By Catherine Pistole
Obtaining an interview with a prospective employer is a job search milestone in itself, so you really need to make the most of this opportunity. There’s lots of advice on what to do in an interview, but just as important is knowing what not to do. This is an important fact and should not be underestimated.
The following tips are “must know” items and will help keep you on the path toward a job offer. Note: The first eight out of the ten tips relate to communication!
1. Ask about pay. This is probably the number one “no-no”. While compensation is extremely important, during an interview is not the time to ask about it. The interview is for you and the employer to exchange information about job qualifications, expectations, and cultural “fit”. You should have a good idea about the salary range and bonus structure prior to the interview through your headhunter or job posting. If for some reason, you have no idea, but are extremely interested in the job, go through the interview process regardless and you’ll make your decision once an offer is extended. You can always negotiate later on pay or decide to take the job for less money when it’s a golden opportunity.
2. Ask about benefits, time off & perks. You do not want to come across as “What have you done for me lately?” and asking questions in these areas during interviews may give that impression. You want to put your best foot forward and discuss what value you can bring to an employer. This information is important, but not part of the interview. It will be explained later once an offer is made. Like salary, you can opt to negotiate on any area you feel doesn’t meet your expectations.
3. Reveal too much personal information. I’ve seen time and time again where way too much personal information is openly shared during an interview. It shows your inexperience and unfortunately can plant seeds of doubt with a future employer. While you still want a future employer to have an idea of your personality, there are ways to do this without divulging personal information. So, be very careful here.
4. Refer to your resume too much. Despite the true value of your resume in the job search process, your resume is only your calling card to a potential employer and helps them READ about you. Think of it as an expanded business card. I’ve never heard of anyone getting hired straight from a resume and you mustn’t rely on it to sail through an interview successfully. Your goal in the interview is to make what’s on the page of your resume come to life and take three dimensional form. I can’t stress enough how essential it is to give specific examples of how you added value. That is what helps show an employer why they should hire you over others. Some of the best interviews I’ve conducted were the ones where the resume never made it out of my folder.
5. Communicate poorly. Give clear, direct answers to questions. While you certainly shouldn’t be giving one word answers, the information you provide during the interview needs to be brief yet have impact. Take a moment before you answer if you need it and don’t lose focus on the point you need to make. Don’t digress. Understand too that the majority of your communication is nonverbal. Be aware of your posture, eye contact, tone of voice and posture.
6. Not answering a question clearly. I find this is on of the more common problems in an interview. Listen carefully to the question before answering. Make sure you know what the interviewer is looking to uncover. If the question is ambiguous, ask for clarification. If you’ve answered a question and have any doubts that you’ve hit the target, ask “Does this give you the information you were looking for?” or if there is more you can provide.
7. Spend too much time on one topic/or with one answer. This tip expands on the previous one. Time in an interview is precious and needs to be used wisely. Don’t go on endlessly with each answer. There is a lot of ground to cover, so pace yourself. Make it easy for the interviewer to continually pose their questions and keep things moving. Provide enough information without going overboard.
8. Sit at the head of the table. Generally, the head of any table in business is seen as “the power seat”, so you do not want to take that stance in an interview. It can be perceived as your being aggressive, presuming or unsophisticated. These perceptions most often will not serve you well with a future employer. Sit in the middle or on the side if unsure, otherwise, wait until the interviewer directs you to a seat. It’s also just good manners.
9. Allow your cell phone to ring. Before you enter the prospective employer’s work space, turn off you phone. That means, before you enter their building. You’ll get any missed calls later. You need to be completely focused on your interview without any distractions. Hearing your phone ringing or making phones calls while you wait in the reception area can make it appear that the interview is not a priority and that you’ve just squeezed it in between other appointments.
10. Check your Blackberry for messages. See the above point regarding your cell phone. The same applies here too. It’s very bad form all the way around when you’re onsite for an interview to be openly focused elsewhere. Remember what it took just to land the interview. Stay in the moment and concentrate on what you need to do with this interview. The messages can wait.
Employers are looking for all the ways to find the right candidate when they meet you. They are making continual small decisions based on the numerous signals they pick up during interviews. You are a “package deal”, so they want to learn as much about you in as many relevant areas as possible. Demonstrating that you excel in just one area will generally not push an employer’s “Hire Button”.
The majority of these tips will also serve you well once you get hired and establish yourself in business. Now go check your Blackberry. You may a message about your next interview!
Special Thanks to CP!
Catherine Pistole holds a BS in Business Administration and has worked for over twenty years in human resources and management at various companies in sectors coast to coast. A native New Yorker, her career began in the U.S. Navy. She later entered the private sector and has worked in the legal, hospitality and entertainment industries. For the past eleven years, Catherine has worked in the financial services area of Wall Street and presently holds a position as Director of Human Resources at a private equity firm in Manhattan.
Author of “The Temp Factor” book series dedicated to quality management and best practices in the temporary staffing arena. As you can tell she is Passionate for education and training in the business environment.