So, you’ve finally heard back from an employer after hitting the “submit” button on a job application. Congrats! You’ve made it past the stress-inducing phase of, “I just sent something into the digital abyss of a company’s hiring system and am now hoping that someone, anyone, will read my application and, if I didn’t, does that mean I didn’t use enough keywords?”
The good news is that, yes, someone did read your application. And, now they want to meet. You’ve got this! Just make sure to avoid these six job interview doozies.
Don’t rehash what you already said in your resume
“So, tell me about yourself,” might still be one of the most common ways that hiring managers begin an interview, but don’t fall into the trap of giving a play-by-play of your resume and employment history.
In fact, doing so might be pretty boring, according to Theresa Merrill, a career coach based in New York specializing in preparing for interviews. “Your resume might not be a perfect fit for the job, but you’re there to position yourself as a good fit for the job.” So you want to talk about whatever their job description is looking for — and why you’ve done that already in your past experience.
Remember, if you’ve made it this far in the hiring process, someone (probably the person who will be interviewing you!), has already studied your resume. Give them something more. Use the interview to tell a story about who you are and what you’re capable of, Merrill says.
While people tend to talk in terms of, “I’m a great communicator,” words aren’t enough. “You can’t just throw out adjectives in interviews,” says Merrill. “You can’t just tell people who you are, you need to demonstrate it with a story.”
Don’t carry a large purse/briefcase
Don’t be the bag lady at the interview. While a large tote rivaling the carry-all power of Mary Poppins’ briefcase isn’t a “no” in and of itself (how did she fit it all tho?), bringing one to the job interview can be attention-grabbing in the wrong way. The wrong bag can end up looking like a suitcase, according to Mandy Fard, a recruiter with decades of experience in staffing who also runs the resume writing services company, Market Connections: “It’s too much.”
“I’m expecting to meet with you on a professional basis because we’re going to talk about a potential job opportunity for about 20 minutes,” Fard said. “But why does your purse look bigger than you? What do you have in there? Do you really need to carry all that here?”
Sounds a little far-fetched or shallow? Picture this: You’re so nervous about forgetting something that you stuff your bag with everything you think you might need, including that extra sweater you found in your car and those snacks you tell yourself will power you up but you ultimately decide against because, hey, what if you get something in your teeth?
Now, picture this: You’ve calmed your pre-interview jitters, settled on slick portfolio and a bag just big enough to hold your resume, a notepad, pen, car keys and a compact mirror (for those last-minute check-ups). Now, that’s not just someone with a lighter load. That’s someone who’s confident and prepared.
Don’t try to make a bright fashion statement
OK, so maybe you work in fashion, or another creative field, but trust us: Err on the side of caution when it comes to your look for the day. That means open-toed shoes, deep-Vs and overly busy prints probably won’t do you any favors during the interview. That’s because too-casual clothing signals you’re perhaps too lax about the role and whether you get it or not.
Now, while not every job means you need to arrive a la Ally McBeal, it does mean that a polished look could carry you far. So, scope out the company’s dress code beforehand and get a sense of the office vibe. Be yourself, just your best self.
Don’t appear desperate
Maybe your interview is coming at a point when you’ve hit one of the dreaded job-hunting slumps. You know, the ones where the gap between when you apply and hear back is so big you’re started twitching anytime someone asks you, “how is the job hunt going?” Or, maybe, you just really, really need this job. In fact, any job will do.
Unfortunately, hiring managers can sniff out when an applicant is desperate for a role — any role. And, while eagerness to work for a company is great, hiring managers want to work with confident employees who they believe will contribute to the company. Confident job seekers know that not every role is for them.
Which is why it’s also a good idea to remember that job interviews are a two-way street. Focus on selling yourself. Explain why you’re a great fit for that particular role and ask questions that show you understand why the job is perfect for you.
Don’t speak negatively about a previous job/boss
Micromanaging bosses from hell, less-than-stellar coworkers, or a general lack of appreciation at your last job could all be true (and valid!) reasons for why you left a company to seek new opportunities. But, save any gripes about your old gig for venting sessions over happy hour with your trusted friends.
The hiring manager who’s debating whether or not you’d be a good employee? Yeah, they definitely don’t want to hear you bad-mouthing your former boss. Focus, instead, on what projects you’re proud of, why you’re excited about the role and what you can contribute that no one else can. Positive vibes, y’all!
Don’t give your salary range
OK, so this one can be tricky: Hiring managers might ask you what your desired salary range is, but that doesn’t mean you should answer right then and there. After all, if you name a salary that’s below their budget for the role, you’re opening the door for a company to pay you less, because you expect less. Name a range that’s too high and you also risk turning off an employer because now you’re out of their budget.
Remember, the interview is the place to show them why they should hire you; not to negotiate your potential compensation package. Leave that stuff for when your negotiating power is at its highest: When you’ve been made an offer.
Finally, do always remember to take a breath, relax, and be yourself.
“People get so anxious and nervous and they miss the whole point,” Merrill says. “Hiring managers bring in people that are likeable, that you want to get along with in the office.”