Interviews are a forced attempt to get to know someone better in order to make a long-range decision about whether you want to hire them, expand a relationship or simply evaluate their credibility. Is it fair to make such evaluations of credibility based on a compressed “speed dating” scenario with so much at stake? No. But sometimes that’s all we have because of time, needs and logistics. The fact is some people are just better at interviews than others. Those who are quick on their feet with a snappy response just fair better than those who a more deliberative and methodical about their answers. Determining who is a better fit or worthy of a future commitment usually lands in the hands of the interviewer’s ability to understand the position to be filled and the personality of the candidate.
Much has been written about the best things to do in an interview to come off well, but here are 10 of the worst things you can do that can spell your doom in most situations:
- Appear like you know all the answers.
There is a fine line between being resourceful and being arrogant. No matter how well you believe you have a grasp of a particular issue that arises in an interview, your credibility will be measured by your ability to be humble in your acknowledgement and understanding of that situation.
- Avoiding eye contact.
There is no magical invisibility cloak over you when you look away from your interviewer. Once you are in their space, force yourself to look directly at them.
- Acting defensive.
You may not have a sufficient answer to every question, but adopting a defensive position is a sure-fire way to alienate your interviewer.
- Over answering.
Everyone wants to give complete, thoughtful answers to questions, but over answering is deadly. Droning on and on in an effort to be responsive will have the exact opposite effect. Which brings us to number 5.
- Giving yes and no answers.
One-word answers are unacceptable. A good interviewer will know how not to ask questions that could be answered with one word, but everyone isn’t that good and even the best slip up from time to time. Look to adopt the “Goldilocks” formula. Not too long, not to short – just right.
- Checking your phone.
Turn it off. There is nothing that can’t wait one hour or the average length of an interview.
- Lying or creating an alternative truth.
Giving less than truthful answers in an interview creates a web you are unlikely to be able to crawl out of. Lies will snowball and are often hard to remember. Interviews, as unnatural as they are, must be built on a foundation of trust and your personal credibility.
- Closed off body language.
Folding arms and crossed legs can often speak louder than your words. Sometimes you don’t even realize you are doing it, so monitor your physical actions. Nothing will likely be said about what you physically transmit, but it’s going to have a profound effect on your overall impression.
You always want to demonstrate some level of understanding or knowing the important players in your field, but namedropping and implying relationships to impress someone will almost always backfire.
- Dressing inappropriately.
Yes, standards have changed and casual has reached a new level of acceptability, but that level of informality has to be either sanctioned or earned. This isn’t about dress -to-impress, it’s about respect. If the interviewer doesn’t think you show a basic level of respect for them, it’s unlikely you’ll get to demonstrate your credibility to anyone else in the organization.