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Interview Errors That Smart People Make Every Day

Because you’re reading this, I’ll presume you’re a proactive job seeker who knows all the interview essentials by heart. For example, you would never come up to a job interview without fresh copies of your résumé, engaging questions to ask, and a working knowledge of what the company does.

Wouldn’t you?

As a recruiting manager in my company (and as someone who knows a lot of people), I’m often astounded by the basic blunders that otherwise excellent candidates make. In fact, there are five that I keep seeing that you should avoid at all costs.

1. Arriving late
Yes. This still occurs. And I don’t believe it’s because people believe it’s acceptable to be late. It happens more frequently than not because applicants don’t take the time to plan how long everything will take, from sneaking out of their office to taking the elevator to the 35th level of a large building. Unfortunately, “traffic was horrible” isn’t an acceptable explanation for a recruiting manager who organised her day around your arrival on time.

A decent rule of thumb is to arrive five to ten minutes early for an interview so you may relax, use the restroom if necessary, and review your strategy before the appointment. You can easily accomplish this by looking up instructions the night before and then allowing additional time for traffic, packed parking lots, or your boss catching you on your way out and asking if you had time to review the reports he sent over last night.

2. Failure to Keep a Hard Copy of Your Resume
Sure, you emailed your resume to the recruiting manager, which is why you’re here right now. And, yes, your whole work history is available on LinkedIn.

But here’s the catch: while the interviewer may have seen all of this recently (quite recently, in fact), it’s probably not fresh in his or her mind. Particularly if he or she assessed multiple applicants in a succession. Bringing a hard copy accomplishes two things: it refreshes his recollection of why he likes you so much, and it gives you the appearance of being prepared for anything.

Always bring two to three copies of your resume with you so that the person you’re meeting with may keep it in front of him during the session.

3. Inappropriate Dress
Early in his career, a copywriter friend dressed in a suit and tie for an interview at a large advertising firm. He knew he wouldn’t get the job the moment he went in and noticed that practically every employee was dressed in jeans and sneakers (and he was right). The good news is that he learnt his lesson and dressed more casually for his next interview, which led to him landing a terrific job.

Before your interview, learn about the company’s dress code. To put it another way, follow it (and individual employees) on social media.
Yes, people prefer to dress more informally in some contexts (such as startups or creative sectors). However, even within those firms, there is a line that should not be crossed. So, do as much study as you can so you can prove you’re a culture fit simply by what you’re wearing.

4. Failure to Conduct Due Diligence on the Company
Nowadays, it’s far too easy to find information on a company. As a result, coming up unprepared looks exceedingly horrible. You don’t need to know the company’s profit margin in 2013, but you should understand what they do, how they do it, and where they intend to go.

All of this can be learned by searching for recent headlines, creating a Google alert to receive the latest news on the company delivered to your inbox, following the brand on social media to receive real-time updates, and speaking with anyone you know who works there to learn about the culture and the open position.

At the very least, research the individual with whom you’ll be interviewing or working on LinkedIn and social media to get a sense of his or her work and personality. If you discover that you attended to the same college or that you both have dogs, bring it up in the conversation to build that extra connection.

5. Arriving Unassisted
As someone who has interviewed hundreds of people over the course of my career, there is virtually nothing more vexing than getting to the end of an interview and asking, “So, what questions do you have for me?” and the individual examines her notes (or hands) before saying, “Um, I guess you answered everything.”

And, sure, it is doable if you arrive at the interview prepared with basic questions such, “What are the job’s daily responsibilities?” But I’m not looking for someone who asks simple questions; I’m looking for someone who is so eager to work here that he or she has genuine concerns about the position’s objectives, the company’s vision, and the culture.

That implies you should always attend at an interview prepared with at least ten intelligent questions to ask your interviewer. A handful of them should be so personal that the recruiting manager will find it difficult to respond to them in a 25-minute conversation. “Are you married?” is not a personal question. Personal questions, such as “How do you personally define success on this team?” as well as “What is your favourite aspect of your current role?”

Remember that this is an opportunity for you to interview the company as well as for the firm to get to know you. With that in the back of your mind, ask questions.

Keep these fundamentals in mind the next time you land an interview. They may appear basic, but believe me when I say you’ll be much ahead of everyone else.


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