Have you ever had the feeling that you are shooting yourself in the foot? I have and a time or two it felt like I was shooting myself repeatedly. When you are job searching and getting invitations to interview but never getting the job, you may wonder what you aren’t doing well enough to receive an offer.
Here are the top 5 blunders that can sink your chances.
First up, Seeming distracted or disinterested in the interview, interviewer or the job. Sometimes when we are nervous and thinking we want to be anywhere but here, an attitude can come across to those around us. Try to appear confident even though you aren’t. Prepare for the interview as if you were going to have a conversation with a new acquaintance. Often interviewers are nervous,too. They have to find the best person for the open role and can face consequences if they don’t choose wisely. You help them and help yourself by appearing relaxed. Show interest in the company, the position, the interviewer, so that you can help your interviewer do her best.
Next no-no is talking negatively about a past employer. Even though you worked at a place that was disorganized, where they asked you to do too much for too little compensation; where the people were horrible and you couldn’t wait to leave: don’t mention it! Don’t bring your grudges to interviews. No matter how justified your feelings, speaking of them makes you appear to be a complainer, a disrupter, not someone that would be a good fit. Truth be told, the person hired may not be the most qualified for the job but the person the interviewer felt most comfortable with. If you are likeable and someone that he might enjoy having a conversation with over lunch you have an advantage.
Don’t whine. Put a positive spin on why you left (even if you were fired). You can say you maxed out the potential to grow the job. You can say that it became clear that the company culture wasn’t one where you felt comfortable. You can say you wanted to explore other opportunities. Whatever you say, keep it positive!
Number 3, the Deal Killer Appearing uninformed about the company or the role. Actually this probably should have been at the very top of the list. If you want the job you have to do the research. Even in a two-person shop you want to be armed with information. Use google, company websites, professional publications, competitors’ website, industry forums, conference agendas and presenters, bios and CVs to sus out details. You should know about the industry. Even if you’ve been working in this one for a while, read up on trends and projections, innovation, potential growth and who the players are. Read about the executives, see what is being said about them in the press, how they are viewed across the industry, their hobbies and habits, where they volunteer and to whom they donate. Get a snapshot of company culture. This list could go on forever.
You could be asked what you would prioritize if you were hired. You need to have context and a specific problem to address in your answer. To do that you have know what challenges the role, company and industry is faced with. If you don’t know, you will drop from contention.
The information requirement pertains to the person looking for a position selling greeting cards as well as an executive coach. If you are planning to work in a mall it would be handy to know if the mall has enough traffic to keep the store open or if there is a potential for taking the business online. Be sure you can demonstrate your engagement.
The fourth mistake is not having specific examples of your accomplishments that relate to the new role. This is where you have a few short stories to tell. If you’re asked about a particular item on your resume use the PAR (Problem, Action, Result) formula or the STAR (Situation, Task Action, Result) format. Give a brief description of what needed attention, your role in addressing it, what you did and the results. Use numbers where applicable to quantify the extent of the problem as well as any needed in your actions and finally in the result.
Here’s what I mean: ” We had invited 150 industry executives to a lunch meeting to discuss a supply problem. The caterer had a flood and cancelled at 10Am; I was asked to find lunch for all 150 people on a budget of $1000. I contacted few restaurants and found a deli that could put together box lunches including cookies decorated with our industry logo. I set up tables in the courtyard where we had a picnic. I received kudos for the unusual lunch and coming in $50 under budget”.
Prepare examples of your accomplishments that are flexible enough to serve for more than one kind of question. You’ll be glad you did!
Last but not least important is not asking good questions. If you don’t have any it will be assumed that you have no interest or aren’t paying attention. The most effective way to bring up questions is to do it in the course of the discussion. Ask for details, ask the speaker to tell you more. Keep the conversation going.
At the end of the interview you will want to ask about next steps, timing. You want to know if there is anything about you or your experience that they want more information on. Even better, ask if they have any concerns about your ability to do the job. If they do, you will be able to address their doubts before you leave the room.
Summary: An interview is a conversation in which you and the interviewer are trying to figure out if you can do the job and if hired will do the job. You both want to know if you like each other. Do you want to work for this company? Does the interviewer find you interesting and personable enough to fit into the company? Do you home work so that you are knowledgeable and bring your A-game. Make sure the interviewer feels she knows you, likes you and can trust you because her job may be on the line if she doesn’t hire the right person. The right person should be you!