They say to Never Say Never. Well I’m saying never to these 7 things that people do in interviews which leads me and hiring managers to say NO. Want to make sure you don’t fall victim? Read on and I’ll help you get a YES.
As a recruiter who has interviewed thousands of individuals over my 15 years, I have truly seen it all. I know what it takes to make a great impression. I also know what it takes to ensure you NEVER get the job and I want to help you to avoid the mistakes that I have seen time and time again.
1. Never Go in Unprepared but Never Over Prepare.
Honestly there is nothing more uncomfortable in an interview then someone who either didn’t prepare or who prepared too much, it becomes real awkward real fast.
Have you ever shown up for an interview thinking you could just wing it? Time for some real talk – what were you thinking? Why are you wasting your own time by even going in for the interview because I guarantee you won’t get the job. So if you aren’t going to prepare then just decline the interview.
The basic prep for an interview only takes 10-20 minutes tops. It all starts with some research – research the company, the job and yourself. Figure out why you want to work at this company, why you want this particular job and how you would be a great match (skills, knowledge and experience). Obviously a bit more prep is better but if you are strapped for time or produce your best answers/work under some pressure then just do the above!
Have you prepared for hours but go in and have a melt down? I have seen it happen. The interviewee freezes, they can’t think of the best answer. Or they talk too much, just long answers that ramble on and on. They get stuck in their own head and just can’t get out! My recommendation – if you are actively looking for a new job do a lot of interview prep before you even get an interview. Then just spend 30-60 minutes tops tweaking your prep for this particular job and company. The night before make sure you get some time to relax in and maybe in the morning glance at your notes but again focus more on being relaxed.
Moral of the Story: Prepare, not too little, not too much but just enough!
2. Never get cagey but never tell elaborate stories when discussing why you left a job
When I’m interviewing people it is really important to go through the reasons for why they left each job – a line of questioning classified as “motivation questions”. My main purpose for asking these questions is to determine someone’s motivations – what is important to them in a career, company and job. I’m not looking to trap people. But, honestly, I am looking for red flags. And red flags come from people who get really cagey or who go into too much detail.
By cagey, I mean they are evasive – avoiding answering the question at all costs. I make assumptions from this kind of behavior – I assume that they got fired due to poor performance. The thing is that probably isn’t the case! Don’t make an interviewer think you have something to hide – be honest with them.
BUT the interviewer doesn’t need an essay on why you left either. When someone goes into a long elaborate story it same raises those same red flags. I think that you are overcompensating for something bad. Which again, probably isn’t true. You are probably just nervous, was shocked or hurt if you were let go and the long explanation has been a way that you have personally handled it. Which is great. But as an interviewer, I don’t need it.
Moral of the Story: Short and sweet is the way to go. If you were laid off, that is all you need to say!
3. Never show up late but never show up too early
Honestly, nothing angers me more than a person sauntering in late to an interview. Like the people who don’t prepare, I get the impression that they just don’t care or are interested. Not the right first impression to make that is for sure!
I get it, there are times where being late can’t be avoided, like an accident on the highway. If that happens to you, pull over and call the interviewer to let them know. Better to take that 5 minutes and update them.
On the flip side you would think to avoid that you would show up early. But the problem with that is that sitting in the lobby waiting for the interviewer will just make you more nervous and increases the likelihood of you having a meltdown in the interview (similar to over preparing). If you do get there early – go grab a coffee, read in the car, go for a walk.
Moral of the Story: Show up 5-10 minutes early.
4. Never be to modest but also never get too braggy.
It is hard to sell yourself, I totally get that. But remember the whole point of the interview is to determine whether you have the skills, experience and knowledge to do the job so you must talk about your accomplishments so that they walk away knowing that you are the perfect fit. Hiding them by undermining yourself or by sharing the win (using “we”) won’t get you the job. If you need help with this, check out my article Selling Yourself, I’ll give you 4 tips/reminders on how to sell yourself without feeling icky.
There is a fine line though. I can’t stand the people who walk in and feel like they own the place. That is a trigger for me and the whole interview is me knocking them off the pedestal – it isn’t pretty! But it is more than the arrogance. It also showcases a lack of self-awareness, meaning can this person identify and correct any obstacles (internal or external) that may get in the way of their success. This is a skill that is becoming more and more important in this world – most managers just do not have time to provide hands-on management and they need people who can essentially manage themselves. A person who is cocky and arrogant comes across as someone who can’t recognize their own shortcomings. In order to own your strengths, you also have to own your weaknesses.
Moral of the Story: Be ready and willing to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.
5. Never act desperate but never play hard to get
I know if you are actively searching for a job and really need one to pay the bills that it is hard not to have that seep into an interview. I get it, the pressure is on and these people need to hire you and you want to make sure they know that! But when you are desperate you tend to forget to sell yourself since the focus becomes “I need this job!” instead of “I would do amazing at this job!” If this sounds familiar then you need to spend some time focusing before an interview. Instead of focusing on how you need this job, focus on who you are, what accomplishments you bring to the table and how you could benefit this company and team. Be careful though not to swing the other way though and start playing hard to get!
If you aren’t actively searching for a job and a recruiter reaches out to you, it is common to play hard to get. I come across these candidates all the time – they want to be wooed. The thing is though in most cases that backfires because it comes across as disinterested and people want to hire people who want to work with them. Now, I’m not saying you can’t be picky – in fact I want you to be picky about making any career moves – but I want you to have options. And if you act disinterested you may never even get the chance to make a choice, you are taking away that option.
Moral of the Story: Be excited about the opportunity and about what you bring to the opportunity.
6. Never forget to follow up but never become a stage 5 clinger
The easiest thing you can do is to send a Thank You email as a follow up including a quick summary of why you are a great fit and how interested you are. It shows off your professionalism, your level of interest and reminds them of your skill set. But I am amazed at how few people actually do this! They are missing out on such an easy opportunity to shine.
Then there are those that become too clingy – sending constant follow up emails and/or phone calls. I know you really want this job, but this shows a potential manager that you don’t deal well with uncertainty and that you need your hand held during tough times. Instead of making a hiring manager want to hire you this makes them want to decline you!
Moral of the Story: Send a thank you email. And then maybe just ONE more to follow up. That’s it.
7. Never act too uptight but never be too casual.
Hiring Managers don’t just want to know that you can do the job. They also want to be able to see themselves working with you which means that they have to like you. If you walk into the interview treating it like it is a funeral – meaning you are tense and uptight – it is really hard to create a connection. Relax a little. Before the interview, do some raspberries or a couple of jumps or a full body shake. Anything that loosens you up!
Hiring managers do want to be respected. So don’t walk in like you are walking into your friend’s house. This is still a professional workplace. And by too casual, I mean don’t tell stories that seem to go on forever. Don’t go into too much detail about your personal life. And, please I beg of you – DO NOT SWEAR! The interview is a business meeting so treat it as such, like a business professional.
Moral of the Story: Be relaxed but professional.
Have you fallen victim to the above and need more than an article? Or are you still not getting an offer even when you don’t do these? Let’s work together to help you CREATE CONNECTIONS by mastering the interview.
Are you getting in your own way of your success? Learning how to sell yourself is a key aspect of getting forward in your career – whether it is landing that new dream job or getting that coveted promotion.
For most of us selling ourselves doesn’t come naturally. I know I always feel really awkward and weird. It is really hard. It doesn’t help that I’m a female Canadian – two identifying factors that encourage, actually DEMAND humility. But a long time ago I learned that I can be proud of what I have to offer and still be humble. Okay, who is kidding who here, this is something I continue to work on. Though, I did learn how vital it is to my success to use the following four reminders to help me sell myself effectively.
These four reminders work, they get me in the right mindset and act as prompts to encourage me to focus on what I bring to the table and how to get my message across without sounding like a used car salesman or getting all socially awkward!
1. You are the product.
When I’m interviewing new coaching clients and candidates I hear a lot of “buts”, I noticed a problem and I came up with a solution BUT I was really lucky to have noticed it.
I also hear a lot of “we”. We managed or we implemented or we were involved.
When you are dealing with ANYONE that has the future of your career in your hands forget about the normal you – the person who maybe was really lucky to have stumbled across the perfect solution – and focus on the SUPERYOU, the incredibly observant, innovative and intelligent person who came across the perfect solution.
Think about advertisers. Do they tell us how delicious that Big Mac is BUT that it can cause weight gain? Nope! Or those battery commercials, do they say all batteries are the best? No way, they say THEY are the best.
So what are the best things about you? Get any objections out of your head. And own those things, don’t share them with anyone else!
2. You are different.
If you are looking for a job you have a lot of competition since each job posting sees about 250 resumes. If you are hoping for a promotion, look around you – there is your competition.
Chances are most of that competition are qualified to do the job, they have nice and friendly personalities and have a good work ethic. And most of those people probably try to sell themselves by focusing on 1 of those 3 things. That gets pretty boring, pretty quick!
You need to stand out. How are you the unicorn, what is your superpower that differentiates you from the masses? Figure that out and lead with that. Make sure it is highlighted in your LinkedIn, your cover letter, your resume and elevator speech. At work, showcase that power every chance you get (where it makes sense) and smoothly make sure the decision makers know about it.
3. You have potential.
Studies show that you are more likely to get hired or get the promotion/raise if you have the potential for greatness. The crazy thing is if you take a candidate who has potential versus someone with actual experience, it is the former one that stands a better chance of getting hired!
The thinking is that those who have potential makes the decision maker spend more time thinking about them which leads to an unconscious favourable view as long as there is evidence backing up the potential.
How do you make this work for you? Especially if you do offer a ton of great experience. It is all in the spin. Tell the decision makers about your future and how what you have accomplished in the past will benefit and translate to a great things to come for you and therefore them.
4. You are persistent.
I don’t think it comes as a surprise but I love all forms of networking (events, informational interviews) and to me networking is key to a successful career.
As a recruiter, I get asked a lot – “do you know anyone who could be a fit for…”? Well let me tell you something – recency bias is for real. It is usually the people I’ve spoken with in the past month or so that I recommend. That is not to say you need to send weekly update emails to people in your network, you want to be persistent not annoying.
If you want to be considered for new opportunities than I would recommend connecting with the key people in your network about once every 3-6 months – just a quick email is good and don’t worry if they don’t email back! Also be active where they are active. If they tend to be on LinkedIn or Twitter, engage them by liking and commenting on their posts. If they attend regular association events, show up too – an in person meeting is more memorable anyway. On Social Media, I recommend sharing relevant articles, updating your status or writing new articles. Keeping your name on their radar will go a long way.
If you want to be considered for any upcoming promotions, make sure management and HR are aware and remind them during any performance reviews or conversations. Ask about job shadowing and training opportunities and ensure they know once you have completed those activities. When you have had a win find a natural way to bring it up to them.
I don’t know about you but a lot of the above can seem at first to be very icky. I certainly don’t want to have to schmooze my way into a new job or promotion, it just doesn’t come naturally to me. In fact, I hate those people who seem to spend more time schmoozing and scheming than working. But you know what is worse than not getting the job or promotion? Is when THOSE people do! And they do, all the time, I’ve seen it happen time and time again. And trust me the goal of this article is not for you to become one of those people.
I want you to be AMAZING at what you do but also learn to be AMAZING at selling yourself so that it is YOU, someone who so deserves it who gets the job or promotion!
And obviously if this whole marketing yourself seems too much, that is what I’m here for! Reach out and let me know how I can help.
Sara Curto helps people find a career they love by teaching them a new way to job search.
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