Most applicants believe that an interview for a job is how employers select the best candidates for a position. That’s not totally true. Employers use interviews–particularly when there is a high volume of applicants–as a way to eliminate candidates. Here are 10 things to consider as you work to better your odds of getting hired.
1. Show up late or very early. Stuff happens–you pop a button off your lucky shirt, you accidently burn the trousers you’re planning to wear, a train stalls with a sick passenger. Showing up late is a death sentence and can sometimes be totally out of your control. But showing up too early could also have dire consequences as it may communicate poor time management as you sit there drumming your fingers idly passing time. It also may be seen as an annoyance, depending on how busy the reception area is and how it is structured.
2. Not know how the prospective position currently fares in the marketplace. You may have 10/15 years experience in marketing–maybe even at the VP level. But what does that position look like today? How much of your experience is relative to how business is being conducted currently? You should have specific knowledge of what is required to make this position a success, not just at the interviewing company but across your industry.
3. Answer honestly about your weaknesses. No one wants to hear that you have a short temper or that you suck at time management. That would be the quickest way to not get a call back. When employers ask about your weaknesses, they really want to hear about strengths you can expand on as well as lessons you’ve learned and applied to create successes in your past positions.
4. Show up without knowing the dress code. A black, navy, or gray suit is most appropriate for a job interview–if you’re applying for a position at a financial institution or law firm. You want to show your potential employer that you will fit the culture–in attitude, in work style, and in dress. If you’re confused about what to wear, call the HR department before your appointment and ask what would be appropriate.
5. Talk about how hard it is to find work. When you’re asked, “So, what have you been doing with yourself since your last job?” Your reply should not be, “Do you know how hard it is out there?” It has been tough, but the general thought among employers is that top performers don’t stay unemployed. So even if you haven’t been working, have a story to tell. Hopefully you volunteered or interned with an organization where you helped launch a new program or managed their finances. Maybe you went back to school and learned a new skill. Employers don’t want to hear that you’ve been home doing nothing.
6. Bad-mouth your former employer. Even if your former company and/or boss has an industry-wide bad reputation. Keep it positive in your interview. Highlight all the things you’ve learned, created, and developed while you were there. Interviewer: So why did you leave? You: I’m looking for an opportunity to increase my responsibilities and expand my knowledge base. Focus on the skill set you are intending to bring to their organization.
7. Really talk about yourself when you’re asked. This is not the time to talk about loving animals, astrology, and Monday night football. Employers want to know who you are as a professional – your strengths, your skill sets, your creativity, and your level of innovative thinking. This is your opportunity to sell them on you being perfect for the job.
8. Give general answers. Such as “I would listen to both sides before I made a decision.” Think about how many times that has been said to the interviewer asking a situational question. Be prepared to give well-thought out and specific answers to any “what if” and problem-solving questions.
9. Dismiss the security guard, receptionist, assistant, or any other person you think is lesser in importance than the interviewer. Treat everyone you encounter with respect. Influence can occur at varying levels in an organization, and gatekeepers wield a significant amount.
10. Not have any questions. Aside from salary, benefits, and vacation time, you should plan to have questions about the organization, the department, and the position you are applying for. Not having questions communicates that you’re disinterested and disengaged.