Avoid These Interview Bloopers
By Deborah Walker, Certified Career
We've all heard stories of job candidates who looked
great on paper but who were absolute disasters in
person. With fewer and fewer interview opportunities
available in this competitive market, it's essential to
make the best possible first impression. You can learn
from the mistakes of others and avoid the top 10 worst
The three-second handshake that starts the interview is
your first opportunity to create a great impression. But
all too often an interview is blown right from the start
by an ineffective handshake. Once you've delivered a
poor handshake, it's nearly impossible to recover your
efforts to build rapport.
Even if you're a seasoned professional, don't assume you
have avoided these pitfalls. Your handshake may be
telling more about you than you know. Ask for honest
critiques from several friends who aren't afraid to tell
you the truth.
Talking too much.
In my recruiting days, I abhorred over-talkative
candidates. So did most of my client employers.
Over-talking takes several forms:
Taking too long to answer direct questions. The
impression: This candidate just can't get to the point.
Nervous talkers. The impression: This candidate is
covering up something or is outright lying.
To avoid either of these forms of over-talking, practice
answering questions in a direct manner. Avoid nervous
talking by preparing for your interview with role-play.
Saying negative things about past employers
The fastest way to talk yourself out of a new job is to
say negative things. Even if your last boss was Attila
the Hun, never, never state your ill feelings about
him/her. No matter how reasonable your complaints, you
will come out the loser if you show that you disrespect
your boss. When faced with the challenge of talking
about former employers, make sure you are prepared with
a positive spin on your experiences.
Showing up late or too early.
The first lesson in job-search etiquette is to show up
on time for interviews. A lot of job seekers don't
realize, however, that showing up too early often
creates a poor first impression as well. Arriving more
than ten minutes early for an interview is a dead
giveaway that the job seeker has too much time on their
hands, much like the last one picked for the softball
team. Don't diminish your candidate desirability by
appearing desperate. Act as if your time were as
valuable as theirs. Always arrive on time, but never
more than ten minutes early.
Treating the receptionist rudely.
Since the first person you meet on an interview is
usually a receptionist, this is also the first
impression you'll make. Don't mistake low rank for low
input. Often, that receptionist's job is to usher you
into your interview. The receptionist has the power to
pave your way positively or negatively before you even
set eyes on the interviewer.
Asking about benefits, vacation time or salary.
What if a car salesman asked to see your credit report
before allowing you to test drive the cars? That would
be ridiculous and you'd walk away in disgust. The effect
is about the same when a job seeker asks about benefits
or other employee perks during the first interview. Wait
until you've won the employer over before beginning that
Not preparing for the interview.
Nothing communicates disinterest like a candidate who
hasn't bothered to do pre-interview research. On the
flip side, the quickest way to a good impression is to
demonstrate your interest with a few well thought out
questions that reflect your knowledge of their
An ill-at-ease candidate seldom makes a good impression.
The first signs of nervousness are verbal ticks. We all
have them from time to time-umm, like, you know. Ignore
the butterflies in your stomach and put up a front of
calm confidence by avoiding verbal ticks. One of the
best ways to reduce or eliminate them is through role
play. Practice sharing your best success stories ahead
of time, and you'll feel more relaxed during the real
Not enough/too much eye contact.
Either situation can create a negative effect: Avoid eye
contact and you'll seem shifty or untruthful; offer too
much eye contact, and you'll wear the interviewer out.
If you sometimes have trouble with eye-contact balance,
work this out ahead of time in an interview practice
session with a friend.
Failure to match communication styles.
It's almost impossible to make a good first impression
if you can't communicate effectively with an
interviewer. But you can easily change that situation by
mirroring the way the interviewer treats you. For
If the interviewer seems all business, don't attempt to
loosen him/her up with a joke or story. Be succinct and
If the interviewer is personable, try discussing his/her
interests. Often the items on display in the office can
be a clue.
If asked a direct question, answer directly. Then follow
up by asking if more information is needed.
When you allow the interviewer to set the tone of
conversation, this can vastly improve your chances of
making a favorable impression. You can put the
interviewer at ease and make yourself seem more like
them by mirroring their communication style.
Just as a strong resume wins you an opportunity to
interview, strong interview skills will win you
consideration for the job. Polishing your interview
skills can mean the difference between getting the job -
and being a runner-up.
Start your job search with a resume that creates a
stellar first impression, then back those facts up with
your extraordinary interview skills. You will have made
yourself a better candidate by avoiding these ten
interview pitfalls and no one will have to talk about
you as the candidate who "almost" got the job.
Deborah Walker , President of Alpha Advantage, Inc., is
a nationally respected career coach with extensive
experience as a former headhunter and corporate
recruiter. Her resume and career advice is featured on
more than 3,000 websites and published in professional
association newsletters nationwide.