You’ve made it through the front door, and you’re sitting across the table from an interview team. But you were also 10 minutes late, your palms seep sweat, you called the interviewer your ex-wife’s name, and you realize now that jeans weren’t an interview “do.”
What else could go wrong? Plenty.
Here are 10 job interview don’ts for you to consider before your next big face-to-face question-and-answer session.
1. Don’t prepare for a generic job interview.
“The job market is so tough, you need to go in to each and every interview with strong background knowledge of the organization,” says Alexandra Levit, author of “Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success.”
You need to fit your expertise and career anecdotes into the description of the job opening before you interview, so you can emphasize why you’re the perfect fit. “People who aren’t doing this are not getting the job, and someone else is,” she says. “Do your homework.”
2. Don’t neglect the phone interview.
Phone interviews are often the first step toward a hire, so take the call as seriously as an in-person interview.
One hopeful candidate conducted a job interview in the bathroom. It was the only private place he could access on short notice in a hotel. But the restroom wasn’t so quiet, according to Paul Bailo, author of “The Essential Phone Interview Handbook.” Interviewers could overhear flushing sounds and other lavatory noises. If you have a phone interview, you should ensure a noise-free environment. “It should be silent,” he says, except for the sound of the interviewer’s and interviewee’s voices.
3. Don’t act like you’ll need hand-holding.
Prove you can start work on day one with a minimum of training, Levit says. In many workplaces, training and development are among the first “extras” to go, so it’s imperative to hire someone ready to roll in the door and delve into the work.
“The less they need to train you, the better shot you have at the job, particularly if they’re confident you can do the job tomorrow.” she says.
4. Don’t talk about your personal life.
“Even if your interviewer seems like someone sympathetic, you have to remember that they’re interviewing you for a job,” Levit says. Even if your kids are having problems at day care or your dog needs surgery, keep all job interview discussion professional and topical. This doesn’t mean you can’t act natural — just don’t bare all.
5. Don’t blather.
“When I was in the corporate world, I had an interview candidate that would rattle on and on, nervous and wanting to fill empty space,” says Arden Clise, a Seattle-based business-etiquette consultant at Clise Etiquette. “He said things he probably didn’t want me to know,” she says, such as the fact that he’d yelled at his boss and been fired.
Clise advises clients to answer an interview question and then stop. Silent pauses are acceptable and allow you and your interviewer to compose your thoughts.
6. Don’t show up late.
Levit relates the story of a candidate who appeared a half-hour late. The interviewee then revealed that she wasn’t on time because she had been across the street, waiting for her meeting at a competitor’s office. Map out the drive to your job interview location online or perhaps even rehearse the route. Plan to show up at least 10 minutes early with extra time built in for wrong turns or parking snafus.
7. Don’t complain about a past job or previous employer.
If you criticize, the interviewer may think that in two years, you’ll be bad-mouthing the job they give you or trash-talking the company, Levit says.
“People don’t appreciate that,” she says. Instead, speak respectfully and act like a positive person in the interview — someone that anyone would love to hire as part of a team.
8. Don’t underdress.
People go into every interview with assumptions about the company culture. Perhaps you’ve heard that “casual Friday” runs all week. But even if your interview team is in jeans and T-shirts, selecting finer threads won’t hurt your chances, Levit says. It also communicates that you take the job and the interview seriously. Wear the best suit you own or can afford and cover any body piercings or tattoos.
9. Don’t reveal your mistakes unless necessary.
If you make a misstep (coughed through your job interview, called your interviewer by the wrong name, took cold medicine too close to the interview time), apologize in a follow-up email or in your thank-you note.
If it was a serious transgression, you probably blew your chances. But don’t grovel or become overly apologetic. Even if it felt like a big deal to you, your interview team often won’t notice smaller gaffes, Levit says.
10. Don’t offer a sweaty, limp palm.
“When discussing handshakes with my clients, they share that their No. 1 turnoff is a sweaty, dead-fish handshake,” Clise says.
Why? Because you have a visceral encounter with how nervous the other person is, Clise says. Keep a tissue in your pocket or purse, so you can wipe your hands dry right before you go into the job interview, she says. Make sure your handshake projects confidence, even if you have to practice that palm-to-palm greeting with an honest friend.
“We want to choose a winner, and we want to see them succeed,” Clise says. “Smile, act confident and nail the interview.”