3 Ways to Shoot Yourself in the Foot at a Job Interview

Three surefire ways to never hear from the hiring manager again.

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Arnie Fertig
Arnie Fertig
There are any number of ways employers conduct interviews. Some like to make a candidate feel comfortable in hopes that he or she will let down his or her guard. Others go for stress, in an effort to strip away all the facade and see how a candidate will perform under pressure. Some interviewers rely on hackneyed questions, while others delve deeper and opt for experience or behavior-based interview questions.

Regardless of the style of the interview, here are three key ways you can blow the opportunity of getting the job you deserve. By developing an understanding of the ways in which people generally fail, you can learn what to do, what to avoid and thereby, how to succeed.

1. Don't worry about figuring out who you really are. Do you have a clear and realistic appraisal of your professional self? Do you understand your strengths, skills and achievements? Have you owned up to yourself about your warts and blemishes, how you haven't measured up in the past or what you need to do to improve your performance in the future? Do you understand the values that truly describe and animate your work?

Of course, interviewers need to ascertain that you have the specific skills and experiences necessary to succeed in the position. But they really want to know more than that. If you don't know yourself, and can't convey who you are through compelling stories that demonstrate your personality, intelligences and "what makes you tick," you will set yourself up for interview failure.

2. Don't worry about controlling your nervousness. Let's face it: Interviews can be nerve-racking experiences. A lot is on the line, especially if it is a dream job that you've been coveting for a long time, or any job at all ,if you've been unemployed and your resources have dwindled.

There are, however, some things you can do to keep calm, cool and collected:

  • Practice, practice and practice some more. Get a partner or a coach to review with you potential questions, and listen to your answers. Answer the questions so many times that the interview give-and-take becomes second nature to you.
  • Demystify the importance of this particular job. Remember that no matter how much you might want it now, there will likely be other opportunities to follow.
  • Imagine that you already have the job, and go into the interview with a sense of meeting your new colleagues rather than groveling to an all-powerful hiring authority.
  • Make sure to dress appropriately and in well-fitting clothes. If you've never been to where the interview will be, take a test run the day or two before the interview to make sure you know how to get there and how much time it will likely take. Don't arrive late or at the last minute, but also don't arrive so early that you are left twiddling your thumbs and worrying about what will transpire.
  • 3. Remember they have to sell you on their company. Don't bother to prepare. Stories abound of well-qualified candidates who fail in the interview process because they neglect to do the necessary research about the company, its products or services, and the people with whom they will interact in an interview.

    A recruiter tells the story of a senior executive who went in for a final meeting with the CEO of a large organization after having passed virtually all other hurdles. When asked if he had any questions about the company, the senior executive posed a question where the answer could easily have been found on the main page of the organization's website. The CEO said, "If this person can't take the time to do basic research about this company, how do I know he will do the research necessary for every other meeting he would be attending as an employee?"

    It is your job as a candidate to learn all that you can about a company to which you apply by checking out its website, LinkedIn and Facebook company pages, and things that can be learned about it with simple Google searches. Learn about the people you will be meeting at interviews by scoping out their LinkedIn profiles and more. And don't ever take the risk of entering into a phone or in-person interview without solid preparation.

    Of course there are other things that can trip you up in an interview, but if you take the time to carefully prepare, you will be likely to present yourself in the best possible light, without excessive nervous energy. You will show that you respect the company and the people enough to do your research, and that the opportunity is one that you value truly. And when you do all these things, you will be well on your way to interview success.

    Happy hunting!

    Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.