July 9, 2013

The 5 Fatal Flaws of Interviewing

Young woman can't believe what kind of mistake she didWhen seeking employment, there is nothing more exciting than receiving an interview – well, next to actually getting a job. However, landing the interview is just half the battle. While your resume may have taken you to the top of the candidate list, your interview is what will actually get you the job you desire. If you are looking to land the job, be sure to avoid the following five flaws of interviewing:

1. Poor Attire

Most of us would agree that appropriate dress for an interview is essential. And yet, so many people miss the mark on this one. Whether we want to admit it or not, your appearance dictates the majority of your first impression. If you underdress for an interview, wear clothing that is too tight, low cut, sloppy, or unkempt you can guarantee an employer is going to question your judgment and your ability to be professionally appropriate.

Instead…Consider the company when picking out your interview attire. If the company you are interested in working for is highly professional, a suit and tie is appropriate. However, if you are interested in working for a start-up, something a little more business casual would be just fine. Regardless, it’s important to make sure your overall look is crisp and clean – hair done, face shaved, nails manicured, clean-pressed, appropriate fitting clothes. When in doubt, err on the side of conservative.

2. Lack of Preparedness

If you show up to an interview not knowing anything about the company that could potentially employ you, you may as well walk out the door without so much as a “hello.” Employers want to know how you could benefit the organization and help fulfill their mission. If you don’t know much about the company you won’t be able to explain what you can contribute.

Instead…Research the organization you are applying to before you even submit your application. Make sure the company’s ideology and business objectives match up with your own viewpoints and professional goals. By applying to a company that you actually believe in and can see yourself being a part of, you will be more likely to be genuine in your interview; be able to impress interviewers with your knowledge of the company; and be an invested employee should you get hired.

3. Being Inarticulate

Nervousness can get the best of anyone during an interview, especially if you are out of practice. Being scattered or too verbose in the conversation is a surefire way to get an interview off track and diminish your chances of getting the position. If you don’t appear to be able to handle a pressure situation like an interview, it can call into question your ability to deal with potential stressors in the job.

Instead…Attend interview workshops or join a speaking club to practice presenting in a clear and concise manner. At the very least, have a friend or family member mock interview you. The activity will help you gather ideas about what you want out of a career and how to effectively translate your knowledge and skills into being the ideal candidate. When preparing for the interview, it can be advantageous to keep your thoughts organized and on track using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). In other words, review your career highlights through the lens of:

  • What was the work situation you experienced?
  • What was the task or project that you were assigned?
  • What actions did you take to complete the assignment?
  • And, what was the end result?

4. Expressing a Lack of Goals

If you don’t have any solid professional goals that you can articulate, a potential employer is going to believe that you are interested in the job solely for the sake of a paycheck. Employers want employees that are interested in growing with the company and have their own professional goals that will motivate them to do so.

Instead…Sit down and contemplate where you see yourself in one year, in five years, and in the distant future. Does the company’s mission and employment opportunities sync with your own goals? If so, the company could be a good fit. Understanding how the organization and your professional interests line up prepares you to talk in an interview about being a good long-term match.

5. Inappropriate Eye Contact

While inappropriate eye contact may seem like a vapid tip, it can have a bigger impact than most people realize. Nerves and an uncomfortable situation can make anyone a little uneasy about where to look and for how long. Most will say that you should always maintain eye contact during an interview. However, too much direct and sustained eye contact can be extremely off putting for the interviewer. On the flip side, a lack of eye contact can translate into a perceived lack of confidence, rendering you unable to be assertive or make necessary business decisions.

Instead…Just be natural. Even though you have a lot weighing on the interaction, try to pretend as though the conversation is one you would have in a regular setting with someone you respect. You can also follow the lead of the interviewer and base your level of eye contact on how they are interacting with you. This should help you remain natural and at ease, which will make for a positive interaction.

Going into the interview, the biggest win for you is to be your authentic self—let your personality shine through. By being aware of your surroundings and being prepared, you can avoid the five fatal flaws in the interview process and move toward securing the job you’ve always wanted.

Read more in Interview Tips

Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans, a company named the #1 job creator nationally in the financial industry by Inc. Magazine, as well as making the Great Place to Work top 25. Connect with Amanda on Google+.
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