I hate interviewing. I hate having to use phrases like “my skills and qualifications” and watching what I say so I won’t discourage the interviewer from hiring me. So I tend to be extremely forgiving when I am the one conducting the interview. However, through the years I’ve noticed so many people make some obvious mistakes. So my list of interviewing tips has now become a list of things not to do in an interview. Some of these tips can also apply to sales calls any other situation where you’re selling your skills, products or services.

Tip #1: Dress Appropriately:

Ten years ago, I interviewed someone for a technical position. When I walked in, he wasn’t wearing a suit (no tie and no jacket) and it really distracted me. I just didn’t feel like he took the interview seriously and even though he had the skills to do the job, I recommended that we didn’t hire him.

I strongly feel that if someone isn’t willing to take that extra step to impress you before you hire them, then what will they do if they get hired? I interviewed someone last week for a similar position who also was dressed casually. To make matters worse, he smelled like cigarette smoke so he obviously couldn’t restrain himself from smoking during his whopping one mile drive to the interview.

Plenty of books have been written about how to dress for interviews, so I won’t get too detailed here. The bottom line is that you should look professional and unless told otherwise, you should dress business formal. Some industries (construction, blue-collar, entertainment, etc…) have their own dress code. But don’t ever assume that just because a company’s employees can dress casual, that you dress that way on an interview. In both cases, the candidate was not told to dress casual. In both cases, they were not hired.

Tip #2: Research the company and the job:

Usually during the first five minutes, I’ll ask “so are you familiar with what we do?” If the answer is “no”, then my decision is also no. If someone can’t take 10-15 minutes to look at the company’s web site, what does it tell you about them?

Tip #3: Do not insult the Interviewer:

I’m in my early 30’s, yet it seems that everyone I interview that’s over 45 assumes I’m fresh out of college. I don’t mind this, and I take it as a compliment. However, when people constantly say things like “you’re probably too young to remember” or “long before your time” after I’ve repeatedly told them how far back my experience does date, it gets old (pun intended). If the roles were reversed, this behavior would be considered illegal (it’s considered age discrimination).

I’ve heard stories of male interviewees being quite obvious about checking out the women that passed them by while waiting in the lobby for their interview and even some doing this to women who were interviewing them. I often wonder what these people are thinking.

Tip #4: Send a thank you:

I have interviewed dozens of candidates over the last 10 years and I have yet to receive a thank you. I used to hand out my card as I met the candidate, but now I wait until I’m asked (which is rare). This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to me as when I used to interview, I would ask for a card and with the exception of the hiring manager and the person from HR, 99% of everyone else seemed shocked that I actually wanted to send them a thank you.

So this is a very easy way to stand out in a positive manner. A quick email, typed or handwritten note that thanks the interviewer for their time, states your interest in moving forward and reminds them of some of the high points of the interview will do the trick.

Tip #5: Make sure your resume is accurate:

Now I know sometimes when you’re nervous, you may not recall every aspect of every skill listed on your resume – I’ve done this a lot of times. But don’t claim you’re an expert in something you’re not. This is especially true in the technical field where people will list that they are experts in various programming languages and then when asked about them will say “yeah, I wrote a sample program in it, once…”

The best thing to do is to take an honest look at your resume to find items that could be deemed as misleading by the interviewer. In the example of the programmer, “exposed to” could replace “expert in.” Recruiters scan resumes for key words and skills so they most likely wouldn’t distinguish between the two. Plus, what good is being called for an interview because you state you’re an expert on your resume, but you’re really not.

So these are my basic interviewing tips. All or none may apply to your situation so it’s always good to talk to experts in your industry. Headhunters are a great resource, as they can advise you about how to dress and can examine your resume for potential problems. Friends & family that work in your target industry can also help. Your state’s unemployment office may even have counselors that can either help you or refer you to someone that can help you.


Five Unforgivable Interview Mistakes

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