Job interviews are a daunting process. You’re putting yourself in an unfamiliar situation, meeting new people, and knowing you are being evaluated based on a conversation of an hour or less. Still, an interview is often the only way you’ll be offered a job, so it’s to your benefit to practice, prepare, and know the dos and don’ts of interviewing. If you can avoid these 5 interview pitfalls, your talent, personality, and experience will better shine through, hopefully landing you an offer.
Don’t be late
Time management is a basic skill of any job. An employer wants to know you can reliably be on time to work. Being late for a job interview doesn’t just signify that you might be late to work occasionally - it also shows that you’re not willing to make an effort to be on time when things are important. What if you have a big client meeting, an important conference call, or project with a tight deadline? Being late is an easy way for prospective employers to gauge your reliability - or lack of it.
To make sure you’re on time, take a “dry run” of the route to the interview. Do this practice run at the same time of day you will need to commute to the interview. For example, if your interview is at 9 AM, you will likely have to deal with some rush hour traffic, so a practice run at 3 PM on a Sunday afternoon might not give you a clear picture of how much time you’ll need.
Once you have established how long it will take you to get to your interview, give yourself plenty of extra time. Build in at least half of the time it takes to get there. If you can easily get from your front door to the interview location without rushing in 30 minutes, give yourself at least 45. In the worst case scenario, you may want to sit in your car for an extra 10 minutes, and walk in 5 minutes before your interview. You’ll be glad you built the extra time in, though, if you encounter an accident, have a wardrobe malfunction, or forget where to park.
If, despite your best efforts, you know you will be late, call as soon as possible to let your interviewer know. Don’t be surprised if they cancel the interview or move it to another time or day. Calling, however, is better than letting people wonder where you are, and letting them assume you think it’s acceptable to be late for the interview.
Don’t ignore the dress code
With many companies embracing a business casual, or even a regular casual, dress code these days, it can be confusing to know how to dress for an interview. While there can be a few exceptions to this rule, the best idea is to always dress up. Being overdressed for an interview is better than being underdressed. Most interviewers will also appreciate that you know what proper interview attire is, and it will make a good impression, even if you are more dressed up than anyone else in the office.
So what is the best solution to being dressed for an interview? Typically, a business suit is the go-to
solution. For men, this involves dress pants with a matching jacket, button-down shirt, and coordinating tie. Be sure not to get too fun or funky with your tie. Hopefully, you’ll be able to let your personality shine through later on, but keep your shirt and tie to neutrals, solid colors, or simple and traditional stripes or dots. For women, a pant suit or skirt suit with conservative blouse or button-down shirt is appropriate. For business casual or casual office environments, men can wear dark dress pants paired with a sports coat, while women can wear a sheath dress or pencil skirt along with a coordinating blazer.
If an office insists that they are a casual environment, you should still dress up slightly. Dress pants with a button-down shirt, a skirt with a blouse, or a conservative dress would be appropriate options. At some places, like Silicon Valley technology companies, a suit may be seen as too old-fashioned, and dress pants and a button-down are the normal interview attire, but this is very rare. If you’re in an industry with this standard, you will likely already know the expected dress.
You should also make sure you look neat and tidy - not just that your clothes are the appropriate type. Iron your clothes the night before your interview if needed. Make sure your hair, face, and nails are clean and well-manicured. For women who choose to wear makeup, ensure it is subdued. You don’t want people paying more attention to your eyeshadow than what you are saying! Perfume or cologne should be minimal if worn, but it’s best to leave it off entirely.
Looking neat and presentable in appearance isn’t enough. You also need to mind your presentation. Don’t slouch, fidget, or put your feet up. You ironed that shirt after all: you don’t want to wrinkle it by the way you are sitting. Try to be mindful of your posture and movements.
Don’t forget to prepare
In the age of Google, there’s no excuse for not knowing basic information about the company. Most companies you will interview with at least have their own website, often with an about page that will outline their services, if not their entire history.
If a company doesn’t have a website or the website doesn’t clarify anything for you, customer reviews on Google or Yelp may yield results. Check review sites like Indeed and Glassdoor to see what employees and other interviewees have experienced with the company. LinkedIn can be a great resource since you will usually be able to find at least the executives or people on the management team and get a feel for their current role and past experience. Try to find the person you will be interviewing with to see how long they have been in their position and where they came from. Do they have an educational or professional connection to you? That’s something you can play up in the interview. Have they been promoted within the company, perhaps from the job you are now interviewing for? Asking about the company’s retention and internal promotion strategy may be informative.
When you do your research beforehand, you will look well-prepared and make a great impression on your interviewer. You will also be able to ask intelligent, well-thought-out questions about the company and the role. Perhaps most importantly, you can determine if the company is actually the right fit for you!
Don’t get too personal
It’s a difficult balance, trying to make yourself memorable in an interview while maintaining a professional demeanor. Ideally, your experience, education, and talent will stand out and be what makes the interviewee remember you, not inappropriate personal details! The interview should concentrate on what you can bring to the role. You may be going through a difficult time at work or home, but the interviewee doesn’t need to know this. Again, if you are bringing personal issues into the interview, there’s an assumption you may cross boundaries once you are working there, as well, both with your colleagues and with customers, if applicable to your role. An interviewer wants to see the right level of professionalism.
Of course, don’t be so accommodating that an interviewee doesn’t think you have any principles or
opinions of your own. Difficult or controversial topics should be avoided if at all possible, such as political affiliation. Many people also choose not to discuss any kind of classification that could open them or the company up to questions of discrimination, such as religion, sexual orientation, or family status. While these things can’t be used as a basis for hiring or not hiring people, it can be difficult to prove discrimination in this instance, so they are topics that are best avoided in the interview process.
You should also avoid speaking negatively about your current position or previous jobs. You may be leaving a bad boss or toxic department, but the interviewer will question whether you will trash talk them or the company at a later date if they offer you this job. Consider the benefits you want to gain by taking on a new role rather than the downsides you want to leave behind.
Otherwise, an interviewer does want to get to know you to determine if you will be a good fit for the team. There is something to be said for having the right mix of personalities and hiring people who will like each other and work well together. You may want to practice a few anecdotes that highlight your personality and thought process, while also relating to the type of work you hope to do and what you think you can achieve in the position.
Don’t talk about money or benefits
Whether or not you love what you do, your main reason for doing it is undoubtedly the fact that you get paid for it. Employers, however, want to know that you are enthusiastic about the position and what you can bring to it. Your priority should be on demonstrating your fit with the company and your ability to do quality work. Once you are offered the job, a salary offer will accompany it. Many companies also include a salary range in the job description. If you are new to the industry, you can do outside research to see what kind of range to expect.
Some companies attract candidates by touting their amazing benefits. Google comes to mind as an example of a company that disrupted the traditional benefit structure by offering employees free cafeteria meals, snack stations, on-site dry cleaning, and more. Of course, most companies aren’t Google, with the size, budget, and competitive atmosphere needed to provide those things, but benefits like catered lunches, on-site gyms, and flexible schedules aren’t uncommon ways to make sure a company is attracted lots of desirable candidates.
It may not be as fun to discuss the “adult” benefits like health insurance or 401k matches, but many job seekers are interested in those options as well. In fact, those types of financial benefits can add an additional 30% value to a salary offer.
Just like salary, though, benefit specifics are not something that should be discussed in the initial interview phase. Most companies will send you an official offer letter outlining your salary offer as well as benefits such as medical, dental, and vision insurance, retirement benefits, and any additional optional benefits.
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If you follow this list of what not to do, what you do in an interview should help you perform well! If your interview skills are rusty, though, contact us. We’ll have you talk to our top recruiters and pair you with a job that fits your skills. Just fill out this form and your nearest office will contact you.
Labels: Interview tips, job advice, Job candidate traits that impress, salary, what to wear to a job interview