Want the job? What not to do at interview…

Image of business-woman holding a stop signEvery recruiter has a list of them; the job interviews from hell.

There’s the man who lit up, mid-question… or the one who burped his way through his answers. The woman who demanded coffee and then spilt it down her front. All true; all mine.

But most interview mistakes are much less dramatic and much more widespread. So many times, I’ve wanted to hit pause, and stop candidates from digging themselves that hole. In honour of those people I couldn’t help, here are a few of the most common pitfalls for you to avoid…

The limp lettuce handshake

I’m off to collect the next candidate from the waiting room, and they’re calmly reading notes; OK, well prepared. Smartly presented; made the effort. Eye contact and smile; great – they made a connection. And then I put my hand out, and… what was that? It’s like they slipped a wet fish over my palm. Euggh.

Your handshake says a lot about you, so pay attention. Is yours confident? Insipid? Over-bearing? Don’t assume this – test it. Practice with people you trust – male and female – and ask for real, honest feedback. This one really matters.

The nervous tic

So you’re nervous? Interviewers will fully expect this, and make allowances for you. A degree of nerves is normal, and shows that you’re invested in the whole process. Having said that, if you’re going to click that ballpoint pen for 40 minutes solid, you will distract the panel. It’s hard to focus fully when your candidate’s foot has a life of its own, or they’re sucking the ends of their hair. True story.

Do you know what you do, under pressure? Don’t assume – test it. Seek honest, impartial feedback, or record yourself. What you can’t see, you can’t fix.

The wardrobe malfunction

On the topic of distraction: interview outfits. Clearly, you want to look groomed and role-appropriate, so if in doubt, swing by the venue, observe the dress code and err towards formal. But then test-drive your outfit. Shirts pull, shoes squeak, wrap skirts open… and you want to realize this before the interview – not during it, when it’s distracting you and everyone else. And always, always check your flies.

The ‘big picture’ mis-fit

OK, so we’re done interviewing, and it’s time to make a decision. The candidate impressed us… but then we’re the people everyone knows they have to impress. How did they deal with other staff? How did they talk to the people on reception? Many times the charming candidate we saw was dismissive of the admin staff.

Your interview starts the moment you cross the threshold, and other staff may well have input to the process. Be professional, friendly and courteous to everyone.

Yes, interviews are challenging – but many gaffes are simple and easily prevented. Avoid these common offenders and you’re already ahead of the curve.   

Learn more about getting help with your job interview preparation…


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