Top 10 Interview Bloopers and How to Avoid Them
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We've all heard stories of job candidates who looked great on paper but were
absolute disasters in person. With fewer interview opportunities available in
this competitive market, it's essential to make the best possible first
You can learn from the mistakes of others and avoid the top 10 worst
1. Poor handshake. 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. Here are some examples:
- The Limp Hand: Gives the impression of disinterest or weakness.
- The Tips of the Fingers: Shows lack of ability to engage.
- The Arm Pump: Sincerity is questionable, much like an over-agressive
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.
2. 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
3. Saying negative things about your current or past employers/managers.
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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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 discussion.
7. 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 organization.
8. Verbal ticks.
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 interview.
9. 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.
10. 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 instance:
- If the interviewer seems all business, don't attempt to loosen
him/her up with a joke or story. Be succinct and businesslike.
- 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
Just as a strong resume wins you an opportunity to interview, strong
interview skills will win you consideration for the job. You already know that
you won't earn an interview unless your resume sets you apart as a candidate of
choice. Because of this, you commit your resources to present an outstanding
resume. Likewise, you should know that 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.
About the Author
Deborah Walker, Interview Coach, offers an individualized approach to
interview strategies. Her background as former executive recruiter and veteran
career management coach provides an insider's perspective on the toughest
interview challenges. Read more about interview coaching at
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2007-09-27 22:42:21 in Employee Articles