The career fairs are over, and you have moved on from practicing your elevator pitch to preparing your interview answers. You worked hard to get an interview – now, don’t squander your time and effort by committing one of the 7 deadly sins of interviewing!
- Arriving late and unprepared
Most employers likely have more applicants than they need or want. Consider it an honor to have been selected for an interview! Show respect for your interviewer by arriving on time (read: at least 15 minutes early), dressed in appropriate attire (examples galore found here), and ready to fully engage in the interview process.
A lack of preparation becomes obvious to your interviewer very quickly! Preparedness demonstrates interest in the company, and if you fail to demonstrate interest in them, they will most definitely not be interested in you. Here are the basic elements of interview preparedness: know how your qualifications match the job description, know your answers to standard job interview questions, know the employer, and know the interviewers.
- Being rude
Be polite and kind to any and every person you encounter – this includes the receptionist, the parking attendant, the person who held the door for you, etc. As soon as you encounter someone at the company, your interview begins. You never know who may have a say when it comes down to deciding which candidate to hire!
- Dressing inappropriately
First things first – know what type of work environment exists at the company you are interviewing for. Not all interviews call for business professional attire. The company culture should guide your attire selection; you should dress on par or a step above your prospective co-workers.
If you are interviewing for a professional position at a traditional company, opt for the business professional route (i.e. a suit). Conversely, if you are interviewing for a start-up or media company, and you observed employees wearing jeans and t-shirts to work, you may opt for business casual attire.
When in doubt, dress nicer than you think you should. Also be sure to try on your outfit prior to interview day – do not be late due to wardrobe mistakes! Finally, avoid anything too tight, too short, too low-cut, or too casual.
- Using your cellphone
Beware the deadliest sin of them all! Using your cellphone (even when you are waiting for your interviewer) comes across as rude and demonstrates that you are easily distracted. Ideally, you should leave your cellphone in your car during your interview. But if you must bring it with you – at the very least, be sure your phone is off and out of sight during the interview.
- Badmouthing past employers
You will likely be asked to discuss a time when you faced a difficult situation and/or handled conflict in the workplace. Whether you use an example of how you dealt with a difficult colleague, or how you managed and overcame a difficult project, do not speak poorly of a colleague, boss, or customer, and avoid blaming others for the situation.
These types of situational questions can be challenging, but this is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your maturity and highlight how you utilized critical thinking and problem solving skills to manage the difficult situation.
Put simply – do not be afraid to admit that you do not know the answer to a technical question or that you do not have an experience to share for a behavioral question. Interviews are intended to be a conversation, not an interrogation. You will not lose points for admitting that you do not know everything. It is far better to say “I don’t know” than to make up a story because you do not have a legitimate answer to the question.
Instead of lying, answer the question hypothetically. Share what you would do if you were in a similar situation, or explain how you would go about finding the answer to the technical question. After all, the interview is simply trying to observe how you think and how you approach problem solving.
- Having no questions for the interviewer or asking questions with obvious answers
From an employer’s perspective, no questions demonstrate a lack of interest in the company. Remember, if you fail to demonstrate interest in them, they will most definitely not be interested in you.
Avoid asking questions about salary and vacation – these types of questions show the interviewer that you are more interested in personal benefits rather than the job itself. Also, don’t wait until the end of the interview to ask questions – you are free to ask questions at any stage of the interview! Ask about the position, the company’s goals, why the position is open, what is the key to success in the job… Ask about anything else that raised questions for you as you prepared for the interview!