There are a number of accepted ways to succeed in a job interview. Dressing in a nice, presentable fashion, being friendly, keeping eye contact with your interviewers, and providing concise and thoughtful answers to interview questions are all on the list. Unfortunately for all job searchers out there, for every tip toward a successful interview, there are probably a hundred different ways to fail. Some sure-fire interview blunders are common knowledge: showing up late, being rude to receptionists, or looking like a total slob are just a few behaviours that just about everyone knows will kill their employment chances.
However, there are also a few interview-killing behaviours that are a bit more subtle than arriving 10 minutes late, behavioural trends that are all too easy to fall into during an interview, and that can snap your employment chances before you even realize what you’ve done. Read on to learn about three of these interview missteps, as well as for tips on how you can avoid them.
1. Dissing old bosses or colleagues
The problem: It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of throwing former bosses or colleagues under the bus in interviews. With the number of interview questions that query you about your work history, about disagreements with former supervisors, or about your motivations for seeking a new job, too many job hunters have squandered their employment chances by being too honest.
Perhaps you are looking for a new job because you literally cannot stand the way your boss treats you, or maybe your work history includes an instance where you had to repeatedly clean up after an idiot colleague who couldn’t seem to do a single project correctly.
In either case, being derogatory or disrespectful to bosses or co-workers behind their backs sends all the wrong messages in a job interview. It will make your prospective employers wondering how long it will be before you are interviewing for yet another new job, trash talking their company and defacing their reputation to complete strangers. And the natural consequence for planting this seed of thought in your interviewer’s mind is that they will strike your name right off the list of employment prospects.
The solution: When you need to talk about former colleagues and bosses, be nice and be respectful. Don’t lie, of course, but do avoid being overly critical when you don’t have to be.
Instead, tell a story about a disagreement with a boss that you worked hard to resolve, or explain that you are looking for bigger, brighter work opportunities while still mentioning a few of the wonderful things you learned from your old employer. Hiring managers will note your respect and tact, and they will take it into account when deciding whether or not to hire you.
2. Embellishing your resume
The problem: By the time you make it to an interview, chances are that your employers have already deemed you “hirable” based on your resume and want to learn more about you based on your responses to questions. However, a resume can still make or break your job chances even if you manage to land an interview and dazzle the hiring managers with your responses. That’s because most job searchers embellish their resumes in some way. Usually, the embellishments are in the form of job titles, which are spiced up to look more impressive. However, some job hunters have been known to invent educational histories, list job duties they never performed, or—when asked on the job application—lie about their salary history in an attempt to improve their negotiating position.
Don’t do any of this. Most human resource departments run verification checks with your previous employers to check on your job titles, your hiring dates, and your salary, among other things. If you are dishonest, your prospective hiring manager will be left to wonder what else you lied about, which will almost always lose you the shot at a job opportunity.
The solution: This one’s easy. Don’t lie on your resume. Provide accurate information about your old job titles and responsibilities. They might not look as impressive on behaviour, but at least they are authentic, and at the end of the day, just about every employer wants someone who is honest and upstanding.
3. Failing to ask questions
The problem: Job interviews go both ways, which means that all applicants are expected to come into an interview with questions of their own. Hiring managers want to hire people who have done their homework, gotten to know the company at hand, and truly taken ownership of the job opportunity.
This is especially true in today’s day and age, when job boards have made it easy to send out job applications en-mass. If you don’t ask any questions about the company you are interviewing for, or the job opportunity, you’ll come across as someone who just wants a job—any job—and not as someone who is truly passionate about the opportunity at hand.
The solution: Don’t apply for jobs at companies that you aren’t truly interested in working for. Instead, seek out businesses that serve an industry you really care about. Before you head into an interview, research the business, from the official website to the company blog, all the way to appearances of that company’s brand in the news. Learn about recent projects that the company has undertaken, and then think of questions that tie into those projects or to broaden company efforts. Your curiosity, combined with your evident preparedness, will be detected by hiring managers, and will mark you as a passionate applicant with real potential to make a difference if you are brought aboard to join the company team.
Today’s job market remains incredibly competitive, to the point where job searchers—especially young people—cannot afford sloppy interview missteps. By keeping the three blunders listed above in mind as you prepare for your job interview, you can consciously forge yourself into a more attractive candidate while simultaneously avoiding a few of the pitfalls that will trip up your less prepared competition.