In an increasingly competitive job market, getting an all-important foot-in-the-door with a face-to-face interview is often easier said than done. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity to put yourself across in the best possible light by committing common interview blunders.
It’s natural to feel nervous before an interview, some of us become plagued with self-doubt, wondering what if we don’t measure up, become tongue-tied, get seized by a coughing fit, or the interviewer seems to hate us on sight? What if we say the wrong thing?
Here we share 10 of the most common self-sabotaging comments to avoid during the all-important job interview.
1. “Sorry I’m so late!”
Make no mistake, being late counts against you. If your prospective boss thinks you don’t value their time, they won’t want to risk hiring someone who will be consistently late for work. You can minimise the risk by practical forward planning – such as plotting your route and arranging a reliable mode of transport to get you there safely and on time.
Make sure you have saved the interviewer’s phone number. Occasionally, outside circumstances can ruin even the best plans. Phone ahead well before the interview start time if an unforseen delay occurs, and give your estimated arrival time. By extending this simple courtesy you’ll show your interviewer that you respect and value their time, helping to alleviate the frustration they would feel if they were simply waiting for you to arrive on time.
2. “My previous boss was a jerk”
It’s a bad idea to diss your former employer. Aside from being unprofessional, it reflects negatively on your character and raises the question that you will do the same about any future employer.
3. “So… what does this company actually DO?”
Really? You mean you haven’t bothered to show enough interest in researching the company you hope will employ you? And by the way, scrolling through their website does not count as research. Do it and do it thoroughly. What do they do? Can you think of other companies that do the same thing? What does this company do differently? Look at their corporate culture and dress-code. See if their values align with yours and decide if this is a company you could imagine yourself working for.
4. “How much leave do I get?”
Hmm. So there you are, being interviewed for a new job and you’re already plotting how much time you can count on being absent from work? If you think about it from the employer’s perspective, it’s not ideal to hire someone who doesn’t want to be there. Leave this conversation for later when you’re presented with the job offer. You’ll be in a much more secure position to start asking about personal benefits.
5. “I headed the PAM department and was in charge of YNR’s and PEA stats”
Sometimes, one might feel tempted to use industry jargon and acronyms in an attempt to impress or show-off. Beware of letting your ego take control. Your interviewer may not know what language you are speaking, causing confusion and misunderstandings. Ditch those inter-company acronyms used in your old job, and use plain English. This is not a Trekkies get-together, so avoid Klingon-type code speech.
Show respect to the interviewer by avoiding profanities. Many people are offended by swearing, even “milder” words that you might not find that bad. Even if the interviewer uses a few bad words, there is no need to prove solidarity by joining in. Remember to keep your manner as professional and respectful as possible throughout your interview.
7. “Do you really expect me to wear that?”
You stare in disbelief at the lime green Lycra top with a fluorescent yellow banana logo. This is the compulsory uniform for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the top is fluorescent pink with the banana logo glowing in cobalt blue.
Recall our point 3 above: when you research a company properly, you will quickly figure out what their culture and dress-code is. You’ll be able to decide before your interview if this is the sort of company you could see yourself working for. If you see a uniform you really do not like, but everything else about the job excites you, remember: this is their corporate policy and identity, based on tradition and company pride. Jeering, disbelief or refusal to cooperate will have you searching the job sites once again.
Tell yourself by way of comfort – some work for Apple, you work for Banana.
8. “Well…I’ve got no better options”
When asked why you applied for the job, this is not a very flattering answer. No employer wants to know their employee would rather be doing something else. Formulate your answer to this type of question before the interview. Outline your matching experience to the job requirements and a brief explanation on how you intend to fulfil and apply your skills to the position.
9. “In 5 years time, I see myself doing your job”
You deliver this answer confidently in reply to the interviewer’s question: “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?”
How do you think this will make your interviewer feel? Threatening their job won’t earn you any points, nor will it do much for their opinion of your interpersonal skills. A less arrogant and more acceptable response would be to talk about the experience you hope to gain at the company. Speak about your goals and your commitment to further promotion with more responsibility, based on your stellar performance.
10 “Can I quickly answer this call?”
No! Your phone should be switched to silent mode for the duration of the interview. You can divert incoming calls to a close relative or friend in case of an emergency. Resist the urge to check your Facebook or Instagram feeds, even if the interviewer is distracted momentarily. Be 100% present the whole time, if you want to impress your future employer.
After the interview, do not demand to know if you got the job. Leave with a (firm but gentle) handshake and a smile and wait to hear from the company.
All recruiters and job interviewers have some interesting memories to share of job seekers and the cringe-worthy things they say and do. Try putting yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself how you would react if you were the owner of the company. What sort of questions and answers would you like to hear from a prospective employee you hope will contribute to the success of your business?
Who knows, perhaps you will proudly be donning the Banana top before the week is out.