During my recruiting career, I’ve seen my fair share of candidate mistakes; some of them have been minor and others fatal. It’s tragic when an otherwise qualified candidate snuffs out his or her chance of getting a job offer due to poor judgment. Below are four job-interview killers to avoid.
#1: Dressing Unprofessionally
Several years ago, I interviewed a candidate via phone. Let’s call her Mary. It was one of those moments a recruiter lives for. Mary had everything! She had a skillset that could double as the job description, a polite, professional communication style, and a work history that promised she’d be a long-term player. I scheduled her to meet with the hiring manager right away! So, imagine my utter confusion when I received an email saying, “Sorry, I’m going to pass on Mary.” What? Wait! Did I read that right? This had to be a mistake. I pounded my fist upwards demanding answers from the recruiting gods. When I didn’t get answers from the ceiling, I decided to call the manager instead. It turns out my star candidate, who’d presented so well during my initial phone interview, showed up for her in-person interview in a t-shirt and jeans. Yes, that’s right. Picnic attire for her professional job interview as a regional sales representative! How could an experienced, seemingly savvy candidate show such poor judgment?
Don’t make the same mistake Mary did. While flip flops are comfortable for the beach and those sky-high heels look sweet on the dance floor, both are sure to kill your chances of getting a job if you walk into an interview wearing either of them. You cannot afford to let unprofessional attire, something that is so easily correctable, keep you from getting an offer. While not all work places have suit-and-tie dress codes, when interviewing, ALWAYS dress professionally and modestly. Doing so presents a professional image, shows you care and garners respect. So, suit up, and save those leggings for binge watching Netflix.
#2: Being Negative
Once upon a time, I interviewed a candidate who I thought was perfect for a call-center position. Let’s call him Russ. Russ seemed to be a great candidate with a solid work history and five years of call-center experience. However, when asked why he’d left his last position, he said those four little words that killed the interview faster than a size 12 shoe stomping on a carpenter ant: “My boss was horrible.” No matter how many Employee of the Month certificates he had earned in the past, nothing could have resuscitated Russ’ chances for the job.
Horrible bosses exist. We all know that. They even made a movie about it! However, bringing up that awful boss or those gossipy coworkers in a job interview will make you seem negative and will give the impression that the problem may have been you. Employers want positive, collaborative team members who are capable of resolving problems and conflicts in a productive manner. Don’t let negativity, hurt feelings or old grudges kill your chances to land that job.
#3: Focusing on the Wrong Things
The candidate, let’s call her Sue, had a great resume. During the interview, Sue answered all of my questions very well, which further encouraged me that she could be the right fit. She was a professional through and through. At the end of the interview, when it came time for her to ask me questions, I was ready. I expected her to drill me on the department’s methodology and processes, turnover numbers, and the company’s philosophy and five-year plan – all those things savvy candidates want to know. However, this was not the information Sue was after. She wanted to know how often the company gave raises, the cost of benefits and how much vacation time she would get. Oh! And if her kids missed the school bus, as they had that morning, whether or not she would she be excused for arriving ten minutes late.
Employers understand that benefits, time off and some degree of flexibility are very important to candidates; however, asking questions around those elements too early in the interview process is likely to turn off a prospective employer. Save pay and benefits questions for the offer stage of the interview process, and never ask questions that may suggest you may not be reliable. Employers want to know you are a serious candidate with an interest in the company and their specific role and not just looking for a job to pay the bills. Don’t be like Sue and kill your chances of getting the offer by asking too much too soon, and by all means, get the kiddos on the school bus!
#4: Sharing too Much
About a year ago, I interviewed a candidate. Let’s call her Jan. Jan was a healthcare professional with ten years office-management experience and a bachelor’s degree in business. Jan also had a lousy ex-husband who left her for another woman. She was also the mother of two ungrateful kids who went to live with her lousy ex and the homewrecker. How do I know all this? Jan told me. Please, don’t be like Jan; don’t share all your personal information during a professional interview. Please … please… just … don’t. It’s sure to kill your chances of getting the job. On top of that, you’ll make your interviewer just a wee bit uncomfortable. While interviews are designed for prospective employers and employees to get to know each other, the focus should remain solely on the job, the company and the skills and experience the candidate brings. Keep your responses limited to your ability to do the job and save the lousy ex-husband chatter for coffee with your bestie.
Being granted an interview with a prospective employer is a huge opportunity to bring you one step closer to getting a job offer. Don’t ruin your chances to land that dream job by committing any of these 4 job-interview killers.
Author: Cynthia Sheeler, Regional Staff Recruiter
Cynthia Sheeler has been with DentalOne Partners for 10 years and is the Regional Staff Recruiter for the state of North Carolina. When she’s not recruiting, she likes to write fiction, work with shelter animals and drink coffee (lots and lots of coffee).
Be sure to connect with her on LinkedIn!