Never Make These Mistakes During an Interview...

April 11, 2013
We often talk about the things we should do in the interview process. Let’s spend a few minutes on things you should never do! Whether you are planning on interviewing with a new employer or you are interviewing a candidate, make sure you watch out for these fatal interviewing mishaps.
We often talk about the things we should do in the interview process. Let’s spend a few minutes on things you should never do! Whether you are planning on interviewing with a new employer or you are interviewing a candidate, make sure you watch out for these fatal interviewing mishaps.

It could be game over. Period.

Arriving LateNever be late. Bad move - regardless of the reasons why. This sends a strong message to your future employer about your time management skills and the level of importance you placed on this interview. It sets the tone for the time you do spend together and their impression of you will be very difficult to overcome. If you are traveling by air or by car, try your very best to arrive the night before so you will have plenty of time to rest and start your interview fresh. Avoid same day travel unless you have enough time on the ground to have a 3-4 hour “buffer" just in case something goes wrong. In the event you do have travel delays, make sure you contact your recruiter or the person you are interviewing with as soon as you think there might be a delay. Practice Lombardi time and arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled interview.

Being Unprepared – If you have not done your homework in advance of your interview - it will be very clear to the interview team and things could go south (very) quickly. You should know everything you can about who you are meeting with, details about the organization, current leadership, strategy and mission statement. Being prepared will give you all the ammo you’ll need to shown your interest in joining the team. All of the information you need can be found on their website LinkedIn profile or by spending a couple of hours on Google. Not being prepared sends a very different message about your intentions – or lack thereof. Know the names and titles of each person you will be meeting with and ask for their business card after the interview - you will need them later.

Lack of Energy – This is one of those intangible characteristics that really highlights who you are as a person. Your ability to show your enthusiasm about the opportunity is critical. Some people have a natural ability to “light up a room” and their energy precedes them. I’m not asking you to be someone phony or artificial. I just encourage you to show your enthusiasm, ask engaging questions and convince your audience that you have what it takes to get to third base and the offer. Make sure if there are any uncomfortable moments of silence that you step up and fill in the gaps with your energy and personality.

Talking Instead of Listening – You have one mouth and two ears – so plan to do more listening instead of sucking all the air out of the room by dominating the conversation. Make sure you understand the questions before you jump in to provide just any answer. Follow up if you are unclear if your answer was understood or needs more clarification. Whatever you do – avoid (please) interrupting the person interviewing you just to make a point. You will get your chance. Try to be patient, listen and pause for a few seconds to gather your thoughts before answering the question you will be glad you did.

Not Preparing Intelligent Questions – I have written about this topic before. If you’ve done your homework, you should have 3-4 engaging and intelligent questions prepared to ask during the interview. To say you have NO questions at the end of your session - is just the wrong answer and shows your lack of preparation. Make sure your questions are open-ended - not Yes or No questions. Engage the person in a discussion- and who knows you might learn something about this opportunity you didn’t already know. In turn, they will have an opportunity to see how you think and react. Think long and hard about key information about the organization you want to learn more about. Make your questions count.

Disparaging Your Current Employer – Do not disparage your current company, co-workers or the person you report to under and circumstances. Ever. Nothing good can come from this. It shows bad judgment and has absolutely zero to do with why you are being considered for this position. It also can present you in an entirely different light to your future employer as a whiner – or worse give the impression you might be sharing confidential information about your current employer. Not a good plan. Take the high road and stay away from talking about sour grapes and dirty laundry. In most cases - Nobody cares anyway. Nobody.

Asking about the $$ – Show me the Money was a great line in the movie Jerry McGuire – but it is inappropriate for you to bring up this subject during the interview. If you are working with a search consultant or HR professional you should already have a good idea of the range of salary and bonus for this position. If you are the right person (and we don’t know that yet) the subject of money will surface at the right time. If the hiring manager broaches the topic of money – let them lead the conversation and ask the questions. Just listen and let the conversation flow.

Dressing Inappropriately – What can I say about this subject? It should be clear to any professional regarding the proper attire to wear to an interview. I always recommend a dark suit (from my IBM Business Partner days), polished shoes and a nice pressed shirt or blouse for the occasion. It makes no difference if the company observes a business casual policy all week. Dress to kill. You ONLY have one chance to impress them early and it’s all about the way you look. Make it count!

Not Articulating Your Value Equation – You may get a question like this one: Why do you think you are the best candidate for our organization? OR: Why should we consider you for this position? This is a question that gives you a chance to sell your value and you need to nail it with a great answer. You also need to know the answer to this question days before you arrive for the interview. It’s your 15 second elevator pitch. Make sure you nail it! This is your chance to tell your story in your own words why you are the best candidate for the organization. This is not the time to display modesty. If you are a great leader and have a history and track record of success – tell them how and why and what you will bring to the table.

Forgetting to Follow-upGwen Darling spent time on this subject earlier this year. Follow-up is essential as part of the interview process. These executives took valuable time out of their day to get to know you. That should be enough of a reason to reach out post interview and either send a hand-written note or a quick e-mail to each person on the interview team. Do it within 24 hours of your interview and make sure the note covers something you and the person you are writing to discussed. Never (and I mean never) send the same note to each person.

I realize most of us know these points already – but it never hurts to be reminded what not to do in the interview process. I have many stories about accomplished senior level executives we have worked with over the years that fell short on one or more of these points and it made a difference in receiving an offer – or not. Oh – I almost forgot - make sure you turn off your cell phone before the interview! I have another story about that I will share later.

Now – go knock ‘em dead! Happy interviewing!

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