My advice on interviewBuddy.com is mainly about what you SHOULD be doing in your interview to stand the best chance of getting hired.
But what about what you SHOULDN’T do?
Over my years of interviewing experience, I have of course witnessed many road crash interviews where the poor candidates stood no chance because of some really elementary mistakes. One memorable chap was so shockingly bad, I actually spent the last third of the interview helping him understand why he had bombed so badly, and giving him some tips for next time!
So, just to ensure you are not going to fall into any of these traps, here’s a compilation of my top 10 crimes against interviewing that I have had the dubious pleasure of witnessing.
1 – Feeble handshake
Amazingly, far too many people have just not mastered the art of a simple handshake. Limp-wristed, clammy hands, weak grip, too long-lasting – they are all no-no’s. A handshake is nothing more than a simple courtesy, but we unconsciously read so much into a bad handshake that, if you get it wrong, you may set all kinds of alarm bells off in my mind. Of course the grizzly bear bone-crusher is also a bad idea, but thankfully far less common in my experience.
2 – Scruffy appearance
If you are wearing a tie, why is your top button not done up? Why is your blouse not pressed? Why does your hair look like it was combed with a firework? Why are your shoes scuffed? Why does your breath smell? Have you just come from a nightclub? Far too many times I have literally been astonished how little effort some people put into getting their appearance right. If you can’t be bothered to look right for the part, why should I bother hiring you?
3 – Avoiding eye contact
This one is really bad news. Why are you looking at the floor when you talk? If you can’t hold my gaze, I instinctively start to distrust you. I can’t read you, and I think maybe you are lying to me. Building trust in that fleeting 30 minute interview window is critical, and not being capable of looking interestedly at another human being does not give off good vibes.
4 – Waffling
I guess I put this down to nerves, but so many times I have seen candidates speaking far too much but saying very little of note – full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing. Depending on my mood (yes, interviewers can be fickle!), I sometimes let the wafflers ramble on, running down the clock and sealing their own doom. Effective speaking is about packing your sentences with powerful words, and compressing your stories into short paragraphs. Rephrasing a story twice is a waste of my time.
5 – Not smiling
Why aren’t you smiling? Why aren’t you friendly? Don’t you want me to like you? If a smile is a universal sign of friendliness and openness, why is it that so many candidates cannot manage it in an interview? You might thing it is impressive and purposeful to be poker faced, but that don’t impress me much. Warm, friendly people get on in a team environment. Cold, distant people don’t.
6 – Claiming you know way more than you really do
I love this one. Anytime I see a CV claiming an unlikely level of knowledge or skill, I’ll pull that candidate up on it in the interview. Honestly, braggart CV claims are a red rag to a bull. I once had this relatively junior candidate claiming that he was practically the father of option trading strategies. Oh really?! “Great, so draw me some pay-off diagrams for call spreads and call flies!”. Cue five minutes of exasperated scribbling, sighing, confusion, perspiration, panic, and eventual melt-down. The poor chap got so stressed under the pressure of proving something he wasn’t really that sure about, that a promising interview collapsed into a disaster. Show what you know, and no more!
7 – Poorly prepared questions
This is a shocker. Everyone knows that towards the end of an interview, you are given the opportunity to impress with some insightful questions. I have lost count of the amount of candidates who effectively said “No, I’m all good”. Really!? You know everything there is to know about the role, the company, the interviewer? Bland, irrelevant questions such as “What are the hours like?” are almost as criminal as no questions. They all go to show that you have just not done your homework. Goodbye!
8 – Answering the wrong question
OK, so I’ve asked you a question which you really can’t (or don’t want to) answer. It happens. No candidate is perfect and interviewers love tripping up candidates with nasty questions. But don’t rephrase the question in your mind and start answering that instead! What’s the better choice to make? To be honest and admit you don’t know the answer, or to be evasive and try to wriggle out of it? What’s the better quality that I, as a hiring manager, want to see? Exactly.
9 – Limited understanding of the company
This really annoys me. My mission is to hire the person who convinces me that they will make the biggest contribution to my organisation. How can I treat you with any credibility if you come across like you’ve barely spent 30 minutes looking at the company website? At least half the candidates for graduate positions that I have interviewed have come up disappointingly short on this measure. I know you are applying to multiple different organisations in my industry, but at least have the courtesy and respect to do your homework.
10 – Lack of enthusiasm or energy
This last one really gets me. Why are you so dull, inert, devoid of personality, charisma, charm? Why do you drone on in a monotone with your eyes half glazed over? If you REALLY want this job, making like a corpse is not the way forward. Maybe you think you are playing it cool. Well, the interview is not the time to show off this (otherwise useful) quality. If you are not convincing me that this is the greatest single opportunity of your life, someone else will.
So, there’s my top 10 crimes against interviewing, to avoid at all costs. There are many more of course, but steer well clear of these faux pas and you will be on your way towards a strong performance at your next interview!
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