In our line of work we hear all kinds of horror stories of experienced and capable candidates buckling under the pressure in a face to face interview. It’s awful when it happens but it does happen; we’re only human after all.
However all those of a nervous disposition can rest assured there are far greater sins than letting the pressure get to you on the day. Interviews are an etiquette minefield that, for the unprepared, will not only guarantee you won’t get the job you’re interviewing for but any job with that employer.
The old adage ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression’ is true for a reason. You should arrive at the interview early, dressed in a smart, clean and freshly pressed outfit. Shoes should be polished and heels should be modest. Even if the environment is a casual one always turn-up looking your very best, it’s a show of respect to your would-be employer.
Equally you should meet your interviewer with a cheerful demeanour, a firm handshake and make eye contact. Get all of these things right and you’ll be in the right path.
It is important to remember that every movement, word spoken and expression whilst in the building is being observed, interpreted and scored. You should assume you are being held to the highest standard imaginable which may mean curtailing certain behaviours and challenging assumptions.
Sitting before being invited, flirting (it happens), swearing, behaving informally, crossing your legs, biting your nails, fiddling with pens/phones/trinkets/jewellery are all strict no-nos. To avoid harming your chances you should be sat straight, facing the person or persons taking the interview, with your feet firmly on the floor. Anything you’d be tempted to fiddle with should be put away and switched off.
Not bringing spare CVs
You must not assume that the interviewer(s) will have a copy of your CV with them and if they don’t it’s reasonable to assume they won't remember much if you are one of several candidates in the running.
Taking spare CVs may be an unnecessary courtesy but it demonstrates forward thinking but also provides them with a physical reminder of why they invited you to the interview.
Forgetting the question
It can be surprisingly easy to lose your thread if you’re asked to provide anecdotal evidence, however forgetting the point you were making or going off on a tangent is a sure fire way to lose you the job.
Take a moment to reflect on the question and consider your answer. Repeat the question back to confirm that you’ve understood if you need to. Write it down if you need to.
Most importantly, if you didn’t understand or didn’t hear part of the question, say so. No interviewer worth their salt will mark you down for asking for something to be clarified.
Speaking negatively about your current employer
This can be easier said than done. It’s reasonable to assume, because you’re sat in that interview room, you’re unhappy in your current job for one reason or another. However the person interviewing you knows that, they don’t need to hear the gory details.
Your reasons are no doubt valid but focus on the positive. Emphasise the reasons why you want to join the new company and express your excitement about the opportunities available. You don’t need to character assassinate of your line manager to make your point.
Remember: being overly negative or rolling out a shopping list of faults with the company can make you sound bitter and desperate. Moreover, the perception will be if you’re willing to give up your current employer, what’s to stop you from doing the same to your new one?
Unless the interviewer expressly asks, you should not bring up the subject of money, holiday entitlement, prearranged days off, flexi-time or taking shorter lunches to finish early.
Your interviewer knows you want to know but there is a time and place. All these things can be negotiated if there’s an offer on the table. Until that moment comes be patient.
Not asking questions
We’ve covered this topic at some length in a previous blog post but it cannot be stressed enough. It’s so important to ask questions to learn as much possible about the job and the company. It shows your enthusiasm to your interviewers, reassuring them that you will fit with their culture and work ethic on top of doing a great job.
But it’s far more than simply paying lip service however. It also allows you to gather the details you need to make an informed decision should you be made an offer.