Getting a job is not easy. Even when you land an interview, you only have your foot in the door. To cross the threshold to a new job, the interview must go well.
Most job seekers know the basics of what an interviewer wants: dress professionally, bring a copy of your resume, make eye contact, and don’t ask about salary and benefits right away. But there are some lesser-known actions that you should steer away from. Needless to say, some approaches are a matter of taste and style – certain interviewers will like them while others won’t – but there are also ways of behaving that are almost universally not a wise idea. Let us walk you through a few things you should never do in an interview if you want it to go well.
Things You Should Never Do in an Interview
Turn up late
It is far better to be early and bored than to be late and panicked. Showing up late to a scheduled interview shows recruiters that you are unreliable with your own time management skills. It also implies a lack of respect and consideration for someone else’s time. To avoid running late, always map out the approximate time it takes you to get to your interview location. Allow an extra hour for traffic, parking, or any unanticipated delays.
Poor Body Language
Everyone says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it is human nature to do so. You will be judged on how you present yourself during the interview, from the way you talk and your body language, to how you dress.
Business casual has become the new normal at many workplaces throughout the country, but sometimes job seekers take the casual part too far and the business part too lightly.
Enter the interview room with enthusiasm and energy, both of which can help to mask your nervousness. Smile, make eye contact and try to maintain an open, neutral posture. Avoid chopping gestures. Pointing is often perceived as an aggressive motion and in some cultures is considered incredibly rude. So, any fast, repeated or aggressive hand gestures should be kept to a minimum.
As in posture, erring on the side of caution in an interview setting can also be problematic. If you shove your hands in your pockets, behind your back or even crossed in front of your chest you run the risk of appearing closed off, stiff or belligerent. You should appear open and approachable which means your hands should be in front of you and ready to gesture naturally.
Appear uninformed about the company or role
This one stems from one of the most commonly dispensed pieces of job interview advice – research beforehand. You might have the skills to do the job but if you’re clueless about the company, it’s natural for the interviewer to assume you won’t be that interested in finding out how to do the job well. Research every aspect: about the company, what the role’s responsibilities are, any major news about the organization, and who the interviewer is.
Nothing will bother an interviewer more than having to pry the answers out of the interviewee. Nervousness aside, responding to questions with enthusiasm and a well-thought-out answer is imperative. Take time to think before you answer questions. Don’t give monosyllabic answers and avoid mumbling; it doesn’t inspire confidence.
Your goals should always be clear and authentic. You should respond truthfully to interview questions. At the same time, your goal is to reach the next step, so you will want to provide focused responses that showcase your skills and experience.
Then there’s the opposite behavior. There are people who have a strong personality and tend to talk a lot. They start oversharing. You don’t need to go into detail about personal hobbies or family anecdotes in an interview. If you are someone such a personality, coach yourself before you go into an interview to get curious about the interview: what they might be interested in hearing from you, their view of the job, and of the company. Simply answer what has been asked to you with confidence. A little backstory is fine, as long it aids in the goal of selling yourself as a potential employee.
People are often advised to be confident and to market themselves well in interviews. But there’s a line between humble bragging and offensively arrogant. That line shouldn’t be crossed during an interview. When describing yourself, saying ‘I, I, I, I’ can sound egotistical and arrogant. You have to balance it. Crediting the team you worked with when discussing past accomplishments is a good example. Also, being able to be objective about both your strengths and weaknesses and talk about what you’ve done and are doing to address those weaknesses will present you as more mature and confident.
Speak negatively about current or previous jobs
Even if your last boss was ungrateful and unappreciative and your co-workers were minions of the devil, resist the temptation to share any of that with your interviewer. Badmouthing won’t reflect well on you. People might also think that saying dreadful things about their previous jobs will kind of impress the interviewer. Saying negative things about your past work life in an interview will only leave the impression that you’re both a complainer and indiscreet. Neither quality will do you good.
Stretch the truth
In this era of massive information availability, anything you say about your experience, your past performance, or your education that isn’t accurate can most likely be checked. It’s much better to be upfront about anything that’s less than stellar, and offer a simple, non-defensive explanation. Trustworthiness is an essential quality.
Dragging out negotiations
Once you receive a job offer, it’s OK and even expected that you negotiate it once. Repeatedly going back to a company to negotiate various points will reflect poorly on you, and make a hiring manager wonder why they offered you the position. Timing is critical for this.
To avoid dragging out negotiations, be clear with the recruiters from the start with expectations you have from the company and the role. Also, understand that not everything in the contract is negotiable, such as benefits and holiday arrangements. Be realistic.
Not following up
Sending a personalized thank-you note to your interviewer after you’ve met with them is an important step of the process. Not sending one sends an implication that you don’t really care about the position. A polite, timely thank-you with details from the interview is the bare minimum a candidate should do to follow up. An email or a phone call, or even a handwritten note, to thank them for their time will go a long way.
There you go: things you should never do in an interview. If you the opposite of these things – if you’re relaxed, open, and confident; show up looking presentable; are positive (or at least diplomatic) about your past jobs; are curious about the job and knowledgeable about the company; and are honest and forthright about who you are, what you think, and what you’ve done – then you’ll have an excellent shot at getting the job you want.