Impress the Future Boss: 9 Interview Mistakes to Avoid
A job interview is one of those few formal moments left in a world that is becoming less and less formal. Understanding just how much we need to up our game to ace an interview can be tough. If you’ve gone to all the effort of landing an interview, present your most poised and polished self by avoiding these nine mistakes. (See also: How to Answer 23 of the Most Common Interview Questions)
1. Arriving Late
Plan for contingencies. If you’re interviewing in a new city or a new part of town, it’s easy to get lost or make a wrong turn. Maybe you hit traffic or can’t find a parking space. Life happens. Prepare for the worst-case scenario and give yourself plenty of room to make it on time. It’s always better to be 20 minutes early and sit in your car preparing than 10 minutes late and arrive apologizing.
2. Keeping Your Cell Phone On
Silence that cell phone before you even enter the building and keep it off until you’ve left. A ringing phone shows lack of respect for your interviewer’s time and shows that you’re a novice in handling the basics of business etiquette. To be safe, don’t rely on vibration mode to do the trick — a buzzing briefcase is just as bad as a ringing one.
3. Offering a Limp Handshake
There is an art to shaking hands properly. Etiquette dictates that you should let your interviewer extend his hand first. Return the shake with one that’s firm and confident. Don’t be too passive; don’t be too aggressive. If you’re worried about it, try a few test shakes with a friend beforehand.
4. Not Bringing a Copy of Your Resume
Your interviewer may not have your resume on-hand. Maybe she’s passing it around to colleagues or fitting you in between meetings and has misplaced your paperwork. In these moments, it’s nice to pull a freshly printed resume from your bag and not make your interviewer run and retrieve the original. This shows forethought and preparation, and it’s a great way to start an interview.
5. Ignoring Body Language
Exuding confidence is never a bad thing in an interview — but confidence goes beyond your resume, your qualifications, and your suit. Make eye contact with your interviewer, especially when you’re answering a question. Stand and sit up straight, smile, and speak clearly — make this brief time your time to shine.
6. Being Too Chatty or Too Casual
Interviewers are trained to put you at ease, and that’s a good thing. Just don’t get too comfortable. Remember, the occasion is still formal; the interviewer is gauging not only your qualifications, but your demeanor and your ability to fit in with the rest of the group. Avoid personal stories or negative talk about past employers.
7. Not Doing Your Research
Expect questions from your interviewer that are designed to gauge your knowledge of the company. In the Internet age, research takes all of 15 or 20 minutes of effort online. Learn some facts about the company — when it was founded, new acquisitions it’s made, who the main competitors are, etc.
8. Ignoring Table Manners
More and more interviews take place over a meal. Remember, even though a restaurant atmosphere may be more casual, the interview isn’t. Don’t order complicated or messy food, don’t order something more expensive than your interviewer, and don’t ever order alcohol. Treat the wait staff at the restaurant especially well, and brush up on those basic table manners.
9. Not Sending a Thank-You Note
The post-interview thank-you happens in two stages: first, in person at the conclusion of the interview, and then with a hand-written note that you send in the mail. Yes, it may seem archaic to send a note via snail mail, but it conveys a sense of propriety, professionalism, and follow-up that just might set you apart from the competition.
None of these tips will come naturally at first, especially for new graduates just entering the working world. Interviews are admittedly a dog-and-pony show, and sometimes the level of formality can be stifling. But knowing how to navigate that formality to showcase your strengths and qualifications will take you from interviewee to interviewer much more quickly.