While many predict further economic gloom, I’m seeing some signs of recovery. Friends are getting invited on interviews and headhunters are calling me occasionally. If you’re lucky enough to land an interview during these tough times, don’t blow it with a moron moment.
I’ve interviewed (and been interviewed) hundreds of times. Some went fantastic. Others made me cringe. Remember, in times like these, an employer is looking for ANY reason, no matter how small, to knock a candidate out of the running. They can afford to be extremely choosy as they seek out the highest caliber talent.
Much like my prior posts on how not to be stupid and lazy, how to avoid one major interview landmine, and really understanding the role of your resume, this post will focus on helping you avoid classic mistakes I’ve actually seen first-hand during interviews.
Here goes: 4 job offer-killing interview mistakes…
Mistake 1: Your Watch
Not looking at your watch can kill your chances. Looking at it can kill them too.
If you’re late for an interview with me, you’ve got one shot to rescue your interview. That explanation better include traffic accidents, exploding cars, and emergency room trips. If you’re late just because “it took you longer than you thought to find the place” we’re done. Be fully cognizant of drive times. Factor in a huge buffer. Being late is being disrespectful. It makes me wonder what you’ll be like if you work for me.
Your watch can kill an interview too. If you look at it so much as once during an interview, we’re probably done. It’s not your job to keep us on time – it’s the interviewer’s. That one glance at a watch signals “I’ve gotta be somewhere else” and that you’re disinterested in the conversation. Thanks for playing. Bye bye. Interview over. Remember – being with that interviewer is the most important thing in your life at that moment (in theory). Signaling otherwise craters your chances.
Mistake 2: Your Phone
Shut off your phone. Now. Unless your spouse is giving birth or you have a sick family member, there’s no reason to have it on. It shouldn’t even be on vibrate (I can hear it). It’s a distraction and again, it signals you have things going on that are more important than the interview.
I actually walked in to one of our interview rooms (we rotated interviewers) and the candidate was on the phone. He held up the universal “wait one second” sign so I let him continue his call (it could have been an emergency for all I knew). He then proceeded to finish checking his voicemail. Done. That was the easiest turndown I’ve ever had.
Mistake 3: The Silent Treatment
Some people love to talk. And talk. And talk. Unfortunately you might come across an interviewer like that. They spout off on how great the company is, how awesome the role is, what they had for breakfast, and on and on and on. While it makes the interview easy for you, it gives the interviewer nothing to say about you during a decision meeting on whether to hire you.
Find a way to politely and gently interrupt. Try to riff off of a point made by the interviewer to relate your skills and experience to the point that’s being made. I once had an interviewer who was stoked about a new project. He would have spent our entire hour together talking about it if I let him. I tried to politely and gently interrupt by explaining a skill I had or a relevant experience related to the aspect of the project he was discussing. In the end, it all went well.
Don’t let the interviewer monopolize your time together. For once in your life, this IS about you.
Mistake 4: Your Biggest Weakness?
“What’s your biggest weakness?”
“I work too hard.” Or “I’m a perfectionist” or some similar junk. When I hear this I want to slam my head off the table.
We all have weaknesses. When you evade the question with one of these “gee, if I say I work too hard the interviewer will love me and want to hire me because I’m so industrious” answers, you come across as disingenuous and not very self-aware. Your interviewer sees right through this answer.
So what do you say? The truth. Then go on to explain how you’re working on strengthening that weakness or how you compensate for it. Doing so demonstrates maturity and a strong sense of self.
“If I’m not excited about a project, I tend to give it short shrift and not work on it as hard as things I’m stoked about. The result is some things don’t get done if I personally don’t see them as exciting regardless of their priority within the organization. To mitigate this effect, I manage tasks with a prioritization list and force myself to work from the top of that list downward. I also try to create excitement for myself on that project by looking at it from a unique angle on how I can learn from it. I haven’t perfected this yet but I’m aware of it and I’m working on it.” Yes, this is one of my personal weaknesses. By putting it out there, the interviewer knows I’m shooting straight and he or she can make a more accurate assessment of my fit on the team.
So there you go – four interviewing mistakes I hope you can avoid. Sure there are many others (please share them in the comments section!) but these four are top of mind for me today. What mistakes have you made or seen?