Attending a job interview is always a nerve-racking experience. Without being too dramatic, a successful interview can get you the job of your dreams and a career that may define the rest of your life. No pressure, then!
Of course, you will want to be fully prepared for any questions that may be put to you, able to wow your prospective employer with your superior knowledge and suitability for the position. But in your eagerness to present yourself in the best possible light, don’t forget that things can go wrong.
Here are the top 9 pitfalls you want to avoid at all costs, provided by Mike James – a writer working with Stuart Neils, a London office rental specialist who have seen a fair few suitable (and unsuitable) candidates over the years…
1. Don’t be late
This should be a given. If there’s one meeting you cannot afford to be late for, it must surely be a recruitment interview. Barring pestilence or war, there is simply no excuse good enough to redeem yourself from this unacceptable lack of personal organisation or commitment to the job you’re applying for.
Check the transport route, the travelling time and parking availability to get you there with ½ hour to spare at least, so you arrive calm, cool and collected, not frazzled and sweaty.
2. Don’t dress unprofessionally
First impressions count. Even before you’ve said hello or shaken hands, your interviewer will have formed an initial opinion of you based purely on how you look. Make the effort! Do some research and emulate the dress code of the company you are visiting – better still, take it up a notch and be just a little bit smarter (sartorially speaking) than the rest.
It’s a good idea to get your outfit sorted well beforehand, making sure everything fits and that you have shoes and accessories ready too. You don’t want to spend the morning before the interview frantically looking for a clean shirt or a pair of ladderless tights!
3. Don’t keep your mobile phone switched on
Mobile phones and business meetings don’t mix; in fact, mobiles are just plain rude. Make sure your phone is tucked away safely and don’t be tempted to check messages or do anything else with it – you need to give the interviewer your 100% attention.
Obviously, your mobile should be switched off or to silent (without vibrate). There can’t be many things more embarrassing than your phone ringing in the middle of a job interview, particularly if you have a novelty ringtone!
4. Don’t slag off your current or previous employers
However much you may want to leave your current job, and however perfect the vacancy you’re being interviewed may sound, it is never a good idea to complain about any employer or colleague. It makes you sound unprofessional, ungrateful and negative, none of which are qualities that your potential new employer will be looking for.
Be upbeat and appreciative of your past experiences. You want to come across as a forward looking team player with lots of positive energy.
5. Don’t be overly confident
It is important not to cross the line between confidence and arrogance. Obviously, you need to come across as a self-assured individual with the ability to perform well in the advertised position, but there’s no need to act as if you could do the job standing on your head before you’ve even started.
Equally importantly, you need to behave respectfully towards your interviewer at all times – don’t be patronising by telling them how to do their job or in any way doubt their competence or intelligence. It’s a one-way strategy towards the exit door.
6. Don’t keep saying sorry
Similarly, there is a difference between humility and diffidence. While it’s OK to be self-deprecating about some things, you don’t want to keep apologising for everything you don’t know. Not only will it indicate a lack of confidence, it will put your capabilities in serious doubt too.
7. Don’t interrupt
Listening and responding are good qualities to have. Cutting your interviewer off in mid-sentence may indicate your enthusiasm for the role but it also shows impatience and a lack of respect. Instead, listen carefully to what’s being said and wait for your turn to speak, then wow them with your insights.
8. Don’t tell lies
While it’s crucial that you present yourself in the most favourable light in order to impress your interviewers, it’s never a good idea to over elaborate into the plainly ‘not true’.
If your knowledge of French is rudimentary, don’t claim to be fluent. If you once helped your neighbour’s son with his Maths homework, don’t pretend you have teaching experience. You get the idea. It’s a risky strategy to embellish your CV to the point of tipping into dishonesty.
9. Don’t fixate on the money
Obviously, the salary is an important factor of the contractual agreement, should you be offered the job. But as far as the interviewer is concerned, the primary reason for meeting you is to establish whether you fit the bill in terms of the job specification and person specification set out for the position.
By all means, give a sensible and considered answer if you are asked about your salary expectations, but now is not the time to push the subject too far.