job interview mistake

Declined because of an interview mistake you didn’t know you made

Top 10 interview mistakes:

The lists of job interview mistakes are a con and a false sense of security. This weeks post is HRNasty’s list of interview mistakes and I have a different attitude on this topic. The normal Google search for “Top 10 Interview Mistakes Made in an Interview”, are for those with the manners of a cave man and I am probably insulting the cave dweller. If a candidate needs to be reminded about what is typically recommended, they are going to:

  1. Have problems with the rest of the interview
  2. Not be successful once they land the job

The following tips are given by your typical HR / recruiter blog posts. The candidate hears this advice and then feels confident about landing the job because they won’t make the below mistakes. The candidate is set up for failure. In my opinion, the usual lists don’t provide any real help to a candidate new to the interview process. Interview mistakes are made and opportunities lost.

The usual suspects (I mean interview mistakes)

Below are the usual suspects provided by your usual not so helpful HR experts:

  1. Don’t be late to the interview, arrive a few minutes early.
  2. Don’t badmouth prior co-workers, prior managers, or prior companies.
  3. Ask questions during the interview. (You would be surprised how many candidates do NOT have any questions and this comes off as arrogant.)
  4. Don’t lie about salary, start or end dates.
  5. Keep it professional. Try to keep your personal opinions out of the conversation.
  6. Do NOT answer the “how much are you looking for” question until you are ready to negotiate a salary.
  7. Don’t ask about the benefits plan on the first interview.
  8. Don’t look at your phone while in the interview.

OK, so I don’t know how to count to ten and I only provided 8. Remember, I am not in finance and after reading the common themes over and over, I got so disgusted with the exercise I couldn’t take anymore and quit. Here is the problem with this advice. It really doesn’t help anyone get through an interview. This advice would help us get through LIFE but it shouldn’t give you any confidence when it comes to the interview. What this advice says to the reader is the following:

“If I don’t check my phone, if I show up on time, and I don’t badmouth my prior manager, I have a shot at landing the job.”

I call [email protected]#. The above is just common courtesy and if we need to be reminded about this stuff then we should have been Darwinized out of the system of LIFE. Every single one of the above, points to common courtesy. If you went on a first date and encountered any one or two of the above – Mrs. Right will turn into Mrs. Wrong, and Mr. Right just became your future ex. Regular readers know I like to compare the interview process to the dating scene so let’s compare and contrast the numbered bullets above with the numbered wreckage below.

Interview mistakes in dating parlance:

  1. If Mr. Right is late, you are wondering if you were stood up. (If you are 2 minutes late, the recruiter is wondering if they were stood up.)
  2. If Mrs. Right starts bad mouthing prior relationships, I hear nothing but baggage I gotta’ carry and I am not a Sherpa. (The recruiter doesn’t want to carry your professional baggage.)
  3. If Mr. Wrong doesn’t ask you any questions on the first date, then this will be interpreted as no interest, no chemistry and no fireworks back at your place later in the evening. (AKA, no job offer!)
  4. You don’t want to hear that Mr. Right has a great job only to find out he is unemployed. (Recruiters don’t want to run a background check and see jail time or see a different number on your W-2.)
  5. Try to keep the interview conversation focused on what needs to be learned. (We don’t need to hear about skeletons in the closet, ever.)
  6. On a first interview, DO tell the recruiter your salary requirements. (If Mr. Right asks you how many kids you want in your family, you don’t skirt this question.)
  7. We shouldn’t ask Mr. Right how much he makes or what kind of car he drives on the first date. (This just looks like a GoldDigger looking for benefits.)
  8. If we are constantly looking at our phone on a first date, Mrs. Right will think I have more important things to do and people to see. (The recruiter will think the same thing.)

So, the below are a few pieces of advice that I believe WILL make you more successful in an interview situation and will help you avoid the uncovered interview mistakes.

  1. Try not to answer a question with a question. EG: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?” Nothing more frustrating than asking the question and being asked, “What do you want to know?” Tell the interviewer a little bit about you like to do outside of work so you appear likeable and then talk about why you are interested in the position and why you think you are a fit. Answering a question with another question is wasting valuable interview time and as a candidate, our time is limited.
  1. If experience on your resume isn’t relevant, it isn’t experience. I see a lot of resumes that have information that is unrelated to the experience we listed in the job description. Information on the resume should be directly related to the requirements of the job.
  1. Blank space on a resume says “I could have told you more about my accomplishments, but I couldn’t think of anything and / or “I got lazy”. You pick. If you have less than a full-page than see number 2 above and then adjust the width of the margins on the sides, top and bottom. You can also increase the font size to help fill up entire pages. Half empty pages say “half qualified candidate.”
  1. Always tell the truth when it comes to interviews. There are too many people involved in the interview to keep track of discrepancies. Many companies will run background checks, criminal checks and depending on the position, credit checks. Large companies may ask for a W-2 and grade transcripts. Be as accurate as possible when it comes to start and end dates with prior employers and salaries earned.
  1. Do give your references a heads up that they may be called upon when the time approaches. Send your references a job description and let them know what came up during the interviews that they should reinforce about your prior history.
  1. Do send a thank you letter or email to everyone you talked with. You will be surprised how strong a move this is just because so few candidates follow through. You can take this opportunity to reinforce WHY you are interested in the position and if you botched an interview question you can say “I have been thinking about the question you asked me and wanted to clarify my answer. . . .”
  1. Feel free to ask the recruiter you are working with for any advice they may have. You will be surprised how often and how much a recruiter will give up with just the single ask. Remember, you are representing them. If you don’t look good, they don’t look good so they are motivated to make sure you show well.
  1. Treat the interview like two friends who just met at a party and are casually talking over beers. Too many interviews feel stiff because the candidate feels like the interviewer has ALL the power and they need to just answer the question. I want to work with folks I can have a beer with. I don’t want to work with someone who is scared of me and interviews as if I was an IRS agent.

Hopefully, the above give you more insight into the interview process and interview mistakes that can be avoided. If you picked up a nugget or two, I have plenty more where this came from. (Mainly from watching interview mistakes made that got candidates declined) Just click on any one of the “HRNasty” categories on the left-hand pane.