5 sure fire ways to flunk an interview
Congratulations - you’ve got an interview! This might sound like music to the ears… now the work begins. The run-up to an interview means detailed preparation, research and practise. It is not something to be approached ad-hoc.
Would you like a serious chance of success? Here are a few of the many hiccups to avoid:
1a) Late arriving and in a flap
Don’t arrive late, and certainly not looking flustered, breathing heavily and in a panic, because they will think you are disorganised, lack self-management, and are unable to stay calm in a crisis. It’s an indicator this may translate into how you would be in the workplace, unplanned and potentially late for work, for meetings and perhaps with your deadlines. If things were to go wrong at work, what does this behaviour augur for troubleshooting a difficulty and keeping composure among your team?
Do everything you can to arrive on time; this means ideally you will be about 10-15 minutes early, with time to inform reception, sit down, collect your thoughts and reflect, and look at company material left for visitors. In the event that you are unavoidably held up, such as in a traffic jam or signal failure on the train, phone, explain and apologise and enquire what they would like you to do. Express your keen interest in still attending the interview.
1b) Late arriving and oh so casual
Don’t arrive late and so laid back and casual that you could fall over!
In addition to thinking you don’t manage your time effectively, they will conclude that you don’t care, can’t be bothered and are disrespectful of others’ valuable time. The interview, if it goes ahead, will start on the wrong foot.
Do follow the guidelines above. Plan your journey in advance and, if unavoidably held up, be proactive about getting in touch with the organisation.
2) Rude at reception
Don’t be offhand, blunt or discourteous at the reception. Walking in dishevelled, chewing gum or talking on your mobile, speaking down or over-casually to the receptionist and others you meet is likely to cost you dearly.
It’s said that first impressions count for a lot and that will be noticed both on your arrival in the building and as you enter the interview room. The lead interviewer may ask other staff about their experience of you and the gatekeepers may volunteer information themselves, good, bad or indifferent. It also says a lot about what can be expected of you in the workplace.
Do arrive calmly, be pleasant and smiling, say a formal good morning or afternoon, introduce yourself and the reason you are there. Sit and wait where you are directed to, avoiding pacing up and down, and turn your mobile off and put it away. If there are company magazines on display, take a look through them, it’s another opportunity to read and learn more and demonstrate your interest.
3) What’s in it for me?
Don’t say only what’s in it for you when they ask why you want this job. Similarly, when they ask what questions you have for them, don’t immediately jump to salary, holidays and other benefits for you. A me, me attitude won’t get you far. They want to know your interest is in their organisation, their values and mission, the role for which you are applying and that you are going to be a great asset to them. They are looking for enthusiasm, motivation and dedication.
Do thoroughly research the organisation and the role, check their annual report, their website and related searches, their social media and more. Show you are a serious contender who does in-depth preparation. It’s an indicator of how you will approach the role if appointed.
4) Answering the wrong question
Don’t answer a different question from the one you’ve been asked. They have reasons for asking specific questions and will think that you are evading their question or that you were distracted and are a poor listener. According to author Stephen Covey*, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. They will want to know you have listened not only to the words but to the intentions behind the question.
Do listen carefully to the questions, and answer what they ask. If you miss something or don’t understand the question, politely ask them to repeat it or to give you an example, then answer. If there is something you feel is important to say at interview and there isn’t the opportunity to include it, when you reach the point where they ask what questions you have for them, you can always say “There are a couple of questions I’d like to ask. However, may I first add/point out...” and say what you want to say.
5) Denigrating your boss, your colleagues or your company… or all three!
Don’t speak ill of your boss, no matter how much you dislike him or her, criticise your colleagues for being lazy or your organisation’s values or direction. It will appear that you are disloyal and could do the same to them in the future. It will also make you sound negative and they will want a candidate who gets on with people, managers and peers and those they manage, someone with a positive, can-do approach to work.
Do speak respectfully about the people and places where you’ve previously worked and are currently employed, showing yourself to be a person of integrity, who respects confidentiality and treats people on an equal basis.
Try not to trip yourself up. Prepare, prepare, prepare and present yourself with a sense of calm and confidence. Engage pleasantly with your interviewers, neither veering towards being a know-all on the one hand or ever so humble on the other! Show enthusiasm, enjoy the occasion and trust that the interviewers will enjoy it too.
* Stephen Covey was a motivational speaker and writer, author of the hugely successful ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.