If any of these scenarios sound familiar, chances are it’s not your experience holding you back but bad interviewing habits you may not be aware of. Below are common areas of misconduct that can make you come off as unprofessional in an interview and how you can make a better impression in the future.
Remember Your Manners
You may never meet a stranger in your life and feel comfortable treating everyone you encounter as though they were you frat brother in college, but an interview is a time to shape up and remember your manners—a little respect goes a long way. Start with the basics: turn off your cell phone, act in a polite manner, and be gracious for the opportunity.
Make a good first impression with everyone you encounter. Companies often ask the opinions of receptionists, assistants, and even employees who maybe outside smoking when you walk in of their impressions before making final hiring decisions. If you have to wait in reception or with other candidates, try making polite, general conversation and introduce yourself to show you are friendly and outgoing.
Remember to address your interviewers in the manner they introduce themselves to you. As casual as the business world has become, not everyone prefers to go by their first name, and dismissing this rule of thumb can put you off to a bad start. Also listen intently to everyone in the interview, and try to avoid interrupting others when they speak. If you think you sound like you are rambling, you probably are. Remember to keep your questions and answers concise, but informative.
Dress appropriately—as the saying goes, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed—business casual at a minimum depending on the corporate culture, but business professional is generally preferred.
Sit up straight in an interview; it shows confidence. Avoid slouching or resting your head on your hands which could give off an air that you’re bored or don’t want to be there. Most importantly, be self aware. Try to calm your nerves to avoid annoying habits like tapping your foot, fiddling with objects on a table, twirling your hair, shifting constantly, or biting your nails.
One way to combat nervous habits is to take notes. Aside from keeping your hands occupied and keeping your focused, taking notes shows interest and can aid you with follow up questions and writing thank you notes after the interview. They can also provide you with points of reference for future interviews or determining whether to take the job should an offer be made.
When providing a reference, did you first ask that person’s permission to use them as one? And if you did, was the last time you asked in recent weeks or was it the last time you were job hunting a few years ago? When a reference doesn’t know why someone is contacting them on your behalf it can raise immediate red flags with HR.
If you do have references lined up, have you coached them on what you’re interviewing for and informed them as to why you chose them as a reference? Coaching your references, especially when they may be personal references, can help avoid awkward conversations for the reference checker of hearing irrelevant and sometimes embarrassing information.
Providing your references with a short list of your qualifications and a few notes regarding your relationship with them can also be a great way to help them recall what makes you ideal for the position when they’re put on the spot. You may think they don’t need the reminder, but often when we’re interrupted in the middle of a busy day and caught of guard, with a hundred other things on our mind, we can struggle to remember everything we want to express.
No matter how you are feeling, there is never an excuse to be negative in an interview. If you’ve been job hunting for awhile, ooze your enthusiasm for knowing the right role (hopefully this one) is out there for you. If the weather is bad or it’s been a long day, be the sunshine in the room that changes the mood for everyone. If you happen to be sick, make sure to medicate appropriately before heading to the interview. If necessary, politely state that you are under the weather, but do not dwell on the issue.
And don’t get caught in interview questions that can lure you to say negative things about yourself or others. If you hated your last boss or company, the interview is not the place to express that. Neither is expressing it online via your social networks. If you say something negative about your last company, your potential employer may feel that you will publicize negatively about them too. Hold your tongue and your typing.
Also, be careful when expressing answers to questions like: What is your greatest weakness? When our brains hear ourselves say or repeat negative terms, it can alter our state of mind and our responses moving forward. Be sure you are prepared to take on any challenging question and answer it positively and honestly.
Not Coming Prepared
This last point directly showcases to your potential employer how much you really want the position. Did you research the company prior to coming in? Did you prepare a list of questions to show your interest and answer any outstanding issues that would prohibit your performance? Do you know who you will be meeting with and have you made yourself familiar with their background? These are all important steps in preparing for the interview, and if you’re not prepared, you’re competition is.
Additionally, you should always bring several copies of your resume in case you are asked to meet with more than one person. While bringing your resume may seem understood, it may surprise you how many senior level candidates do not take this step under the assumption their reputation precedes them. Be that as it may, it’s the moment you don’t have it, that someone will want it.
Aside from the resume, you should carry a pen or pencil and something to write on to take notes during the interview. If you come unprepared to the interview, the assumption is you will come unprepared to work.
If you think you might be guilty of any of these behaviors in the interview, try being more self-aware. Make a checklist of what you need to prepare. Ask people you encounter daily of any nervous habits you should be aware of. Practice positive affirmations of yourself and why you can do the job to reinforce an optimistic attitude.
And remember your manners. As P. J. O’Rourke said, “Good manners are a combination of intelligence, education, taste and style mixed together so that you don’t need any of those things.”
Robin L. Rayburn is the Editor & General Manager of Interviewing.com. Robin was introduced to the recruitment industry in 2007 and her passion for people has never let her stray far from it since. In her spare time she manages her blog, RestlessPillow.com, tweets from @interviewingcom and @chitowntexan, and is always striving to help those around her who have a vision for success. You can also find Robin on LinkedIn and Google+.