Don’t do THIS in an interview…

As recruiters, a big part of our job is prepping people for interviews, and getting feedback from hiring managers on how that interview went. This process has shone light on a few unfortunate but common mistakes which, time after time, sabotage interviews. Seemingly small slip-ups from candidates that unravel the client’s confidence, leaving us back to the drawing board to fill the role.

As with all professional endeavours, job interviews come with a certain etiquette; a set of unspoken rules to abide by in order to make a good impression and secure a place in the next round. Most of us are familiar with appropriate interview protocol when it comes to what we should do (a firm handshake, prompt arrival, plenty of eye-contact etc.), but when it comes to practices to avoid, you might be surprised how commonly mistakes are made. As recruiters, it can be very frustrating to see our candidates who would otherwise be a perfect fit for the role loose out over such small, avoidable mistakes… like the ones listed below.

Dressing inappropriately

The way you present yourself physically says a lot about you, and speaks volumes about your level of professionalism. Of course, what you wear to an interview should depend partly on the job (you probably wouldn’t wear a suit and tie to a job with animals, for example, but you would for a corporate job at the bank). Regardless of the position, there are certain fashion statements that should always be avoided… trainers, activewear, and anything with creases, stains or rips are a big no! As we always remind our candidates – dressing smartly shows you’re prepared to be professional, you’re taking the interview seriously, and you are eager to make a good impression.

Using bad language

While it’s important to express yourself, your passion and your personality freely, there are certain things that should be left at the interview door. We wince when we hear our candidates swearing, using slang and abbreviating words during an interview. To maintain a level of professionalism; give yourself time to think about what you want to say before answering, make a conscious effort to speak slowly and clearly, and choose appropriate language to make your point. Above all, remember where you are – avoid speaking to the interviewer the same way you’d speak to your friends at the pub.

Arriving too late… OR too early

We all know the golden rule of interviews is not to be late (when our client calls to tell us the candidate hasn’t shown up yet, we know they have probably already blown it), but it’s not a great idea to arrive too early, either. Arriving, say, 30 minutes – an hour early can appear a little keen, and has the potential to mess the diaries of the interviewer (or at the very least, will mean you will be left twiddling your thumbs for a long while). A safe sweet spot to aim for would be arriving around 10 – 15 minutes prior to your interview.

Talking negatively about your previous role

Talking about your previous role is an inevitable (and, of course, pretty big) part of a job interview, and the way in which you do this can bear a big weight on the impression you give of yourself, more so than it does of your previous company.

Wherever possible, frame every reference to your previous role in a gracious and positive light that demonstrates self-awareness, a good attitude, and a hunger to strive for more. In response to a question about what you didn’t like about your previous role, for example, you could say something along the lines of: “My company was great at X and Y, however I disliked that there were no progression plans in place, which is something that really drew me to this role”.

This is a great way to show the interviewer that you’ve researched the company, you have acknowledged what it can offer you, and you are ambitious about growing and succeeding beyond the realms of your previous role. Even if you have had a bad experience in your last role, always strive to be honest but respectful when reflecting back.

Self-deprecating OR bragging

When it comes to interviews, there is an important balance to be had between confidence and arrogance. Of course, it’s important to ‘back ourselves’ appropriately by expressing faith in our abilities and pride in our achievements (after all, you can’t expect the interviewer to have confidence in you if you don’t have any in yourself).

However, there’s a lot to be said about a candidate with self-awareness and the ability to critically-analyse, learn and grow from their mistakes. For example, when asked about your weaknesses/areas you could improve on – be honest (within reason – no one is going to hire someone who is chronically lazy and consistently late) about skills that don’t come naturally to you, and illustrate practices you’re putting into place to improve them. You might say “I’m not a natural presenter, however doing X, Y and Z is really helping me develop my skills, and I’m confident I can continue to grow in this area”. This demonstrates self-awareness, confidence, maturity and a desire to improve – which is music to an employer’s ears!

Not interviewing back

When asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview, the answer should never be “no”. To reference our previous blog post “Asking the right kind of questions is a great opportunity for the candidate to illustrate their curiosity and enthusiasm for the role and the company, and to further demonstrate their attitude, character and competence”.

In some cases, we’ve even seen our clients change their minds about a candidate at the last minute based on the questions that were asked at the end – so don’t underestimate the importance of this point!

Asking questions is also important, of course, for allowing you to get as much information as possible from the interviewer in order to make an informed decision about whether or not the job is right for you (interviews are a two-way street, after all). For examples of the kinds of questions to ask in order to make a lasting impression, have a read of our latest blog here.

Having negative body language

Last but certainly not least… remember that your body talks. The way we carry ourselves, express ourselves and communicate with our body language is arguably just as important as the words we speak. Slouching and mumbling says “I don’t want to be here”, crossing your arms and legs appears defensive, while clenched fists, fidgeting and inconsistent eye-contact indicate that you’re nervous.

Remember to use your body as a tool to exude confidence and openness, not the other way around. Smile, sit up straight and use hand gestures where necessary to express passion and engage the interviewer in what you’re saying.

Bread and butter

This is our bread and butter, so take it from us – these small details get noticed, and make a big difference! Read our blog posts How to Prepare for a Job Interview   and  How to Answer Tough Interview Questions  for further guidance when preparing for an interview. Good luck!

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