You never quite know with interviews, do you? You prep to death for an interview, wow the panel with your knowledge, think you’ve got it in the bag… only to get rejected. Then you’ve got to go back to the drawing board and figure out where it went pear-shaped. And that’s not always easy, considering you don’t even get feedback half the time.
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Well, rack your disappointment-addled brains no longer. Turns out that even if you do score big points in an interview, there are any number of minefields you can step on and blow your chances sky-high.
Doing the most before and during an interview is hella important, but it’s the intangible things that can make or break your career chances. Posting on Quora, Cisco product manager and recruiter Mira Zaslove revealed a few things than can kill you in an interview. Here are the gems…
1. Not dressing to impress
So maybe you knew this one but you’d be surprised how many people forget. It’s important to dress in a way that matches the culture of the company that you’re applying to. And yes – some of those companies dress down a bit more than others, but don’t take that as an excuse to go full tracksuit on them.
Mira tells a horror story in her post about interviewing a young woman who “looked like she was going to a yoga class”. Clothing is one of those things that can brand you with a red flag, so be sure to get it right. Mira’s advice? “The best thing to do is to pick an outfit that won’t draw attention. The focus should be on the interview, not on the clothing.”
2. Selling too hard
Some companies might praise you for going for the ‘hard sell’ approach. Most won’t, however. You’d be surprised how many recruiters aren’t impressed with the whole ‘sell me this pen‘ routine, especially when you try it on the recruiter themselves. Mira tells the story of some poor soul who tried exactly this: “After I gave my answer, they proceeded to try to “one-up” me with an overly-amped, full-press, standing presentation. It was too much.”
Granted, most people would come off timid in an interview situation. But some people do try and catch the interviewer out, thinking it’s going to show them that they have an initiative. “As a candidate it’s important to show confidence and smarts,” says Mira. “However, competing with or arguing with the interviewer is rarely successful. Rather, it’s a red-flag indicating the candidate is “un-coachable.”
3. Asking no questions
No excuses for this one, really. After all, we did write an article about questions you should ask your interviewers. But it can be tough to come up with things on the spot, so a lot of candidates just opt not to say anything. What they don’t know however, is that this might harm their chances.
“A good interview is a conversation, where both sides are engaged,” Mira points out. “If the candidate asks no questions, it appears that either they aren’t interested, or believe they already know everything to know about the position.” Don’t worry though, there are ways around if you get stuck. Try asking about the recruiter’s path into the industry or write things down from your research if you tend to forget things under pressure. It’s all better than nothing.
4. Having a long commute
Okay, it’s not so much about the distance, it’s about how you handle it. We’re not all blessed enough to roll out of bed and be at work by the time you’ve finished watching an episode of Rick & Morty on the train. But if you do decide to go for a job miles away from where you live, make sure you’re prepared to handle the commute.
There’s nothing employers hate more than investing time and money to hire someone who quits two weeks in because they didn’t think cycling between London and Didcot every day would be a problem. And Mira concurs. “I’ve had a few good people quit after only a few weeks on the job because the commute was just too much,” she says. “Some people can handle the extra time or will move for the right opportunity, but many will be repeatedly late for work, or just quit.”
5. Talking about offers you’ve already got
Weighing up your options after getting an offer? How fortunate you are! However, you probably shouldn’t talk about your good fortune. It could be tempting to show your recruiter what they’re missing by talking about other interested parties, but Mira is adamant that this is a no-go.
“I interviewed a candidate who came in to tell me he already had a hot offer from a heavily funded startup,” she recalls. “He said it immediately. I hadn’t even decided that I wanted to hire him, and already he was baiting me into a bidding war.”
You want to give the impression that if you can get an offer from another big company, you must be at least vaguely competent. In reality, it looks like you have an inflated sense of self-worth and you’re trying to drive up the price. It can make you seem more attractive, but if you must mention it, smash your current interview first. Then tell them about the other roles for which you’ve been considered for transparency’s sake. But whatever you do – don’t brag.
RELATED: Don’t fall into these traps. Check out Debut’s Guide to Interview Etiquette and make sure you ace your next interview.