You’ve spent weeks researching potential hiring companies, fine-tuning your résumé, and mentally preparing yourself for the interview challenge. You’ve quickly realized that the “dates” are not happening as often as they once did. Then an e-mail arrives from a Human Resources Director—not a Manager—a Director inviting you to interview for just the type of position you’ve been looking for. You’re so there, and your mind is saying, “This job IS mine!” After all, you’ve got the experience, the credentials, the degree(s), plus extra certifications to boot. The interview day is here and you are pumped. Yet, inexplicably your chances of landing the job are quickly deflated before you even set foot inside the interview room. Were you mistaken for a similar candidate? Has the job been put on hold? Why does the recruiter seem so lukewarm on you before you’ve even had a chance to ‘strut’ your stuff?
Commonly, recruiters and hiring managers become privy to clues you inadvertently display during the pre-interview stage—raising suspicion as to the type of employee you would be (if you were hired). When such “questionable” behavior is exhibited, there is little (if any) chance of turning it around. So before you go on your next job interview, prevent yourself from making one or more of these ten blunders, which quite possibly could end your interview before it begins.
1. Risqué Social Media Profiles/Photos: The first thing corporate and executive recruiters do these days after they’ve identified a viable candidate online is to look at their social media profile. Sometimes recruiters will wait to take a quick peek at your social media profile/photo right before they greet you in the reception area (so that it’s fresh in their mind). A client took a pass on a “stellar” candidate who had recently added on Facebook that she “loved smoking pot and taking bi-swings every once in a while.” The candidate had also uploaded a new profile photo of her weekend partying while snuggling suggestively against a bottle of Bud Light. We were lucky not to lose the client, but the candidate lost the job opportunity.
2. Inappropriate Dress: Job seekers will often under-dress, over-dress, or partially-dress for the interview and those are definite reasons why they don’t land the job. Under-dressing in skimpy outfits, over-dressing in sequined “Saturday Date-Night Wear,” or partially-dressing and finishing up in the reception area (change shoes outside) are sure indicators of your poor judgment. Even if you’re interviewing within a creative environment or in 90 degree weather, flaunting your cleavage, shoulders, bare legs, and toes may be more than the recruiter wants to see and they certainly don’t need you as the office trend-setter.
3. Rude to the receptionist: If you are rude to my receptionist, I know you will be rude to me, clients, fellow employees, etc. Rude is rude! There is no combating such impoliteness. You may want to unload your frustrations on the receptionist, but front desk receptionists are the eyes and ears of a company. News travels fast in an interoffice e-mail from the receptionist to the Human Resources Director alerting him/her that the candidate he/she is about to see is ill-mannered and brash. So be particularly respectful and gracious to the receptionist—he or she has more input on your candidacy than you think.
4. Neglecting to bring a résumé: If I hear one more job candidate use the “I want to save trees” excuse for not bringing a résumé with them I’m going to lose it. Of all the lame excuses for not being diligent enough to supply a recruiter with a résumé, this is the one that most gets my blood boiling. You want to save a tree so you put me through the trouble of printing a copy of your résumé (making me endanger a tree)? It comes across as neglectful and/or forgetful—qualities not highly regarded in the workplace. Let me make this perfectly clear. Even if you have e-mailed your résumé electronically, refrain from making the assumption that the recruiter will have it handy to refer to it during your live interview. It is recommended that you bring between 5-10 copies of your résumé on every interview.
5. Refusing to fill out an application: Nothing screams “BAD ATTITUDE” as much as refusing to fill out a job application/questionnaire. When you write “See Résumé” instead of filling out the information that is being asked of you, you are basically saying that you dislike complying with rules, like to make your own, or you’re just plain lazy. Personally, that is the “writing on the wall” for future arrogant behavior.
6. Punctuality (arriving either more than 15 minutes early or late): You may think that arriving to a job interview 30 minutes early earns you brownie points, but this is not the case. If you arrive more than 15 minutes earlier than your scheduled time you may be perceived as overly aggressive, desperate, or as someone who is not in high demand. If you are travelling from far away and you do arrive extra early (and want to use the restroom and fix yourself up), ask the receptionist not to announce your early arrival. Still, that doesn’t guarantee that he/she will follow your instructions, and your premature arrival might be announced anyway. If you are going to be more than 5 minutes late, you must call. Expect a rescheduled interview or waiting for the recruiter’s next time slot.
7. Accepting/initiating cell phone conversations in the reception area: Keep your babysitting issues, boyfriend troubles, and other interview appointments under wraps. If you must make a phone call or accept an urgent call excuse yourself from the reception area. Make a point of being discreet. You are being watched and listened to before your official interview begins. In fact, your official interview starts when you enter the office building’s lobby and elevators (especially when there are cameras that can be played back).
8. Rescheduling an interview more than once: Emergencies do happen, but typically not more than once during one interviewing cycle. If something pressing in your life comes up where you must reschedule an interview, make sure you wait until the situation has cleared before you put it back on the calendar (even if it means losing out on that particular opportunity). The recruiter will appreciate your respect for his/her busy work schedule. Deferring an interview appointment more than once makes you seem unreliable and flippant about your interest in the company and the position.
9. Social awkwardness: Big “WARNING” signs go up for being socially awkward. Some of the most common social awkwardness faux pas I’m warned about by my receptionist (“on the DL”) are: nervous laughter, fidgeting, close-talking, self-talking, and self-touching. Refusing to hang up your overcoat, unloading a wet umbrella or saying “no” to a glass of water may also come across as ungracious and awkward. My recommendation on the glass of water is to always say “yes” even if you’re not thirsty. It makes you seem amenable to a kind gesture and water is both cooling and relaxing for your nerves. A side note to this suggestion: avoid popping meds with your water.
10. Bringing a buddy along for support: This is such a no-no! You wouldn’t believe how many people go on interviews with a roommate, parent, husband, baby, out-of-town guest, or parole officer (that one I sort of understood) and it is absolutely an interview killer. If you don’t have the sense and/or confidence to go on a job interview without a sidekick, then maybe you’re not ready for a lot of other challenges the work environment will present. You want to come across as an independent individual rather than one who relies on co-dependency. Coming with your baby in a carriage says you do not have the right childcare system in place and you may therefore come to work with your child on a regular basis (unproductive for an employer).
Avoid shooting yourself in the foot before you even get that foot in the interview room. Carefully assess your pre-interview actions and behavioral choices—factors that weigh in to your candidacy as much (or more so) than your professional qualifications, education, recommendations, and affiliations.