You submitted a resume to a potential employer and finally got a response. They called you in for an interview next Monday. You are excited and over-joyed after 14 months of rejection and disappointment. Finally you know this is the one and can’t wait to get started. Then reality sets in…you have not been on an interview in over 7 years since the loss of your last job, not to mention the past year has been spent sending out resumes instead of being in a workplace environment. This makes you feel out of practice and immediately your mood shifts from ecstatic to anxious. You feel the stress and fear coming down upon you like a heavy snow – cold and uncomfortable. Panic mode sets in and you know you must prepare for the coming week ahead. Your first impression is everything, so now that the resume has done it’s job, it is time for you to do yours and sell yourself to the interviewer.
The above situation is exactly what most job seekers who have been out of the workforce for any extended amount of time go through once they are tossed back into searching for something new. This fear and anxiety can lead to a number of circumstances during an interview which may interfere with the ability to make a strong enough impression to make it to the next stage. Below I will describe a few of the top “interview killers” and how to avoid them.
1. Overdressing: Dress appropriately for an interview. Do not wear a $1000 suite and tie to an interview at a restaurant or retail store. Do not wear khakis and a button-up to an interview for a bank executive job. Catch my drift? Hiring managers can sense anxiety or just plain ignorance by the way one dresses for an interview. Know your industry and dress exactly how you would for a day at work.
2. Nervous Habits: Ditch the nervous habits during an interview - chewing gum, shaking your foot, biting nails, playing with a pen, flipping through documents, or even referring to your resume for answers. All of these are signs that you are nervous and potentially might have something to hide. Referring to your resume for answers is a clear indication that you want the attention drawn away from you and to a piece of paper because your arm pits are sweating. Do you get what I’m saying here? Don’t be nervous. It accomplishes nothing and leads to failure. Learn how to control your habits during a stressful situation and just be yourself.
3. Ask Questions: Here is the biggest interview killer. Many interviewees don’t ask questions or don’t ask the right ones. Asking the person who is interviewing you intelligent questions about the job shows them that you are extremely interested and motivated in what they have to offer. This subliminally lets them know that you really care about getting the job and you will perform above their expectations. However, be careful about what type of questions you ask. Find out things like, what are the long-term benefits (this shows you are in it for the long-haul and employers hate turnover), what do you expect from me as an employee (this lets them know you are concerned about their expectations and that you are willing to meet them), and where is the bathroom (do this with a smile as a joke)? Humor always helps. Avoid questions like (or save for last), what is the pay, is the boss nice, or are there any hot girls/guys that work here, etc? These questions only show them that you have a personal interest only in what you have to gain and not what the company can gain from hiring you. Bad idea!
If you stick to these three things, you should be OK during an interview unless you just have no idea how to be human. Good luck!
By Justin Olsen
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