Do’s and Don’ts for Job Interviews

Do’s and Don’ts for Job Interviews

Being able to do a job well and being able to get a job are two very different skill sets.

Many times, I have seen strong candidates–strong in terms of their application documents–lose job offers due to poor interviews.

At first, this was surprising to me. As interviewers, we were looking forward to meeting the candidates because we thought they might very well get the positions even before we talked to them. Their application documents were that good!

Then they had their interviews. They performed poorly, and they totally lost their chances at job offers. As interviewers, we thought, “What just happened there?”

Excessive head bobbing (I mean really excessive, perhaps due to nervousness), drawling monotone speech, inability to speak about their work, inability to show proper interest in the prospective school and its programs, talking about how much they hate their current employment situation… are just some of the things I’ve seen that have lost people job offers.

It occurred to me that for many people, the job isn’t theirs to win. It’s theirs to lose. Many employers want to offer jobs to seemingly good candidates. The candidates just need to not mess up their interviews. The employers after all, have a million things to do. They want to staff vacant positions with good people and move on to other business.

Over time, I came to realize that many otherwise good staff, simply do not know how to prepare for and do good job interviews. I realized this makes sense because, after all, interviewing is something that very few people ever learn about explicitly or get training in. Almost everybody ‘just wings it.’

Unfortunately, there is a wide variety in what people think will work for them, and often, it doesn’t line up with what employers are looking for. It is rare that I see someone hit a home run in a job interview.

Getting a new job is a major event. It often involves a change of work place, a different title, a different salary, a new set of colleagues, etc., and these things factor into people’s home lives and their own ambitions for themselves and their families’ welfare. Getting the jobs that people actually want is a big deal!

Luckily, doing well in a job interview isn’t actually that hard to do with a few basic strategies.

Here are my top three do’s and don’ts for job interviews. This is based on the hundreds of interviews and post-interview discussions that I’ve had with fellow interviewers.

Three Do’s

  1. Your main priority is the interviewers’ interests, not your own. Learn to talk about yourself from the perspective of the employer’s interests.
  2. Have a little dynamism in your interview. Vary your speaking tone. Smile now and then. Show some enthusiasm and interest. (Also, dress well.)
  3. Be able to talk about your profession and your experience, and make an effort to link those to the prospective employer. Look at the employer’s website and do a bit of research on the employer’s industry and location in order to better help you make those connections.

Three Don’ts

  1. Don’t give meandering, off-topic or strange answers. Stay focused on the questions. Use a note pad if necessary. Answer the questions directly, completely and concisely. Ask the interviewers if you’ve answered their question to their satisfaction. They likely have many questions, so don’t ramble on and on in response to only a few questions. Being concise shows that you are cognizant of the interviewers’ time and that you can help them accomplish their objective of completing the interview.
  2. Don’t try to pull the wool over interviewers’ eyes. Some people try to dance around gaps in their knowledge or skills, or they try to hide negative things. Experienced interviewers can usually see through this quickly, and their take away is that you appear willing to say anything to get what you want. Be forthright. It is a more admirable quality.
  3. Don’t dress down or, if you’re doing video conference, have a cluttered messy background. Present yourself well. Non-verbal signals play a big part in an interview.

For a more complete discussion of this topic (including lists of 20 do’s and 20 don’ts), please see my handbook, Last Minute Job Interview Preparations: Maximize your odds in a minimum amount of time. I wrote the book to help good people stand a much better chance of doing well in job interviews and getting the jobs they want. Click the cover.

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