The Worst Interview Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

As a recruiter, there have been plenty of situations that I have come across that have left me scratching my head.  I once had a candidate who came in to interview at a very business-formal office.  He arrived wearing sweatpants (not joking), then asked for a bathroom so he could change… into jeans and a t-shirt (also not a joke).  He asked me to take his bag to his car for him so that no one saw anything “suspicious”.  The interview day proceeded to unveil a slew of surprises – he didn’t know the company or position he was applying for, did not bring copies of his resume, did not have any questions prepared, and started using inappropriate language with the interviewer!  Little did he know that just because he was an employee’s son, it did not serve him well to disregard interviewing etiquette.
Below are some of the biggest interview mistakes.
1.       Weak handshake.  A good handshake can really make or break an interview; they help make those first impressions.  A handshake should be firm (but not too firm) and enthusiastic.  Maintain eye contact with the other party, and smile.
2.       Being late, sometimes VERY late, to an interview.  Nothing makes a worst impression on your interviewer.  It shows, not only disregard for their time, but also gives some insight to how you may be as an employee.  Leave absurdly early to ensure you are on time to your interview.  However, beware.  Do not arrive TOO early to your interview site.  “Only fools rush in.”  If you are early, head to the closest coffee shop or restaurant.
3.       Being rude to the receptionist.  Oftentimes, EVERY party involved in the interview process (from recruiter, to receptionist, to managers) take a part in the hiring decision.  If you are rude to the front desk, how will you act towards other colleagues?  Smile, be courteous, and treat them as if they are your employer.
4.       Dressing incorrectly.  The rule of thumb, “don’t judge a book by their cover”, goes completely out the window when it comes to interviews.  A lot of the time, the decision as to whether or not they like you is made within the first few minutes.  The remainder of that interview only helps the interviewer validate their initial judgment.  First impressions count.
5.       Bringing a friend.  We understand that you may have nerves, or that you needed a ride to your interview.  But actions like this scream “dependency” and most employers want someone who is independent and ready to do anything at a whim’s notice.   Leave them outside the building, and especially outside the reception area.
6.       Not doing homework.  Please, please, please.  Do research on the company that you are interviewing with.  Coming to an interview unprepared shows a lack of care and interest.  Learn about the company, the brand, its products/services, and competitors.  Formulate questions around information you find, and around things you did not – like, “what is the culture like?”
7.       Saying negative things about your former employer.  It is a shame you were fired, or that you didn’t get along with your boss, or that you hated the corporate structure.  Leave those feelings at home, and don’t ever badmouth your former workplace.  This will only brand you as a complainer.  Instead, focus on the positive things you took away from the experience and find ways to grow from it.
And finally…

8.       Name dropping.  Your attempts at playing the “I know so-and-so” can backfire terribly.  Many employers will, no doubt, contact these individuals and ask for “backdoor references”, and they may not come back favorably.  A better way to use internal contacts is to have your contact introduce you directly to the appropriate individual.
Bear in mind that these are just guidelines.  But also be aware that as much as you are being interviewed, you are interviewing the company for the best fit for yourself.  So, take an interest in your career path, and take these informative meeting seriously.
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