Eight Ways To Sabotage A Job Interview

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Man waiting for job interview trying to look calm
Waiting for the job interview

You’ve heard the obvious job interview advice: don’t be late, dress appropriately, and don’t curse your former employer. You’ve been around the block-you know this stuff. In fact, you can take our Interview Quiz and see how well you do.

So how else might you sabotage your interviews? Here are eight ways you might be shooting yourself in the foot–and losing the offer.

1)Talking techno-speak to the wrong people

If you’re in a technical field, remember that some interviews may be conducted by non-technical people–HR for instance. Because of this, you need to be prepared to speak in “dialects”: one for the technical people and one for the people who need plain English.

Some job candidates don’t understand what a turnoff it is to listen while someone drones on and on, using words and concepts they don’t understand. Don’t make their eyes glaze over. This is particularly important for those whose jobs involve communicating with non-technical people.

2) Not doing your job interview homework

This is a chance for you to score some extra points. If you know in advance who the individual (s) is who will be conducting your job interview, read up on him/her. With LinkedIn, company web pages, and other Internet sources, there’s ample opportunity to come to the interview armed with a good idea of the backgrounds, accomplishments and passions of those conducting your interview.

3) Not researching the company

An even worse turnoff is someone who doesn’t know what the organization is about. Therefore, the more important the job, the more time you should spend on research. Of course, review the company’s own website, but search for other sites to see what you can find, especially if the company has been in the news. Check the web sites of competitors to find out more about industry trends. Sites like Glassdoor.com can give you good inside information from company employees about company culture and even how they conduct a job interview. Most of all, find out about the company’s mission, strategic goals, and new developments to understand where the company is headed.

4) Not being able to articulate your skills

I’ve seen a lot of very accomplished people who can’t clearly identify their skills, especially people who haven’t had to look for work in a long time. In addition, they have been so busy doing, that they haven’t had to think about articulating what they it is they’ve been doing to be successful. Fumbling around for something to say during a job interview is hardly going to impress the hiring decision maker.

This is a time for some real introspection. A lot of people find this to be a tough process. Get some coaching if this doesn’t come easily. Unless you can clearly articulate how you produce value, your chances of getting hired are close to nil.

A good example is a technical writer who worked for a software company. She talked about herself as a technical writer. But as we delved into her accomplishments, it became clear that she could produce value at a much higher level. For example, she observed and talked to scientists using the product and found what they REALLY wanted, as opposed to what her company THOUGHT they wanted. This saved her company a fortune by eliminating work done to create features they didn’t need, and helped produce a superior product.  Therefore, she now talks about herself as someone who “saves lots of time and money by eliminating the guesswork about what end users want and need.”

5) No good, concise stories

Many people make very impressive accomplishments sound ordinary. Others have stories that go on and on–boring! Still others just get tongue tied. You should have at least eight clear and concise stories that powerfully show you in action. I call them CCAR stories (Context-Challenge-Action-Results), while others call them PAR stories (Problem-Action-Results). Don’t just tell them WHAT you did. Take it a step further and answer the question, “Why should people care about what you did?”

One client organized a move of an office with 30 employees. Her story stopped there. That doesn’t work. After probing, I learned that the move was carried out without a hitch. While the new office could have been a chaotic mess, thanks to her efforts people were able to hit the ground running on the first day in the new location. Her story injected energy into her job interview.

6) Cocky attitude

Don’t be one of those people who go into a job interview with an “I’m so great” attitude. They may know they’re good at what they do, but they inadvertently communicate that they’re somehow above the process. I’ve heard too many hiring decision makers say this about older workers in particular. Be sure to check your ego at the door.

Are you the type who thinks you’re really good at interviewing? Do you tell yourself, “I’ll just wing it”? This is a recipe for disaster. Roll up your sleeves and attend to those preparation details you may be taking for granted.


7) Not having a good answer to sensitive questions

Are you ready if an awkward question confronts you during a job interview? If you don’t handle these questions right, then you’re dead in the water. The good news is that most of the time, you know what these questions will be in advance–so be prepared! These are questions like:

Why were you fired?
Why the gap on your resume?
Why have you been out of work so long?
What have you been doing since you lost your job?

Follow these steps:

  • Listen to the question. Make sure you understand exactly what the interviewer is asking and why.If you’re not clear, ask for clarification.
  • Take time to think. If caught off guard, pause a moment and give a thoughtful response.
  • Use Positive Information. Put yourself in a favorable light. Be truthful, but remember, you are marketing yourself. Don’t volunteer negative information. For example, Jane is moving across the country to reunite with her high school flame, but she should keep such private details private.
  • Refocus attention by asking a question of your own

Don’t let the conversation linger on your liabilities. Take the initiative to refocus attention by asking the employer a question.

8) Not being prepared to talk about money

They may screen you out because you were making too much or too little, concluding that you won’t be happy with the salary or the job demands exceeds your skill level. This is a big topic for another day. Be sure to read Jack Chapman’s book, Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute.

One last thought for your job interview

Finally, remember that thorough preparation wows employers and makes you a top candidate.

Lucrative Careers

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