• Susan Seligson

    Susan Seligson has written for many publications and websites, including the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Boston Globe, Yankee, Outside, Redbook, the Times of London, Salon.com, Radar.com, and Nerve.com. Profile

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There are 8 comments on What Not to Do at the Job Interview

  1. These are all very good points, and I’ll be sure to look down this list the next time I go to an interview. That said, I’m always afraid that such articles send out a message to the general public that people without jobs haven’t been following all of these rules, and should just try harder. As an 09 grad who’s been looking for a full-time gig since last summer (after graduating with honors and half a dozen internships under my belt), I can tell you that I’ve tripled checked cover letters, uber-researched companies, made industry connections, practiced talking points, and asked for feedback. All this, and time after time I go through multiple rounds of interviews just to be told that, although it was terribly hard to choose, the other candidate had what they were looking for. (They’re not giving me the runaround, either – they’ve called me back to interview for similar positions.) This has happened to many of my former classmates, too. All of the above tips are fantastic, but please keep in mind that sometimes, a field is just so competitive (or the economy is so very bad) that applicants also need perfect timing and a whole lot of luck. Please send your jobseeking friends and family members general positivity rather than endless lists of industry-nonspecific tips. As a last note – we’re not nervous because we’re under-prepared. We’re nervous because, as it’s so hard to even get called for an interview, we know we need to be perfect this time because we might not get another shot!

  2. Well said. Getting a job is not like checking things off a list. Is it good to be prepared as possible, but even then it does not gaurantee a job. In the end the best thing you can have is a positive attitude and a handful of luck.

  3. I have had friends working in the Human Resources industry share stories of recent grads and other young people bringing their parents to an interview! Interviewing and getting a job is not a Little League tryout or a dance class; in all due respect, leave your parents at home.

  4. We are told to prepare and prepare hard many many times for interviews, which is definitely the key to getting that job. However, it is often ignored that we also check out the company in the interview. If we are truly a good match, than the company and its people would generally make us comfortable and ourselves. We often perform the best when we are genuinely excited, interested, and comfortable. If it is awkward, the company scrutinize us like a hawk, or they don’t answer our follow-ups, it is a sign that the company is not for us, either.

  5. Seems like great advice. The only part I quibble with is that talking a lot in class is good. Going on and on is just as annoying to teachers and classmates as it is to co-workers.

  6. On the flip side of an interview is that you should simultaneously be evaluating the people and whatever else you see, particularly if the interview is at the company site. Actually seeing where you could be working is invaluable in determining if you’d really want to work there. The interviewer should be at least as impressive as you’re trying to be. And you’d like to get a sense of what kind of people they’ve already chosen to work there. Your impression of a company before seeing it is abstract: the reality could be very different.

  7. I’ve interviewed about 50 recent grads for various positions over ten years. I only ask people to interview that appear qualified and have other skills that would benefit the organization. The interview itself is really a show. Little things become big.

    Real examples:

    -One very qualified person came in, and while talking, started putting her elbows on my desk and resting her chin on her hands. What she said, I don’t remember. Don’t act casual regardless of how laid back the interviewer is.

    -Too much makeup – one woman came in with so much blue eye shadow (think Mimi from that Drew Carey show) that I couldn’t focus on anything else.

    -People that under dress/ or are inappropriately dressed for the position. It shows your not serious. I know a graphic artist that goes into interviews in jeans, cool tshirt, etc. But that is ok, because that is how everyone dresses in that industry. You can’t go wrong with a suit in pretty much any other scenario. If you really feel overdressed when you get there, take off the jacket.

    -Being unhappy/not excited – I am not looking for an overly happy or a fake-motivation attitude. It is just absolutely surprising to me that people come in and never smile, seem put out, defeatist in a sense. If you are being interviewed you are close! I only call in the top three candidates. If they don’t work out I go down the list. But, some people act like they have no shot.

    -Never, ever be late. Plan time to arrive at least 30 min. to 1 hr before hand. Wait outside. Go to a coffee shop. Go in 5 to 10min before the scheduled time and let them know you are there. Be kind to the receptionist and get your own coffee if offered, or say “no thank you.” I always check with the receptionist after and see what she saw while the person didn’t think they were being evaluated. (factor in such issues as: what if the T breaks down, my car won’t start, etc. Solution: carry cash for a cab.) If you can’t make it on time for the interview than your not going to show up to work on time either.

    You should also look at the work place surroundings, get a feel for your potential new boss and co-workers, look at the general attitudes and little signs around the office about the vibe that is going on.

    Bring something to write on. Its not bad to have notes about the company or possible questions to ask. If your in a group interview, write down each individuals name, as they are seated round the table. At the end, do your best to memorize their names and address them by name when you thank them for their time.

    Clean up your online profiles. Don’t have a public Facebook or MySpace regardless of how clean it is. Create a professional LinkedIn profile even if you have only been a student.

    If you don’t get the job, don’t analyze it too much. Sometimes it comes down to a couple candidates, they both could do it, but its these little things that set you apart. Sometimes we are forced to take an internal candidate. In the end, you will never be told why you didn’t get the job. Sometimes not getting a job you think you want is the best thing that will happen to you. Interviewing is a skill, and you will get better each time.

    Good luck.

  8. Interviewing is indeed a skill. I’ve worked in insurance for 15 years and have interviewed for countless jobs. On average, I find that for me, it takes about 10 to 12 interviews before I really start “nailing it.” Once I’m really in the swing of it, tho, I know it’s really just a matter of time before an offer comes along. One other interview quirk that is very often overlooked by candidates is the concept of “fit.” With an advanced degree and substantial professional experience, I’m more than qualified for many of the positions I apply to. Yet I don’t get the offer even though the interview was flawless. Why? In one word, fit. HR and mgrs know their company’s culture. They evaluate a candidates personality, approach [to the position], and character. So while you can certainly do the job and were great in the interview, you may not get the position simply because you may be process oriented, for example, while the prospective employer is outcome oriented. There’s nothing you can do about this; it is what it is. You should also be asking yourself “Do I fit in with this company?” If the answer is “No” and the offer comes along and you accept it, you may be employed, but you will also be miserable. Employers know this, so that’s why you don’t get the offer. In that case, by not making you the offer, the employer actually did you a favor…

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