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Top 10 interview mistakes

John Heckers //March 29, 2012//

Top 10 interview mistakes

John Heckers //March 29, 2012//


Competition is fierce in the jungle of the employment world these days. If you want to get hired, you must do many things right and very few things wrong. Here are some of the common mistakes I see executives making and how to avoid them.

1). Anger over being interrupted. I was interviewing someone for a CEO’s position for one of my corporate clients. I deliberately interrupted him a couple of times. The second time I did so, his face became clouded over, he slammed his hand on the table, and said, “Let me finish (expletive deleted)!” He didn’t get the job. Don’t get angry when interrupted. Take it in good grace. You are not in control here.

2). Desperation. Don’t do anything that makes you appear desperate. Don’t tell the interviewer you need the job. Don’t beg. Don’t bug the interviewer each and every day after the interview for two weeks. These moves show that you are desperate and needy. It will turn off a company.

3). Anger at your past employer. This is very common with senior executives. They don’t feel that they should be in this position at this time of life. Get over it. Life is inherently unfair, and the Universe chose you for a divine bop on the head this time. It could be worse. Suck it up and let go of your anger. Your layoff wasn’t personal.

4). Inappropriate attire. I see more and more executives “dressing down” for both work and interviews. Don’t do it for interviews. I don’t really like it in a work setting, either, but that is the sloppy trend. However, “you can’t wear the uniform until you’re part of the team.” Even if the place where you’re interviewing is business casual, or, heaven help us, business grubby, you should go to at least your first interview in a suit with a tie. This is simple respect for the interviewer.

5). Arriving late. I shouldn’t need to say this to executives, but I do. Be very punctual. The excuse I hear is “traffic.” The solution is to leave lots more time than you would ordinarily need. You should be sitting in the waiting room one half hour before your meeting. This allows you time to do the administrivia that HR will have you do, such as filling out an application form. .

6). Not filling out the application well. Yes, I know your résumé tells your story. But putting “see résumé” on your application form just makes employers angry. Fill out the form completely, answering all of their little linear questions.

7). Being evasive. I understand that you want to present yourself in the best possible light. But being evasive is just not going to get you anywhere. Answer the question you’re asked, not the one you think you want to answer!

8). Answering behavioral questions with your philosophy. If they ask you “tell me about a time when,” tell them about a “time when.” Don’t wax philosophical about the question. Too many executives want to give their doctoral dissertation in an interview, when they should be concentrating on hearing the question that is asked and answering it in the way that they employer has indicated it should be answered.

9). Showing stress. Interviews are very stressful situations. For several years now, some companies have been giving “stress interviews,” designed to put a great deal of pressure on the candidate. The “stress interview” includes deliberate rudeness, interruptions and insults. Be calm and answer politely if this sort of interview is thrown at you. Take deep breaths. Think hard about whether or not you want to work for these people.

10). Double booking. If you have one interview scheduled on a certain day, don’t book another one the same day. One of the worst things you can do is act as if you have somewhere better to be. And please use your head and don’t be the one who has to pick up the kids from school or attend a soccer game. There will be other soccer games, but there might not be another opportunity in this economy for a long time. Don’t blow this one.

Interviewing is very stressful at the best of times. This isn’t the best of times. You must be at the top of your game, and avoid all mistakes possible. You can do it with some real preparation and concentration.

Do you want more interviewing advice? Click here to pre-order the most comprehensive interviewing book on the market, by John and Nicole Heckers. For more free interview advice, read our blog. Best of luck!
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