After a few years of recruiting, I have found that there are a number of traits or actions that are fairly common to people that blow their opportunity at the interview stage. And I hate to break it to you, but you may be guilty of some of these. But don’t worry – I’m laying it all out on the table in hopes of changing interview behaviors for good.
1 | You don’t prepare for the interview
Sure, you’ve been to many interview and you know a little bit about the company, so you think that you can just BS your way through the whole interview. Let me tell you, 99% of the time, the hiring manager can pick up on what you’re doing, and it’s not a good look.
How to fix it: So what can do you to prepare for the interview? Search for your interviewer on LinkedIn and other social media sites and keep an eye out for things you have in common. Maybe you went to the same school, or share the same interests. Next, you need to go to the company website. Study the mission and vision, awards they have won, and any recent news. Google the company – but don’t stop at the first page! Go 4-5 pages deep to really get a full understanding of the company as a whole.
2 | You show up too early or late
I know you want to grab a coffee before you head to the interview, but BE SURE you have more than enough time to get there. In the history of my career, I have only had 1 candidate show up late and get the job (and that was due to extenuating circumstances.) Showing up late signals a lack of strategic thinking. Do your research, plan for traffic, and any unforeseen events. But being late is not the only timing offense! Showing up way too early says you might not have great time management skills.
How to fix it: So, what’s the best time to arrive for an interview? I was told by one of my greatest bosses, “If you’re 5 minutes early, you’re on time, if you’re on time, you’re late.” I recommend moving that to 10 minutes for an interview. If you arrive earlier than that? Do a quick review of your preparations in the parking lot or on the bench outside. If you are unfortunately running late, let your contact know as early as possible, so arrangements can be made. Most organizations understand life happens. Still, try and avoid it at all costs!
3| You don’t dress for success
Your current company or the company you’re interviewing with may have a casual dress code, but that does not mean you should show up in jeans and a t-shirt! (Or as someone I know, 2 different shoes, one black and one brown.) It doesn’t matter how confident you are in your abilities, how comfortable you feel with the hiring manager, or how great you look in those jeans, you always have to dress for success.
How to fix it: The rule of thumb I use: always dress 1-2 levels above what you are interviewing for. So, if you’re interviewing for a warehouse worker position, you probably don’t need to show up in a suit but instead wear a nice pair of khaki’s and a polo. For a professional role, I always recommend that you put on your best sharp-looking suit that makes you feel like a million bucks. I never want to tell people to not be themselves, but if you are like me and like to wear flashy or bright shoes and colors, tone it down just a bit. Guys, don’t forget to match your belt to your shoes. Ladies, wear shoes that are professional, comfortable, and leave a lasting (positive) impression!
4 | You stink!
It’s not that people forget to shower or bathe, there are additional things at play here that contribute to you stinking up an interview. Maybe you smoke right before your interview, and the stench carries with you. Or you must have a massive investment in the cologne/perfume you wear, because it smells like you use an entire bottle per day. You could even have treated yourself to your favorite Greek restaurant prior to the interview, and you reek of garlic.
How to fix it: If you smoke, don’t do it before the interview, period. Most people can’t stand the smell and it can even be harmful to their health. Cologne or perfume is great for a night out, but you never know who is allergic or sensitive to the stuff. Skip it to be safe! And when you grab lunch before the interview, make sure it’s light on the spices and smells.
5 | You aren’t courteous and grateful for the interviewer’s time
The handshake is not a strength test or power struggle. If you walk into the interview room and immediately grab a seat, you might have chosen a seat that faces a camera for a conference guest or a seat that was reserved for another interviewer. Having to be asked to move is not a great place to start your interview. Someone who is furiously taking notes during the interview will create long awkward pauses. Last but not least, it may seem simple but so many people forget to thank the interviewer for their time and send a thank you note following the meeting.
How to fix it: For the handshake, match the other person. It’s as simple as that! Wait to be seated until the interviewer asks you to sit or they sit. If you are a note taker, be sure to ask if it’s okay that you take notes at the beginning of the interview, and be conscious of time. (Practice that shorthand!) And of course, thank them for their time at the beginning of the interview AND at the end. Absolutely, under no circumstances, should you forget to send a thank you note. I am not a fan of the handwritten note, and I have terrible handwriting, but if that’s your preferred method, use it! When you leave, sit in the lobby and write the note immediately and leave it with the receptionist to deliver to the hiring manager. If you prefer email, read more about that in my other blog post!