We've just completed the world's longest job interview, otherwise known as the presidential election. Everybody I know is elated—that the election is over. What they don't realize is that watching an election is a fabulous way to learn what not to do in a job interview, regardless of your political affiliation.
Here are 5 things not to do if you're up for election, ummm, a new job:
1. Go negative on your opponent. You may think it will make you sound knowledgeable if you are able to detail the faults of other candidates who are vying for the same job. "Hey, I worked with Bob before, and he's light on statistical abilities," you might mention. If an interviewer hears this, he or she might (might) believe you and investigate Bob's skills, but it's more likely he or she will think you are a jerk who is trying to hide your own lack of skills in some other area.
2. Tout experience you don't really have. Interviewers see through this. "I built a rocket ship using only spare parts from my Ford Festiva" may sound cool if you are interviewing for an engineering job, but if you didn't really do it (everyone knows a Chevy Suburban is better for rocket ship making), you look more like a fool. Plus, it shows us all that you are stretching to meet the qualifications.
3. Don't answer the question asked. If you watched the debates you noticed that all four candidates (presidential and vice presidential) would listen to the questions and then speak on whatever topic they wanted to, giving a slight and tangential nod to the actual question. This is annoying. Answer the question asked. Interviewers will most likely give you a chance to tell them everything you want to tell them, but answer their actual questions. They are asking for a reason.
4. Go on Saturday Night Live. You may, in reality, be hilarious, with wit and charm that would knock the socks off the viewing public. Fabulous. But if you are interviewing for a job that requires a suit and tie (or suit and heels, as the case may be), this will not go over well. Of course, Lorne Michaels isn't likely to be calling at your door, but there's a regular-person equivalent: Stay professional on the Internet. You may have a hilarious picture posted on your MySpace page that involves togas, alcohol, and balloon animals. Make your page private or take it down. The Internet is free game, and while I'd tell recruiters to tread lightly, you need to make sure that whatever you post there, you'd also want on your résumé.
5. Accept defeat graciously. Actually, this is something the candidates did well. They know that this is not the only available job. You should know that, too. If you don't get hired, you could call up the hiring manager and scream about how stupid she is for not recognizing your greatness. Or, you can send her a polite note thanking her for her time and noting that you would be interested in any future positions at her company. So, you weren't a perfect fit for this particular job—you don't know if one that you're a perfect fit for will open up in six months. If you are gracious, you may get a call about it. If you are a jerk—well, you're sunk.
Suzanne Lucas has nine years of h uman r esources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady .