By Alyssa Gelbard, Founder and President, Resume Strategists Inc.
When people think about changing jobs and careers, they put a lot of effort into their resumes and cover letters (and increasingly, their LinkedIn profiles), but don't thoroughly prepare for interviews. Without preparation, they may end up doing something (or not doing something) during an interview that could have been avoided, and it might take them out of consideration for a job. Don't get me wrong, a powerful resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile are the vital first impressions that will help get you in the door.Once you're in, however, making a strong, positive in-person first impression is essential to securing a job offer.
Interviewers not only want to know if you can do the job, but they also want to know what else you bring to the table... they want to know your real value and how you can help them solve their problems. They want to see what makes you unique - why should they choose you vs. the other qualified candidates. They also want to get a sense of your personality and determine if you'd be a good fit for the job, department, organization and corporate culture. They want to like you because they'll likely be working with you.
Even if you do everything right leading up to an interview, when it comes to the actual interview, there are things you might do that can sabotage yourself and cause interviewers to form negative opinions, which can potentially take you out of the consideration set for the position you're seeking -- even if you are a perfect candidate. These things are completely avoidable!
Here are 10 key things you should avoid doing to ensure that you have a strong interview.
- ... arrive too early (or too late). If you're more than 15 minutes early, you risk appearing overeager and annoying interviewers because they likely had something planned during the time before your interview, but now feel rushed because they know you're waiting. (And obviously, don't arrive late for your interview... it's always beneficial to look up directions, public transportation routes/status, construction etc. the day before your interview).
- ... neglect to research the organization/industry. It shows a lack of preparation and interest, and causes potential employers to think that you'll operate that way on the job. Interviewers can quickly notice that you don't understand what the company does, what products/services they provide and who their customers and competitors are. (Researching this information takes very little time and can be immensely helpful during an interview... e.g. you might want to know that they just launched a new product line and you can ask how it would effect the position, department etc.).
- ... appear stiff, unenthusiastic or disinterested. Potential employers want to know that you want to work for them and would be excited to do so! And, if you realize that the job is not the right fit for you, you should still be actively engaged because otherwise, you leave the interviewer with a negative impression and you never know if they can be helpful in the future or if they would've been willing to share contacts and/or information about other job opportunities. On the flip side, avoid being overeager or artificially enthusiastic, as interviewers can see through that.
- ... forget to practice answers to frequently asked interview questions. These questions can include: Why are you a good fit for the position? Why do you want to work here? What are your strengths/weaknesses? Tell me about a challenge you've faced. And my favorite... tell me about yourself. These are not the best or most insightful interview questions, but you should be ready for them because there's an incredibly high likelihood that someone will ask them.
- ... distract the interviewer. If you wear bangle or jingly bracelets or strong perfume/cologne, you can create a distraction and cause an unnecessary negative impression.
- ... 'uptalk' or make statements sound like questions. Responding with upward inflection in your voice (common for women) makes you sound unsure of yourself and the interviewer might think that you don't really have the experience or skill you are referencing.
- ... keep your phone in eyesight at all. Put the phone away and make sure it's off or silence the ringer. If you even glance at your phone, it gives the impression that there's something more important to you than the interview. It can also be seen as disrespectful and rude behavior, even though looking at your phone while talking to someone is "normal" in your daily life, it is not acceptable during an interview.
- ... overlook memorizing the content of your resume. It's very frustrating to interviewers when they ask a question about something you wrote that you did, and you react as if you have no idea what they are talking about.
- ... neglect to prepare questions in advance. Interviewers love when you ask good questions and asking questions shows dimension, analytical skills, curiosity and interest. If they ask, "Do you have any questions?" Don't respond that they've answered all of them because there's no way that you know everything you want to know about the position/company.
- ... forget to ask about next steps. You're often so relieved that the interview is coming to a close, that you neglect to ask about the timeframe for a decision and with whom you should follow up. These questions show that you're interested and serious about wanting the job. Plus, this is information you actually want to know!
Alyssa Gelbard is a leading career consultant/personal branding expert and founder of Resume Strategists, a career consulting firm. For 14 years, she has been helping clients confidently present themselves as ideal candidates for the positions they seek. Alyssa has a multi-faceted strategic marketing, branding and communications background and has held senior positions in the for-profit and non-profit sectors.