Job Hunting? Avoid These Mistakes and Impress Hiring Manager

What Not to Do and Say on the Important Interview Day

By TORY JOHNSON
Workplace Contributor

Aug. 3, 2010 —

It's hard enough landing an interview, so when you do, you don't want to blow it. Here are 10 mistakes to avoid when sitting in the hot seat to win over the hiring manager.

Overwhelming the interviewer

There's a fine line between being thoroughly prepared and overwhelming the interviewer with too much information, says Gretchen Gunn of MGD Services, a New Jersey-based staffing firm. Being extremely over-prepared can backfire because you don't want to walk in with charts, reports or unlimited data that says you have all of the answers and are ready to take over the place. This is especially relevant for older, more experienced workers who are either applying for lower level positions or meeting with decision makers who are junior. Do your homework -- know everything you can about the position, the company, the industry, competitors -- but don't walk in with a plan to do a mind dump with all of that. Let the employer guide the agenda of the meeting -- and speak up confidently with your knowledge and ideas as appropriate. You can wow them without overwhelming.

Unable to answer questions about the past and future

Many mistakes surround how you answer expected questions, warns Ted Sakis, operations director at InMotion Hosting in Virginia Beach. Many people can't answer, "What have you been doing since you lost your job?" nor can they explain their five-year plan. Be ready to explain what you've been doing while out of work. "Looking for a job" isn't an exciting answer. If you haven't volunteered, taken a class or temped, then share a great book you're reading. Anyone can do that. As for the five-year plan, the answer should relate to the work you're pursuing. Saying things like "cruising the Caribbean," which plenty of people jokingly say, won't generate laughs.

Exhibiting over-confidence

Dan Black, Americas director of campus recruiting at Ernst & Young, says a great resume and terrific experience doesn't mean much if the candidate is smug or overly cocky in the interview. He also cautions against mentioning competitive offers from another company during a first interview since it's too early to negotiate.

Failing to ask smart questions

Similarly, it's a turnoff when applicants expect only to answer questions, but not ask them. Interviewing is a sales process???you're selling yourself. The best sales people ask questions, and interviewees should too.

Overlooking the details

Tony Conway, owner of A Legendary Event, a popular catering and event planning company in Atlanta, interviews hundreds of applicants a year. He's all about the details, which he says many people don't get. Among his pet peeve mistakes: Don't show up late and tell me you got lost. (Make the drive the day before.) Don't forget your resume and tell me you e-mailed it. (Bring it with you.) Don't say you don't want to work nights or weekends. (This is event planning???plan to work we work event hours.) Don't confuse our company with a competitor. (You may be interviewing with several, but keep it straight!)

Revealing desperation This one is challenging to avoid, especially now. A skilled interviewer can get you to let your hair down and reveal stuff that you shouldn't talk about. Financial woes and trouble finding work have no place in the interview process. Keep your personal situation private.

Behaving informally

Believe it or not, some candidates get way too informal???offering bear hugs, fist pumps, or chest bumps after the interview. Others will ask the interviewer to grab drinks after work or become friends on Facebook. You want to connect professionally, but not nearly as informally as these actions suggest.

Criticizing former employers

Never trash-talk your former employer, no matter how temping. Nothing good will come of it because recruiters wonder if you're criticizing the old boss, might you do the same about them?

Mistreating the receptionist

Everyone you encounter???from the security guard and front desk receptionist to the recruiter and hiring manager???will have a say in the process, so treat everyone with great respect. Assume you're being watched and judged from the moment you enter the offices.

Skipping the thanks

Not sending a thank you note after an interview is just as bad as sending one with typos or mistakes. Don't be generic; customize the note to reflect the conversation and to share additional details that build on the discussion.

Tory Johnson is the CEO of Women For Hire and the Workplace Contributor for ABC's "Good Morning America." Connect with her at Twitter.com/ToryJohnson or Facebook.com/Tory.

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