You’ve spent days searching through job ads and crafting the perfect resumes and cover letters. Now you have a job interview scheduled. You’re just steps away from your dream job, and in that interview, you’re going to wow them.
You may know what to do during an interview. Do you know what not to do? No matter how much you impress your interviewer in other ways, these deadly job interview and pre-interview mistakes could kill your chances of being hired.
Research the company beforehand, on its website and elsewhere. Read reviews about them on Glassdoor and Yelp. Study job ads the company has posted. You can learn a lot about the company from job descriptions and requirements for other jobs, not just the job you’re applying for. Search local job boards as well as the large aggregator sites like Monster and Indeed.
Avoid being embarrassed
Examine your own online presence well before the interview. Potential employers often do online searches of job candidates, including their social profiles. Unprofessional screen names, posts bad-mouthing an employer, and inappropriate photos could all lower your standing or eliminate you from the running.
Bring several copies of your resume to the interview
You never know who might want one. Bring your list of references, neatly formatted. Bring directions to the interview and your contact person’s name and phone number.
Make a call if you are running late
If you might be late for a reason beyond your control, a call to that person could salvage the interview for you.
Bring required documents
Bring your ID and anything else that the interviewer requests that you bring.
Your words may indicate that you’re the one to hire, but your body language might contradict your words. Crossed arms, leaning too far back or forward, poor eye contact, distracting movements, and other body language can make you appear detached. To learn more, see Body Language Tips for Your Next Job Interview.
Beware of body language
Your demeanor beyond your body language also creates positive or negative impressions. Slouching in the waiting area or appearing lethargic detracts from the impression you want to make. Be poised, confident, and organized starting when you enter the reception area. Smile at the receptionist as well as the interviewer — but don’t smile too much. Be enthusiastic. Let your demeanor show that you’re ready to do the job.
Not having questions to ask also suggests detachment. Questions show that you’ve researched the position and are interested in it. Specific questions about job responsibilities and company culture demonstrate interest. Don’t ask about salary or benefits; let the interviewer bring those up.
Complaining about your old jobs
Your interviewer is probably going to have questions about your current and past jobs. You might be looking for a new job because you can’t stand your current job and you detest your boss. But telling that to the interviewer will probably eliminate you as a candidate for this job. Keep those negative experiences to yourself. A job interview is not the place to talk about them.
Instead, stay positive, and focus on the future. Talk about how you’re looking for new challenges and new ways to use and develop your skills. If you have to talk about work problems, talk about them as challenges and what you learned from them, without assigning blame. For example, if your current boss has poor communication skills, talk about how you learned to ask questions and do your own research to clarify what needed to be done.
Interviewers are for assessing your personality and manners as well as your skills and experience. Acting inappropriately can be just as deadly to your job chances as the other interview mistakes described here. Getting a little personal during the interview can help you or hurt you. If the interviewer leads the conversation to a personal level, finding common interests or hobbies can be a plus.
Be enthusiastic about them and use them to show that you’re a well-rounded person. On the other hand, talking about medical or family problems, for example, is unprofessional. More likely than not, such details will contribute to a negative view of you.
Watch your language
A job interview is not the place to swear.
Be friendly, listen, and take part in the conversation
While interviews and first dates have a lot in common, flirting should be left to dates. It may get you positive attention in other situations, but it may make the interviewer uncomfortable. Be friendly, listen, and take part in the conversation on a professional level.
Not setting the path forward
The end of the interview is the beginning of the next steps. Neglect these steps or take the wrong ones, and that job you almost had could disappear. When the interview is finishing, ask the interviewer about the hiring time frame. Also ask the interviewer for his or her business card, and send a handwritten thank-you note the next day.
Hand-written notes aren’t common, which makes writing them a great way for you to stand out. If your handwriting is terrible, though, type the note instead but sign it yourself. Avoid generic notes. Use the interviewer’s name and mention the specific interview. Later, a follow-up call to show that you’re still interested could help tip the scales in your favor. Don’t call more than once, even if you had to leave a message the first time. Too many calls can make you look like a nuisance. As with all steps, be professional.