It’s doubtful that you would go into an interview with the intention to fail, especially since interviews are difficult for most people to land these days. However, sometimes job candidates unintentionally set themselves up to fail. The worst part about it is that they often have no idea what went wrong. They may attribute their lack of success to stiff competition for the position or bias on the part of the interviewer. And of course any of these things can be contributing factors. But you need to make sure as a job seeker that you have done everything within your power to convey to the interviewer that you are the right person for the job.
Here are a few ways that candidates can fail an interview without realizing what they are doing:
1) Talk down to the receptionist. Many candidates don’t realize that the receptionist holds more power than you think. Starting off on the wrong foot with the receptionist could prematurely end your candidacy for the position. And the worst part is that you may never know what happened because companies don’t typically share information with candidates about why they make the hiring decisions that they do. The receptionist or administrative assistant often gives feedback to the manager of her impression of the different candidates. You could be making a bad impression before the interview even gets started by treating the receptionist with respect.
2) Show no interest in the interviewer. If you appear only interested in what you have to say and are not focused on what the interviewer has to say, this could hurt you. The interview needs to be a give and take, with you demonstrating that you are qualified for the position and that you would be a good fit as well as you listening to the interviewer and learning more about the company and the position.
3) Demonstrate clearly that you know more than the interviewer. On occasion when I have done mock interviews with clients, I have been able to quickly determine why the clients have not landed new employment even though they have generated interviews. One client in particular had been consistently generating between two and three interviews a week, but to no avail. It turned out that he had been overdoing it on interviews. He was so eager to show that he was qualified for the positions that he overwhelmed the interviewers with information and put them in a bad light. He came across as arrogant, and that was the real reason that he failed interview after interview.
4) Rest on your laurels. Especially for job seekers who have a wealth of experience, it is easy to think that employers should be impressed by your credentials. Thinking this way can lead you to not take the time to make explicit the match between your background and the position’s requirements to the interviewer. It certainly is true that the HR person thought you were qualified enough to call you for the interview, but once you get to the interview, you still need to convince the interviewer that you are the right person for the position. After all, everyone else that they are interviewing is qualified as well.
5) Don’t prepare answers to commonly asked interview questions. Even though you cannot anticipate every question that you may be asked, there are questions that are pretty standard at interviews. For example, the interviewer may ask, “How would your direct reports describe you?” or “What are your weaknesses?” These are questions that you should practice answers for.
So if you want to fail an interview, these are five ways to accomplish that goal. But if you want to ace the interview, take heed to these warnings.
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