes as they try to be someone they think I want them to be. My goal as an interviewer is to help them relax enough to find out who they really are, so I know whom we’ll be working with. We are not casting a Hollywood picture – we want a real person whom we’ll enjoy seeing day after day. So please, do your best to just be yourself!