Do's and Don'ts for Job Interviews

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Here are six surefire ways to make a NEGATIVE impression in an interview:

1. Show up late.
Unless you were run over by a bus on your way to the interview, there is no acceptable reason for arriving late. Tardiness sends the clear signal that you are either a) incapable of planning, b) inconsiderate of others, or c) not very interested in the job. So allow yourself extra time to get there, but if you arrive early, don’t go into the office! Being early is almost as bad as being late, because you will mess up the interviewer’s schedule either way. Sit in your car until the appointed time – or if the weather is too hot or cold, find a nearby McDonald’s. Another tip: if you don’t know where your prospective employer is located, do a dry run and find their offices before the day of your interview, especially if you live in a large city.

2Wear odd clothing.
Keep in mind that one person’s “interesting and unique” can be another person’s “weird and inappropriate”. Unless you’re applying for a position at a clown college, you don’t want your attire to be too memorable. Remember that the way that you dress for an interview says a lot about your common sense and judgment.

3. Wear cologne.
A scent you find pleasing can be repellant to someone else. The interviewer will be trapped with you in a room for an hour, so it’s much safer to wear no cologne at all. Otherwise, your interview may be cut short just so the interviewer can escape the smell.

4. Talk non-stop.
An interview should be a dialogue, not a monologue. If you are one of those people who has trouble putting the brakes on your mouth, then you need to learn how to stop talking. The interviewer needs time to ask all of his or her questions, so when you have given a complete answer, just stop.

5. Bad-mouth your previous employer.
You don’t want to say anything in an interview that would make you seem like a risky hire. If you complain about management or the organizational culture, then the interviewer may conclude that you are a negative person who could be a problem. So even if your previous boss was an idiot and your company was a wreck, don’t say so!

6. Ask too many self-serving questions.
If you ask too many questions about pay, benefits, and promotional opportunities, you will give the impression that you are primarily interested in what you can get out of this job, not what you can contribute.

Now, consider these suggestions for making a POSITIVE impression:

1. Know something about the business.
Whether this is a large company, government organization, or mom-and-pop firm, learn as much as you can about the business before the interview. With so much information readily available on the Internet, this is usually pretty easy to do. So easy, in fact, that you will seem very unprepared if you haven’t at least checked out their website.

2. Study your own resume.
Be sure that you are prepared to talk intelligently about the responsibilities, projects, and accomplishments listed. Look over your resume with the eyes of an interviewer and consider what questions might come to mind. Be prepared to answer them.

3. Practice common questions.
The goal of any interview is to determine whether an applicant has the skills, motivation, and “fit” for the job, so interview questions are often quite similar. You should decide in advance how you will answer questions that can easily be anticipated. Trying to “wing it” in an interview is not a good idea! (For a list of practice questions, see Sample Interview Questions. )

4. Dress one step up.
When deciding what to wear, you need to dress just a little better than the prevailing norms at your prospective employer. If people in this job wear jeans, then show up in business casual. If they wear business casual, then you need slightly more formal attire. But showing up in a three-piece-suit to apply for the jeans job would classify as odd!

5. Manage your self-talk.
If you keep mentally telling yourself that you might screw this up, then you’ll come to believe that. And if you define this as a life-or-death situation, vocationally speaking, then you’ll just work yourself into a nervous tizzy. Recognize that this is just a conversation about yourself, and you know more about yourself than anyone else. You’re the expert on your abilities and experiences. So relax.

6. When you meet the interviewer, smile and act friendly.
First impressions are extremely important! You need to look like someone people might want to work with.

7. Make the interviewer comfortable.
Odd though it may seem, many managers are nervous about conducting interviews. One of your goals should be to do your part to make this a comfortable conversation. If the manager doesn’t seem to know what to ask, it’s fine to say, “Would you like me to tell you something about my experience?”.

8. Tell helpful stories.
Interviewers are most likely to remember examples of experiences or accomplishments, so be prepared to describe them in a concise and interesting way. Tell only the stories that will help the interviewer conclude that you could be a good match for the job.

9. Ask questions.
Interviewers usually expect applicants to have some questions, so come prepared with a few. The purpose of asking questions is not only to get information, but also to make a positive impression with the type of questions you ask. The best questions will demonstrate your knowledge about the business or interest in the job. As mentioned above, too many self-serving questions will make a negative impression.

10. Make notes afterward.
After the interview, make notes on what was discussed, what you learned about the job, and the names of people you met. Especially if you are interviewing at multiple places, this will help you keep everything straight and avoid embarrassing moments if you are called back for a second interview.