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The Graduation Is Over and Now On to the Job Search

Ten interview pitfalls you need to avoid

CollegeCornerAs difficult as it is to accept – it’s time to stop celebrating that grand moment in your life — the diploma and the graduation —- and get down to the really hard lessons of life.

Like – going out and getting a job.

Hopefully you have sent out some resumes and are starting to get some nibbles from employers. If you’re not – maybe you need to take a look at your resume.

But if you are lucky enough to start getting some invites to come in and interview – this is the time to start learning some new techniques.

Interviewing is a learned skill.

As with every skill you’ve ever learned you have to learn the technique and then practice, practice, practice. A mock interview will not only help you practice your technique, but allow you to get valuable feedback and coaching on your performance.

Sue’s Story

Sue is an accomplished tennis player, and has worked on her stroke and technique for many years. She has taken lessons from pros, and listened to their advice when they gave her their critique. She has read books and talks to fellow tennis players comparing tips.

She is now graduating from college and has signed up for some on-campus interviews with recruiters. She feels confident that she knows her subject and is a pretty good talker, so she decides to blow off the career center and the need to get feedback. She can conquer this stuff on her own – no lessons needed here.

Unfortunately, Sue doesn’t do too well in her interviews. Out of three on-campus interviews she had, there are no offers for the face-to-face at the company. To say she is “bummed” would be an understatement. .

Jill’s Story

When her roommate, Jill, returns from her interview session she is bubbling with excitement. She can’t wait to tell Sue that she’s already been set up for an on-site company interview in two weeks.

Although Sue is happy for Jill, she is even more depressed about her performance. She has always done better at sports than Jill, and she has a higher GPA. What happened to her during that interview?

Even though it is difficult, Sue asks Jill why she thinks her interview went so well. Jill laughs and tells Sue that she has been working hard to prepare for these interviews.

“You know all those mini-classes I’ve been taking during career week, well, I got some great tips and feedback,” she tells Sue. “But, the thing that helped most was the mock interview offered. Receiving feedback on the answers I was giving to those standard questions was a real eye-opener. I didn’t realize how much I say things like, “You know” when I talk. I left that mock session with an assignment that I took seriously – to prepare and practice,” Jill tells Sue.

“How can you practice for something when you don’t know what they will ask?” says Sue.

“Let me give you the information that the career center coach gave to me, it will help you see the benefit of preparation,” says Jill.

Sue doesn’t let on that she is interested – just tells Jill, “Thanks.”

When Jill leaves for the evening, Sue picks up the handout – Pitfalls of Interviewing.

The Handout

Here are 10 of those very interview pitfalls to watch for.

  1. Poor non-verbal communication – slouching – fidgeting – lack of eye contactIt’s about demonstrating confidence – standing straight, making eye contact, and connecting with a good, firm handshake. That first impression can be a great beginning, or a quick ending to your interview.
  2. Not dressing for the job or company – “over casual”Today’s casual dress codes in the office, do not give you permission to dress as “they” do when you interview. It is important to look professional and well groomed, above all. Whether you wear a suit or something less formal depends on the company culture and the position you are seeking. If possible, call and find out what the company dress code is before the interview.
  3. Not listening – only worrying about what you are going to sayFrom the very beginning of the interview, your interviewer is giving you information, either directly or indirectly. If you are not listening – turning up your intuitive – you are missing a major opportunity. Good communication skills include listening and letting the person know you heard what they said. Observe your interviewer and match that style and pace.
  4. Talking too much – telling it all – even if it’s not relevantTelling the interviewer more than they need to know could be a fatal mistake. When you have not prepared ahead of time you may tend to ramble, sometimes talking yourself right out of the job. Prepare for the interview by reading through the job posting; matching your skills with the requirements of the position, and relating only that information.
  5. Being over-familiar – your new best friend is NOT the interviewerThe interview is a professional meeting to talk business. This is not about making a new friend. The level of familiarity should mimic the demeanor of the interviewer. It is important to bring energy and enthusiasm to the interview, and to ask questions, but not to over-step your place as a candidate looking for a job.
  6. Using inappropriate language – you “guys” know what I meanIt’s a given that you should use professional language during the interview. Be aware of any inappropriate slang words or references to age, race, religion, politics, or sexual preferences – these topics could get the door slammed very quickly.
  7. Acting cocky – being overconfident – “king of the hill”Attitude plays a key role in your interview success. There is a fine balance between confidence, professionalism, and modesty. Even if you’re putting on a performance to demonstrate your ability, over-doing is as bad, if not worse, as being too reserved.
  8. Not answering the question asked – “jumping in without thinking”When an interviewer asks for an “example of a time,” you did something, he is seeking a sample of your past behavior. If you fail to relate a “specific” example, you not only don’t answer the question, but you miss an opportunity to prove your ability and tell about your skills.
  9. Not asking questions – a missed opportunity you will live to regretWhen asked if they have any questions, the majority of candidates answer, “No.” Wrong answer! It is extremely important to ask questions. It demonstrates an interest in what goes on in the company. It also gives you the opportunity to find out if this is the right place for you. The best questions come from listening to what is asked during the interview, and asking for additional information.
  10. Appearing desperate – “Please, please hire me!”It’s a tough job market, and you need a job! But, when you interview with the “Please, please, hire me,” approach you appear desperate and less confident. Maintain the three “C’s” during the interview: Cool, Calm, and Confident! You know you can do the job, – now, make sure the interviewer believes you can, too.

Sue Gets An “A” By Following the C’s

It doesn’t take a brick to hit Sue on the head – she gets it. She set out for the Career Center the following day to get some advice and feedback.

Everybody makes mistakes – that’s what makes us human. We can laugh at ourselves a great deal of the time when we get tongue-tied or forget someone’s name – even our spouse’s. But in the interview you want to be as prepared and polished as possible. If you do make a mistake, consider it a human error and learn from the experience. In the meantime do your homework and get prepared.

School is back in session – at least until that job offer comes through.

About Carole Martin

Carole Martin, America's #1 Interview Coach and original Monster.com Interview Coach has specialized in the subject of "Interviewing" for the past 15 years from both sides of the desk. Be sure to visit her site to get her free report, How to Land Your Dream Job in a Tough Economy and test your skills with a free practice interview.


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