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Job Seekers: 5 Common Mistakes We Make During Job Interviews

Photography by NHOPHOTOS; Chicago, IL

by Maria Lloyd

Having worked in HR for three years, I’ve conducted various in-person and over the phone interviews with people from diverse backgrounds and ethnic groups. I’m thankful that I am now in a position to offer honest feedback without being restricted to the bureaucracy in Corporate America. Although nervousness is inevitable, the best way to cure it is to have confidence in yourself. When you are walking into an interview with full knowledge of the position you’re interviewing for, full knowledge of how your skills and work history correlate with the position, and thorough knowledge of the company and where you foresee it going, nervousness will quickly become a non-factor.

The moment you receive the phone call inviting you to an interview, you should first read over the job description and read over your resume` (so that you’ll know what experience to draw from when you’re asked a question), then do a few minutes of research online to see how the company leads in your respective industry. General knowledge of the company is well also; however, don’t spend too much time learning everything there is to know about the company. For example, if you’re interviewing with ABC Company as a Sales Manager, you don’t necessarily need to know the company won an award for having the best cafeteria for its employees- unless your job is to sell the cafeteria internally and/or externally.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s jump into avoiding those common mistakes that we make:

1.Lack of Eye Contact

Have you ever held a conversation with someone who looked down at the floor the entire time you talked to them? How did it make you feel? Did you walk away from the conversation knowing they understood what you were saying? Lack of eye contact makes a conversation odd. It also gives off very negative impressions. Look the interviewer in the eyes and glance off occasionally as you speak.

2. Use of Slang

Oftentimes we can become too comfortable during an interview and slip into our “post-work” mode. No matter how cool or friendly your interviewer is, keep in mind you’re a professional ¬†and you’re seeking employment. You can still exude your own personality, but refrain from using slang words/phrases such as; “real talk”, “forreal”, “keep it real”, etc.

3. Selective Listening

This mistake can cost you major opportunities because it shows you’re not an effective listener. I’ve run into situations when candidates didn’t know the meaning of a word and instead of asking me to clarify, they’d answer the portion of the question they are the most familiar with and completely abandon the other portion of the question.

4. Excessive Jesting

Again, I’m not discouraging anyone from exuding their own personality. By all means, be your (professional) self- especially if your role is one that requires you to interact with customers. Having a sense of humor is great, but it can also hinder you if you don’t filter it and limit it. Everyone may not find your jokes funny, so it’s important that you understand when jesting is needed and when it’s not.

5. Begging for the Job

I’ve had a plethora of people give me their entire life story as to why they deserve the job more than someone else. I’ve had people tell me about their starving children, death within the family that has left them poor, illness that has left them jobless, etc. All of the stories are heartwarming, but none of them got them a job. Everyone has a pity party. Some pity parties are sadder than others, but they’re still pity parties nonetheless. The best way to get a job is to fight for it with your confidence, your experience, your professionalism and your perseverance.

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5 Responses to Job Seekers: 5 Common Mistakes We Make During Job Interviews

  1. Abbas Baker Reply

    July 25, 2012 at 9:16 am

    This is a fantastic, insightful piece of writing. Thank you very much.

  2. Anja Reply

    July 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for your insight, but perhaps you should formulate a list for those “professionals” conducting the interview:

    Here are a few suggestions:

    1. Know your company’s/organization’s objectives and culture, how the prospective employee will help YOU obtain those objectives and specific attributes he/she will need (outside of the canned job announcement) to work well within the company’s/organization’s culture.

    **This is so important because the “right fit” is everything and has everything to do with future employee and company success. A candidate that is gregarious and prefers a lot of face-to face client/customer contact may not be a good fit for a position where he/she has little to no personal contact with people.

    2. Include people or hiring officials on the interview panel that are focused, articulate and skilled at making the interviewee feel comfortable.

    **I have been before panels where the officials where unprepared, as if they could not fathom why they were even interviewing anyone in the first place, inarticulate and adversarial. I felt like I was sitting in front of a firing squad instead of communicating with people who wanted the best from me and their company or organization.

    **Also, interviewers should employ active listening skills so that they can ask the appropriate follow up questions to obtain clarity and as much information as possible to make the appropriate hiring decision. They should be informed enough to ask questions that are not just on the interview template and be PREPARED to answer the candidate’s questions, as well.

    3. Hiring officials should refrain from “getting too familiar” with candidates and asking personal and sometimes illegal questions that have nothing to do with the job.

    **For example, I have had female interviewers to call me “girl”, compliment me on my clothes, shoes, handbag and other personal things and one even took me aside to ask me where I purchased a particular item. That is totally unprofessional and may create a climate that causes a naive or insecure candidate to “relax” and mimic the interviewer in demeanor and response to his/her questions.

    4. Please do not overinflate the position and purport that it has more importance or responsibility within the organization than is the case.

    **I have applied for positions based on these wonderfully, exciting and grandiose descriptions and have been disappointed when I sat down to discuss the “actual job” in the interview.

    **Sometimes, companies and organizations overinflate to attract a plethora of stellar candidates but do not offer the job attributes, work climate or the pay/benefits package to warrant those candidates.

    5. If you only intend to hire from in-house; as is the case with many government positions or have already “preselected the candidate” (which is illegal in the federal government), just find a legal way to do a lateral or some kind of other transfer.

    **That cuts down on a lot of hard work and expectations from prospective candidates who think that they actually have a fair chance of securing the position.

    **There is so much cronyism and favoritism going on in the federal hiring process. The system needs a total overhaul because, sometimes, the most qualified candidates are weeded out and/or not referred to the hiring officials. They put forth a less competitive list of eligibles because of preference eligible quotas (veterans, displaced workers, etc.) that require justification to not hire these candidates as long as they meet the minimal requirements.

    These are just a few suggestions to help both employers and applicants that will hopefully lead to more integrity, professionalism and better job placements.

    Thanks.

    • Blvdjewel Reply

      July 28, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      Anja,

      I totally agree with your suggestions for professionals conducting interviews. I have been running into the same problem in terms of basically being overqualified for interviews because the interviewer did not know how to properly conduct one. Or, the job description as described to me was over-inflated. I just left a job because of that. Many of these companies/organizations are looking for a superhuman employee that is expected to do a laundry list of duties, have excellent GPA scores, pass a credit check and expected to stay with a firm for indefinitely (when the trend is to change jobs about every 3 years.) However, as you stated, the actual jobs, environments, and/or compensation packages are sub-par.

  3. CG Reply

    July 28, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Great article. May I add another simple thing? Dress appropriately. In my years of hiring I have seen people wearing everything from sweatpants to full out expensive suits. It should be obvious that sweat pants aren’t suitable for an interview, but depending on the job, a suit might not be either. Dress slightly better than the clothing you would wear for the job itself, but don’t wear a suit to an interview for a labouring position, for example. It gives the appearance that you don’t know what it is you’re applying for.

  4. Phyllis Reply

    February 22, 2013 at 7:48 am

    That is very good information especially for those students fresh out of college.

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