7 Mistakes That Could Cost You a Job

Interview Moves That Cost You the Job

Given the choice, you’d probably pick a trip to the dentist over a job interview. Like a talent contest, you’re expected to wow the judges, not just with a showcase of career accomplishments, but with your flawless presentation and sparkling personality. In an interview you’re being judged in every sense of the word, which is why fine-tuning your non-verbal presentation is key, says Penelope Trunk, a popular blogger and CEO of the Brazen Careerist, a career management site. When you walk through that dream employer’s door, your job is to make him or her want to hire you above all else, and that means getting the recruiter to like you, and we mean really like you. Many people in the job hunt trenches fail to grasp this, using the interview instead as a platform to rattle off a laundry list of skills and achievements. While convincing an employer that you’re capable of rocking the job is certainly part of your mission, says Trunk, “if you got the interview they already think you’re qualified,” so it behooves job-seekers to pay more attention—and often rein in—the subliminal and possibly hurtful messages they’re sending to prospective employers. Most of us know better than to go to an interview dressed provocatively, or to prattle on about hot-button topics like religion or politics, but according to a survey put out by CareerBuilder last year, “shifty eyes, reluctant smiles or fidgety limbs,” among other off-putting behaviors, “may be hurting [job-seekers’] chances of landing a job.” We’ve even heard toting a Razr cellphone to the interview cost the candidate the gig. To help you make the most of your job interviews going forward, we’ve highlighted some of the most common interview gaffes among  job-seekers and how to avoid making them when opportunity knocks. Photo Credit: Getty Images


You Set the Wrong Tone

It goes without saying that poor to non-existent eye contact, limp handshakes and poor posture leave lasting—and hurtful—impressions on future employers. “Before you even say anything, you’re being judged in multiple ways,” says Dan Schawbel, a personal branding expert and author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future. “If you give a firm handshake, that shows you’re going to take the job seriously. If you give a limp handshake, the interviewer won’t expect much from you.” Pay close attention to how you interact with everyone, from the receptionist in the lobby to the curious (and hopefully, future) colleagues watching you walk through the office. “You never know who is talking to who,” says Schawbel. “The receptionist might be talking to the boss, and what other people say about you is more impactful than what you say about yourself.” After the interview, restate your interest in the position by sending a follow-up thank-you note within 12-24 hours of the meeting, says Schawbel. “It shows you’re serious and really care and want the job,” which is more than half the battle with some employers. Photo Credit: Getty Images


You Dressed to Offend

Wearing flip-flops to an interview? Forgivable. Wearing a midriff-baring, see-through top? Now that’s just tacky, and a good reason for an employer to not give you the job. “Showing up for an interview is a lot like dressing your house to sell it,” Trunk says. “You take out all the clutter, and you want to do that with yourself too. You want the [hiring manager] to not be able to find anything on you that’s weird. No weird colors, weird haircut, weird glasses, weird fashion, or good fashion. You don’t want them to love your phone or notice. It’s not a time to make a statement about anything except that you can get the job done.” Of equal importance, adds Martin Yate, author of Knock ‘Em Dead: Secrets and Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, is dressing in a clean-cut, conservative way that’s appropriate for your industry. “You never want to be the worst-dressed person in the room,” he says, “and it doesn’t matter if the company has a casual dress code. That company needs to know that you know how to dress professional for when it’s necessary.” Also, he continues, “when you make an effort in your appearance, the time you take in putting yourself together is like polishing your weapons. The better you look, the better you’re going to feel about yourself.” As an added incentive to class up your look, know that dressing the part conveys what Yates calls “a sign of respect for the occasion and the person you’re meeting.” That’s a move that is sure to impress employers. Photo Credit: Getty Images


You Whipped Out the Smartphone

It may seem harmless, but whipping out your iPhone to quickly check Facebook is not a smooth move to pull during an interview. In fact, says Alexandra Levit, a career expert and author of New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career, it could very well cost you the job. “Don’t whip out your smartphone at any point during the interview,” she warns. “Even if the interviewer’s doing it, that doesn’t mean it’s OK for you to be doing it.” Granted, “it’s just so second-nature for us to be multi-tasking with our smartphones, but you want to make sure the interviewer has your attention.” Save the apps for later, and make sure to keep your focus solely on landing that coveted job. Photo Credit: Getty Images


You Came for the Paycheck

Everyone wants to get paid, but that shouldn’t be the only reason you’re at an interview. (And if it is, perhaps it’s time to rehabilitate your career.) “If you’re just trying to get a paycheck and you’re not into it, [hiring managers] won’t take a second look at you,” says Schawbel, the personal branding expert. “If you really care about the job, you’ll naturally do whatever it takes to get it. You’ll want to follow-up, interact with more people and so on.” Samantha Zupan, a spokesperson for Glassdoor, a career site, agrees: “The biggest gripes I hear from hiring managers is that the candidates have no passion for the job, just the paycheck,” she says, but having passion is what’s going to help in the long run. Enthusiasm can also be the tipping point for employers deciding between two candidates who look the same on paper, but differ in attitude towards the job. “Any headhunter will tell you that in a tightly-run job race, when there’s nothing different between two candidates, the job offer goes to the person who’s always the most intelligently enthusiastic about the job—not gushing about how cool the walls are, but about the work itself,” says Yate. “They’re engaged and enthusiastic about the opportunity and the team.” Photo Credit: Getty Images


You Staged a Tell-All

We all want to be liked, but when a job offer is on the line, you should never let on too much about your personal life, says Levit. “Treating the interviewer like a friend and having the conversation be too casual and revealing too much personal info is a bad thing,” she says. “You don’t want to be doing too much talking and revealing things you shouldn’t be revealing, like that you’re going through a divorce or something.” By the same token, she says, never bad-mouth a boss, even if he was a jerk. “You never, ever want to say anything negative about a previous employer or job situation,” Levit cautions, because “everybody knows that if you act one way in one place, it’s going to have a similar outcome in the future.” Instead, bring the focus back to why you’re vying for this job, and “only communicate stellar results.” “We all over-talk when we’re nervous,” adds Yate, “but that’s also when we start spouting rubbish. When you hear a question, there’s nothing wrong with paraphrasing it, or if you’re not sure, buy a little time and say, ‘Would you run that by me again?’ When you answer, speak to the point and don’t talk for more than two minutes (that’s 120 seconds) before looking for a nonverbal acknowledgment, or asking, ‘Would you like me to continue?’” If your interviewer’s the one staging the tell-all (hey, it happens), Yate recommends waiting for that person to pause, then asking whether he’d be interested in hearing about a relevant experience that showcases your problem-solving skills and past achievements. Photo Credit: Getty Images


You Were Over-Confident

So you thought you had the interview in the bag and were totally capable of holding down that high-powered job, right? Wrong. “The biggest thing I think people do that they don’t realize they’re doing is thinking they got the job,” Trunk says. “If you’re in that interview and think you have the job, you’re not working hard enough to get the job.” Put another way: “If you were a slam-dunk, you wouldn’t have to come in for the interview,” she says. Minimizing the challenges that a company faces is a turn-off, adds Zupan, the Glassdoor spokesperson. “You want to be seen as a helpful resource, not someone who downplays the issues a company’s trying to face.” So no matter how much rapport you think you have with the interviewer, hustle like the devil to show you care about landing the job and that you’re capable of putting out the fires that will undoubtedly come along with it. This means doing your homework so you can flex your company smarts. Photo Credit: Getty Images


You Didn’t Prepare

Getting ready for an interview is no different than brushing up on your algebra to prepare for the SAT. You have to know the subject and be ready for any curveballs. As Yate said, being “intelligently enthusiastic” means taking the time to prioritize the four to six responsibilities of the job, so you can actively sell yourself as a “problem identifier, problem preventer and problem solver.” After all, that’s what employers want. “A job interview is a one-sided examination of skills,” Yate says. “So for the few who are smart enough and know the problems there to identify, prevent or solve when they occur, this gives you the information to turn it into a two-way conversation because you can ask questions yourself.” To do your due diligence, Levit recommends punching in the prospective employer’s name on Google News to see what comes up, and visiting the company’s website to get a sense of its culture and values. You should also be thinking hard about how the job you’re interviewing for “relates to the company’s big picture,” or goals. “You’ll want to think about what your responsibilities are going to do to help the organization,” Levit says. “There are no questions you can’t prepare for,” notes Trunk. If you’re lucky enough to land an interview, “you should have already rehearsed all the answers to your questions and be working to get the person to like you, not veering from the answers you’ve already rehearsed. You have to look likeable and stay on point.” And don’t forget, practice makes perfect. All experts agree that jotting down questions to ask the employer is paramount. It shows off your interest and will help you determine whether the company is the right for you. For six no-brainer questions to ask in an interview, check out MainStreet’s round up. Photo Credit: Getty Images


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