How to Not Fumble the Interview

Sometimes job seekers do the strangest things. Take the interview, for example. As with football, sometimes things can go badly in a split second and put you out of the game.

Some of the common reasons interviewers reject candidates are things that are totally within the job seeker’s control. Naturally, I can reference a dating experience to illustrate many of these:

  • Showed up late: Getting lost or not planning enough time for the unexpected is not a good way to make a positive first impression. Don’t rely exclusively on your GPS or Google Maps to get you there on time. When you have an interview scheduled, if at all possible, do a “drive-by” the day before. This way you can assess traffic patterns and flow, check out parking arrangements, and determine how long it will actually take you to get there.
  • Forgot his wallet: I don’t know if it was “Ed’s” intention all along that I pay for dinner, but showing up unprepared was definitely a deal breaker!  Arrive for your appointment fully equipped with your interview portfolio: 2-3 copies of your résumé (printed on professional bond paper); your professional reference list; a pen and paper; 15-20 of your best accomplishment stories (that align with the skills and requirements of the job and illustrate your ability to meet the employer’s needs); a list of questions you want to ask and the top three reasons the employer should hire you.
  • Talked incessantly about himself: Too many candidates approach the interview with a “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) attitude. The employer wants to know what you can do for them. This may sound a little harsh, but the interviewer is not all that concerned about what he can do to make your life better. There is a fine line between blowing your own horn to “sell” yourself and monopolizing the conversation. Show a sincere interest in the company and the people who work there – this will score you high points on the “likability spectrum” and people hire people they like.
  • Called me “Peggy”: This goes hand-in-hand with lack of preparation and WIIFM attitude and implies a totally lack of concern for the interviewer or the company. Take time to research the company ahead of time. Learn about their products/services, customer-base, industry contributions, goals and challenges. Ask who you will be interviewing with, Google them and read their LinkedIn profiles (you can be certain they will be checking you out prior to the interview!) And before you leave, make sure you get the business cards of everyone you met.
  • Failed to check his “baggage”: Unless you loved your last job and left with the blessings of your former employer, you may be harboring resentment, anger, or lingering depression over a relationship that went bad. As difficult as it might be, it is imperative that you leave that baggage behind and approach each interview with enthusiasm. When a candidate even hints at an inability to let go of past disappointments or get along with others, it dramatically weakens their chances.
  • Blew his nose on the restaurant’s cloth napkin: The date was going fine, until suddenly “Frank” forgot his manners! When you show up for an interview, remember that you are “on” from the first moment you set foot on company property. The person you meet on the elevator or in the rest room may have a say in the hiring decision. Don’t mess up the reception area by strewing pages of the newspaper everywhere or leaving behind a coffee cup. Watch your body language and be aware of those little things you do when you are nervous – like twirling your hair or flipping the end of your tie.

And the ultimate mistake and reason for rejection…

  • Ending the date by stating “Thank you for being seen with me”: Had things not gone so poorly the entire time together, I might have cried when he said that instead of quickly showing him the door. Some job seekers are so lacking in self-confidence that they nearly talk the interviewer out of making them the offer. Boldness and confidence will often do more for you in an interview than a college degree or experience.

Don’t let poor preparation and presentation cause you to fumble the interview. Make every minute count.

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