In over 35 years of hiring I have pretty much seen it all when it comes to what not to do on a job interview. Here are some of the things you absolutely should not do when interviewing with me for a job:
- Show up late. One of the greatest truisms in life is, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. Showing up late if you are interviewing with me almost guarantees you won’t get the job. If you can’t show up on time for a job interview how can you possibly be counted on to show up on time for customer meetings? I understand that sometimes being late is unavoidable due to an accident on the highway, getting lost, etc. However, if something comes up that is going to make you late need to call and say that you are going to be late. Don’t just waltz in 30 minutes late and expect to get a job offer from me.
- Dress inappropriately. We are in the building supply business so I don’t expect people to come for an interview wearing a coat and tie. On the other hand, I don’t expect people to come to an interview with me wearing dirty, torn clothes or inappropriate clothing such as a tank top. If you are interviewing for a truck driver position, blue jeans and work boots are appropriate. However, if you are interviewing for a job in our accounting department then blue jeans and work boots are inappropriate. Use good judgment. One of the things I look for during an interview is good judgment. Just like speed in football, you can’t teach it. You have it or you don’t.
- Ask stupid questions. I once had a person interviewing for a sales position ask me if we do random drug tests. How stupid is that? I asked him why that was important to him and he said, “I smoke a little weed now and then; is that a problem?” Based on that statement I think he smokes weed more than just now and then. Want to guess if he got the job?
- Bring up pay and benefits at the beginning of the interview. If someone starts asking me about pay and benefits at the beginning of the interview I question their judgment. It is only appropriate to ask about wages and benefits after it has been determined that you are a good fit for the position. And, even then, let the interviewer bring up the subject.
- Talk incessantly. I don’t know about you, but I don’t care for people who, when you ask them what time it is, tell you the history of watchmaking. I like people that give concise and appropriate answers to my questions. Listen to the question and then give the shortest possible response that fully answers the question.
- Don’t research the company you are interviewing with. One of my standard interview questions is, “Tell me what you know about our company.” Some candidates amaze me with the amount of information they have gleaned from the Internet and/or mutual acquaintances about our company. Other candidates tell me they don’t know anything about our organization, and worse yet, some people try to BS me and aren’t even in the ballpark. You should never go on a job interview without researching the company you’re interviewing with, and the person interviewing you. I had a recent meeting with a large potential client and was amazed to see what I was able to find out about him over the Internet. I was able to find out what fraternity he was in during college (from his Facebook page), what country club be belongs to (his club newsletter is online and mentioned he had a recent hole-in-one), his golf handicap (his golf club posts handicaps online), charitable organizations whose board’s he was on (he was mentioned in their online annual reports), his home address (from www.411.com) and then I looked up the value of his home on www.zillow.com, and even where he likes to vacation (from his Twitter account). This information allowed me to make a lot of small talk with him and helped me get the deal. In fact, we talked about his hobbies for 90% of the meeting.
- Check your phone during the interview. Yes, I have had candidates look down at their phone during interviews with me and one even asked me if he could respond to a text message from his girlfriend in the middle of the interview. I am 57 but I doubt I am so out of touch with reality that this is an acceptable practice among the younger generation of hiring managers. Not only should you not check your phone during an interview but you should not even bring it into the interview with you. Leave it in your car unless your wife is nine months pregnant and she could go into labor at any minute.
- Chew gum. Again, I must be a real relic but I can’t believe anyone with half a brain would think it would be appropriate to pop gum during an interview. I even had someone once try to hand me her chewed gum and ask me to throw it away for her. I’m not making this up!
- Talk negatively about your current or past employers. It always amazes me that people think I want to hear them badmouth their current employer or a past one. Don’t they realize that I know that if they will complain about their current or past employer they will do that when talking about our company? If you have an ax to grind about your current employer, or any employer from your past, keep it to yourself no matter how true your complaints may be. This will not help you during a job interview with me or most other employers.
- Make unrealistic salary demands. I actually had a 25-year-old who was applying for an outside sales position tell me that he, “Wouldn’t get off the couch” for less than $90,000 a year. I suggest that, when interviewing, you let the interviewer bring up the subject of salary and if it is below your expectations say so in a courteous way, not like the 25-year-old referenced above. (The interview with that person ended about 30 seconds after he made that statement.)
If you keep the above tips in mind you will fare better than most of the people that interview with me. What are some of the most outrageous things you have observed while interviewing?
© Copyright 2012 by Jim Sobeck. All rights reserved. This information may be reproduced as long as full credit is given to the author.