I once had the pleasure of interviewing a gentleman who, based on his resume, seemed like the perfect fit for my department's job opening. However, after he fumbled through a series of missteps and bumps during his interview, I discovered he was clearly not the right hire.
As I laughingly recounted the event, I was reminded of many other job interview "Don'ts" I have witnessed as a hiring manager. While many may appear obvious, they're worth reinforcing.
Don't be late: Showing up an hour late because you miscalculated the time it would take to get to the interview is not a good start. Hello? Have you ever heard of MapQuest or Google Maps? Know where you're going and be on time.
Don't bring your cell phone into the interview: Having your "Hells Bells" ringtone go off while you're talking shop is probably not a good idea. Leave it in your car. Period. It's a distraction, even if it's just vibrating in your pocket.
Don't wear sandals or shorts: Yes, I have seen it, even with candidates who interviewed for senior-level positions. Dress professionally, regardless of the position you're interviewing for. If you dress like you don't care, guess what? The interviewer will care and won't hire you.
Don't look at the wall or into space every time you answer a question: Eye contact is very important. You don't have to constantly stare at the interviewer; just make frequent eye contact, especially when you listen to and answer questions. Looking into space projects an air of insincerity and disinterest.
Don't pretend you know something when you don't: I happen to like sports and have a nice collection of photos and memorabilia in my office. It often makes for interesting conversation. Especially the one time a guy saw a photo of a Boston Bruins game on my wall and said, "You like the Bruins? I love them, especially Larry Bird!" Oh really? And how about that time Derek Jeter threw a touchdown pass to Wayne Gretzky?
Don't tell the interviewer your life story: Stay focused and answer the questions that are asked of you. There's no need to tell your life story or provide really long answers to simple questions. Conversation is good. Monologues, not so much. Time is valuable, especially the interviewer's, so don't waste it.
Don't act as if you already got the job: Confidence is a good thing, but arrogance, pompousness, or cockiness will turn the interviewer off. I had one guy tell me I'd have to create a flexible work schedule for him because he didn't want to deal with the commute. Turned out he didn't have to deal with the commute at all, because I didn't hire him. Buh-bye!
Don't neglect your personal hygiene: Think it doesn't matter? Au contraire! It most certainly does. Make sure you shower and avoid those double-onion bagels right before the interview. Bad smells with a first impression don't work well in any situation.
Don't ask, "So, what does this company do, anyway?": Failing to research the company ahead of time simply tells the interviewer you're not really interested. Spend at least a few minutes before the interview to find out what the company does, how it does it, and who its competitors are. Better yet, do this before you even apply for the position!
Don't say you're leaving your current job "because the place sucks": If you're in or have left a job you didn't like, simply find a nicer way to tell the interviewer why you left, such as "I wanted to explore other opportunities" or "I am looking to build upon the skills I have." Don't tell them, "My boss is such a jerk. He makes me work five days a week!"
Don't announce on LinkedIn or Facebook that you partied so hard this weekend that you woke up two days later: Interviewers have many tools at their disposal today. Checking potential hires' LinkedIn profiles and Facebook or Twitter updates are common practices. Keep your personal pages looking clean, mature, and professional. You never know who might be looking at them, so be sure it doesn't cost you a potential opportunity.
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