The Insider

The Insider's Guide To Job Search

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Frequent Interviewing Mistakes - Part I

by Kevin T. Buckley, CPC


Frequent Interviewing Mistakes:

In a competitive job market with many people vying for attractive career opportunities, you need to make sure that you avoid making errors that reduce your prospects for getting the job you want.

As recruiters, we see many avoidable situations where otherwise well-qualified people say or do things that end up in them losing the opportunity that they are going for.

Not Preparing Beforehand/Researching The Employer:
The internet is a valuable resource, use your search engine to discover data about the company's products, new services, philosophy, strengths and plans for the future. Surprise the interviewer by knowing something about the company.

Being Evasive About Unexplained Gaps In Your Work History:
One of the quickest ways to lose a potential employer's interest is to appear to be defensive or evasive about gaps in your work history. People do get released, downsized, restructured and fired. Explain objectively what happened and don't show bitterness or resentment towards the ex-employer.

Being Late For The Meeting:
Take a test-drive to the meeting location if you are unfamiliar with the area. Plan ahead to avoid traffic problems. Being late is discourteous and you are getting off on the wrong foot.

Not Showing Up and Not Calling:
This is worse than being late. Unless the employer is desperate to hire, you can write off this opportunity. It shows a lack of responsibility.

Not Dressing Properly:
Stick to the basics - business attire for both men and women. Dressing down for a meeting even if the interviewer seems to be casual about it is taking a risk with your credibility. Interviewers can be offended by this, especially if the company has a certain dress code.

Having Poor Personal Hygiene:
Dirty hair, fingernails, bad breath, not shaving, having offensive body odour and showing up with stains or shabby clothing indicates a lack of self-esteem and care and the employer wants you to care about what you do in your job. It also shows a lack of organization and self-respect.

Not Having Your Resume and Reference Letters With You:
Hiring Managers often are so busy that they forget to have a copy of your resume. This can lead to an unproductive meeting if you don't have it with you to refer to either. Being prepared with Reference Letters shows that you are organized and confident about what you have to offer the company in terms of skills, track record and personal reputation.

Not Making Eye Contact:
This is a classic error. Not maintaining reasonable eye contact in listening to and responding to questions give the impression of a lack of interest, focus or honesty. When you first meet someone, give them your full attention without staring them down. Some cultures discourage steady eye contact as a sign of rudeness to superiors. In Canada, steady eye contact, head nodding and smiling are taken as friendliness and good interpersonal skills.

Staring Down The Interviewer:
Locking eyes in a laser-like fashion with interviewers can be read as being over-aggressive, domineering and can be unnerving. Some people think that this displays interest but it actually shows a lack of social grace as prolonged staring can be interpreted as being hostile or challenging.

Not Shaking Hands Well:
Another classic. A medium grip of about 2-3 seconds in duration is best, accompanied with a smile. A perfunctory, limp grip can give the impression of a lack of confidence, energy or vitality. A vise-like pumping off the hand can indicate nervous tension, over aggressiveness or domineering tendencies.

Being Too Casual - Poor Posture:
Slouching in an interview, stretching out and crossing your legs or appearing too relaxed is interpreted as being lazy, having a lack of initiative or just being bored with the proceedings. The opposite, sitting ram-rod straight and/or folding your arms and/or tightly crossing your legs gives the impression of being tense, rigid or even fearful.

Trying To Aggressively Control The Beginning Of The Interview:
Some people feel that they have to control the meeting from the outset, this often happens when a more senior person is meeting with a junior first level interviewer whose job it is to pre-screen candidates. Diplomacy and tact or called for in these situations. If you offend the less experienced interviewer by trying to establish dominance and control over the meeting, you may not get to the next level.

Poor English Grammar:
Pay attention to how you speak. Your ability to communicate effectively and in an educated manner is vitally important. You are being graded on your command of the language. Choose your words carefully. If English is a second language for you, practice with friends or colleagues who are fluent speakers how you would present your qualifications and have them ask questions about your background. This is one of the key areas of focus of most interviewers.

Speaking Too Quickly or Too Slowly:
A rapid-fire monologue indicates nervousness, lack of confidence or even an attempt to quickly cover an uncomfortable area of discussion dealing with qualifications, track record, abilities or education. By contrast, speaking too slowly can be interpreted as a lack of intelligence, being pedantic or plodding or questioning the interviewer's intelligence and ability to absorb information.

Giving Curt Uninformative Responses:
This is usually seen as rude, a lack of interest or the sign of a touchy personality.

Displaying A Lack Of Enthusiasm:
Again, this shows boredom or a lack of interest.

Arguing or Being Stubborn With The Interviewer:
This can occur when a senior is being interviewed by a more junior interviewer. The idea is that the interviewer may need to be corrected about a technical point or that they aren't understanding the information being given. The junior person may decide that the person is unmanageable or won't be a team-player and the opportunity to advance to the next level may be lost.

Interrupting The Interviewer:
This indicates impatience or even arrogance, two qualities not in high demand with potential employers. Wait your turn to make your points. This tendency to want to dominate the proceedings indicates also a lack of empathy and business courtesy. Will you also be interrupting customers when they are speaking with you?

Being Nervous and Timid:
Employers want to hire people who are confident in their abilities. being nervous and timid comes out through speaking in a whisper, not meeting the employer's gaze, appearing rattled or unsettled.

Nervous Hand Gestures:
These range from tightly clasped hands to violent hand gestures when speaking. Keep your hands away from your face, avoid wringing them, drumming your fingernails, picking at any part of your face or body and playing with pens, etc. as this indicates nervousness, tension or a lack of confidence.

Being Coy or Flirtatious:
Answers given with a wink or with seductive gestures will annoy most hiring managers. It will not win the respect of the interviewer and may alienate some. Men and women both do this in the mistaken belief that by making a personal connection and showing that they are approachable and open, they will win the interviewer over.

Being A Comedian:
Small jokes or humorous remarks about the weather or traffic are good ice-breakers in the beginning of an interview. Carrying on like a stand-up comedian joking about this or that topic can wear thin quickly. Interviewers will see this as being lightweight and maybe covering up a lack of substance.

See Part II for the continuation of this article


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