12 Ways to Fail Your Job Interview

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in Career

During my time in management I have had the opportunity to hire many people which means I’ve interviewed over 50 people both for my positions and for fellow managers.  It was one of my favorite parts of the job getting to meet new people, learn their motivations and in many cases learn what not to do.  I guess you could call this of a collection of non job interview tips.  Frankly it’s much easier to identify those things that are going to keep you from your dream job.  For background my current company follows a rigorous interview process that involves no less than 5 different interviewers over the course of the day including a high level manager we call the As Appropriate.  So without further ado 12 sure fire ways to fail your job interview.

  1. Chew Gum. Constantly.  Through all 5 different interviewers.  Okay honestly I never thought this was necessary to mention but this was the proverbial nail in the coffin of this interview candidate.  He sat their masticating all day long.  Every interviewer commented on it.
  2. Lie on your resume. Show some integrity and at the very least if you are caught in a lie your best course of action is to fess up or bow out.  This candidate listed a technical certification that was easily looked up.  They assumed we wouldn’t look.  We did.  It’s fine to polish your resume and use language to dress up your skills and experiences but just make sure they really happened.
  3. Arrogance is a Sign of Confidence. Nope it isn’t, arrogance is a sign that this person is going to be difficult to manage.  Attitude can easily trump experience and skills both positive and negative.  We’ve said no on candidates that had incredible experience and technical depth but just were so caustic we couldn’t hire them.
  4. Act Indifferent about the Job and Play it Cool. The job interview is the time to shine and demonstrate how you would fit in to the team and how your skills and experience can be a match for the position.  This is not the time to show that you could settle for this job.
  5. Assume that the Interviewers Won’t Talk to Each Other. As often happens during a day of interviews we’ll have 5 people arranged throughout the day with some focus areas that they are going to interview on, invariably we’ll overlap and ask similar questions.  As the day goes on each interviewer documents what they talked about and how the interview candidate responded.  It becomes readily apparent when a question is a duplicate and the candidate has got what he thinks is the “right answer” from the previous interviewer and takes that answer as their own.  Once again act with integrity.
  6. Share Confidential Information from Your Current Employer. Nothing says “stay away” faster than a candidate who carries with them some proprietary information they have worked on with their current employer.  Not only does it put the interviewer in an uncomfortable position it’s a legal problem as well.  This guy brought it out to show every person he met that day and once again they all commented on it.  Demonstrate projects you’ve worked on just shy of revealing any proprietary data.
  7. When Asked Where You Will be in 2 Years Talk About Retirement. This candidate happens to be a good friend of mine today but he made it all the way through his full day of interviews, got to the As Appropriate and when asked where he saw himself in 2 years he stated “Early Retirement.”  Okay sure, I too wouldn’t mind retiring early.  Keep that one to yourselves.  He didn’t get the job but ended up working with us as a contractor and eventually was hired as a full time employee and we still laugh about this today.  Safe to say he’s not retired.
  8. Don’t Bother Learning About the Job. Again this seems like common sense to me but many times I’ve encountered the same thing.  The candidate applied for several jobs that were open at the company but didn’t bother to find out which one they were interviewing for that day or any of the qualifications.  This often resulted in the candidate not even making it through the standard interview day.
  9. Don’t Bother Learning About the Company. This echo’s #8 in the common sense department.  If you do anything check out the company’s website the should have some information as to company culture or their core beliefs.  Hit a search engine and do some legwork.  If you can’t be bothered to do this simple thing to get a job, the interviewer will assume you are not a self-starter, buzzword for someone who will not need to be micro managed.
  10. Don’t Answer Questions Directly. This is a huge pet peeve of mine, when asked a question, answer it, don’t use it as a platform to sell yourself and go off on tangents.  I’ve honestly had interviews where I had to outright interrupt the candidate because they were droning on for 5 minutes without answering the question.
  11. If You Can’t Answer a Question, Fake It. It’s absolutely fair to say that you don’t know the answer to the question but this is your opportunity to demonstrate how you could find that out or your learning process.
  12. At the End of the Interview Ask No Questions. Your interview is wrapping up this is your opportunity to leave the interviewer with a lasting impression which means when they ask “Do you have any questions of me?” You say, “Why yes I was wondering what you guys are thinking about X item.”  Have a collection of questions to ask, again show that you are really interested in the job.  It’s also fair to ask for feedback on how you did as well as what’s next in the interview process.

If I can impart any words of wisdom for potential job candidates it’s to do some preliminary homework before your interview.  Use the Internet to your advantage you often can find all sorts of information including company culture.  This can also give you some clues as to the type of clothes you should wear to the interview, also remember the Human Resources personnel would be happy to share some of this information with you as you setup the actual interview.  Good luck and if you have some non tips to share yourself please do!

This article was chosen as an Editor’s Pick over at Green Panda Treehouse in the Carnival of Personal Finance #211: Burn Notice Edition. Be sure to check out site with greet tips for College Students and New Graduates. Also peruse the other great articles from around the Interwebs.

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Carnival of Personal Finance #211 : Carnival of Personal Finance
2009/06/30 at 5:45 am
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12 Ways to Fail a Job Interview | Money Finance Blog
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kosmo @ The Casual Observer 2009/06/26 at 9:57 am

One other tip – look beyond the technical skills of the job and go into the interview with an ability to explain some soft skills.

I work in IT and occassionally interview people for positions on my team (a team that supports an enterprise-wise application).

Over the years, I have learned that the best predictor of success on the team is problem solving ability. We are typically able to train folks on the technical aspects, but some folks who came in with good technical skills just never became very good troubleshooters.

If you have the ability to effectively solve complex problems in an unstructured environment, be prepared to explain your experience! Huge skill …
.-= Kosmo @ The Casual Observer´s last blog ..Interview with Lazy Man =-.

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Matt SF 2009/06/26 at 11:34 am

The absolute worst, at least for me when I interviewed candidates, were folks older than myself trying to pull the experience card or the “he’s just a kid” routine. It’s not like I was Doogie Howser, but a little humility is a generally a good thing during an interview.
.-= Matt SF´s last blog ..The Pros and Cons of Investing in ETFs =-.

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David Leonhardt 2009/06/26 at 11:59 am

Dress shabbily.

Focus on vacation benefits.

Show no interest in learning about the tasks, the team atmosphere, the wrokspace.
.-= David Leonhardt´s last blog ..Want a link on a throw-away domain? =-.

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Gretchen 2009/06/27 at 10:08 am

This a great list for all job seekers, especially recent college graduates. In my opinion, interview preparation is one of the hardest steps during the job search. The tips you listed are very helpful. I’ve also heard that an employer wants to hear about your real-life attributes, real-life skills. In addition to the interview resources you listed, I would suggest: dexterhawk25.wordpress.com/ and http://bit.ly/JGgwj.

Thanks again for the tips!

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Paul Van Lierop 2009/06/26 at 10:25 am

Oh you nailed that one, I work with network engineers, social skills are not our strong suit. At least try and be sociable.

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Paul Van Lierop 2009/06/26 at 12:46 pm

Exactly by all means insult the person interviewing you. I too have experienced that being the young guy interviewing my potential director was an interesting experience.

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