5 moves sure to sink any job interview

Written by: Karen Friesen
Published on: May 29, 2019

sink an interview

You got the call! That company you’re itching to work for loved your resume and cover letter (or so it seems). Now you’ve got 48 hours to get ready for a big interview and you are PSYCHED.

While all signs are strong that you’re coming in hot on this job opportunity, there are a few classic bad moves job seekers make that can sink even the most promising candidates. Here are five, and what to do instead.

1. Guessing on the dressing

Ever notice how one company's business casual is another's Sunday's best? Do you know how people roll at the company you're walking into? You need to. You want to make it very clear right out of the gates that you're polished and put together, and someone who's going to fit in around the joint.

Rather than just guessing (and risking either under-dressing or over-dressing), try asking the person coordinating your interview for some tips on dress code. Or, worst case, do a little investigating online (social media is your best friend for this). What do their people wear at work? Observe, then bump up your game a notch or two – not 15 – from there.

2. Assuming you can wing it

Your competition is not winging it. On those grounds alone, you shouldn't plan to simply free-wheel it. Surely, you want to go in and have a genuine, engaging, and not over-rehearsed conversation, but you've got to do your homework.

What is their history or mission? What's their core focus? Who are their competitors? What have they achieved recently? What do you know about their corporate culture?

Also, what might you say if they bust out the, "So, tell me about yourself" or "What's your greatest weakness?" questions? (Invariably, they will.)

You spent the time and energy to capture their attention. Spend the time and energy to take this baby the distance. (And, check this out if you need help answering 5 Super Common Job Interview Questions.)

3. Making it all about you

One thing’s for sure: At this stage in the game, the people doing the interviewing care almost exclusively about what you can walk through their doors and deliver. In other words, they care about what's in it for them. Certainly, they will care a lot about what you want (and work like hell to convince you to join them) if you're the best fit. And they'll fall over themselves to keep you happy once you've proven your value.

But at the early interview stages, they need to know what you can deliver. What problems can you solve? How will you make their lives easier? How will you help make the boss look good? How will you help them be successful?

Walk in ready to showcase these things instead. Sit tight (for now) on the laundry list of questions related to benefits, vacation time, cell phone allowance, and access to the corporate jet.

4. Being disconnected or disrespectful

The dreaded Ds can surely sink you. What are some of the most common ones? Showing up late is high on this list, but so is showing up too early. No one wants to feel the pressure of knowing you're sitting in the lobby 40 minutes before your agreed-upon start time. Sure, you want to get to the building in plenty of time, but don't walk in more than 10 minutes early.

Also, don't have your cell phone on (or visible) during the meeting. Nothing says, "I'm only halfway listening" more than someone who can't bear to cut the iPhone umbilical cord for an hour.

Another way to come across as disconnected: You're so busy waiting to blurt out the answers you've practiced for hours that you miss the opportunity to have a genuine, engaged conversation with the person across the desk.

Be aware that you're being evaluated for more than just hard evidence that you're the right fit. They're also looking for someone who has emotional intelligence, social decorum, and an ability to connect with others.

5. Forgetting the (timely) thank you

Let's talk about the (true) tale of two candidates. They were neck-and-neck right up to the final interviews, and the hiring team was having a heck of a time deciding who to choose.  Immediately after the end of the last interview, Candidate One sent each person on the interview panel a customized thank you note. Candidate Two figured, "Eh, I've said ‘thank you’ three times already. It's not necessary at this point." Guess who got the job offer?

The thank you note always matters. In this case, it mattered a whole lot. Don't be Candidate Two: The moment you leave that interview and get back to your computer, thank the interviewer for her time and express your continued interest in the opportunity. This is also a great way to fill in any gaps, provide information you may have left out when you met in person, and reiterate why you are a fantastic fit for the job.

(Need help writing it? Check out How to Nail the Thank You Note After the Interview.)

Last, but certainly not least: Once you've laid out your best effort in a job interview, don't freak out if there's radio silence for a few days. It’s common! But do ask, before you leave the interview, what their timeline is like.

Companies often have the best intentions when it comes to wrapping up their decision on new hires, but all sorts of stuff can slow down the process – vacations, further thought on the job description, making sure the budget is there, demanding workloads, etc.

Keep on their radar, keep your wits about you, and know that the right one is out there. Control what you can control (which is plenty), and don't get all coiled up over what you can't.

Karen Friesen is senior copywriter and customer service manager at JobJenny.com, which offers advice and services for navigating job search and career transition.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on the JobJenny blog.

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