I have interviewed hundreds of people in my career and have truly enjoyed every one. However, I must admit there are a few “interview pet peeves” that get me. I believe that no one wants to botch up the interview. However, there are a few things that you can do that would put you at a disadvantage.
Here are my interview pet peeves in no particular order.
Lack of Preparation
It’s a bad sign when a candidate comes into the interview and doesn’t have a clear grasp of the position they are interviewing for or knows what the company does. Time is precious. If the company has invested its time and energy to meet you, do your part and research the company and the position. And let’s acknowledge that you have spent a lot of time and energy to get the interview. Show up energetically and professionally to do your best.
Answering Questions Quickly
I recently attended a Wheel of Fortune audition. When it came time to interview the potential contestants, the last thing the host wanted was to hear someone who was so rehearsed they weren’t answering the questions or seemed “plastic.” You want to sound prepared, not rehearsed. Take time to listen to the interviewer’s questions and take a few seconds before you respond. Remember, you are having a conversation. Be engaged. Be interested rather than interesting. Formulate your responses with clarity, specificity, and enough information, so your answer doesn’t seem too short or too long. (Aim for no longer than a 2-minute response per question.)
Being Vague or Uncertain as to Why You Want the Position
Communicate specifically why you want the position. If you’re going to leave your company because there is no room for advancement, you merely don’t like the work, or maybe you don’t have the best relationship with your manager and want to leave, figure out the best way to communicate that. There is a reason why you are applying. Find the best way to communicate your intentions authentically.
No Personality / Lack of Personality
It is perfectly natural to be nervous or on edge because this is an important interview for you. But, you have to show the interviewer you have a pulse! Let your verbal and non-verbal communication show you are interested. Be engaged in the conversation. Smile. Make good eye-contact. Give an appropriately firm handshake. Be engaged.
Remember, aside from your technical expertise, the interviewer is trying to determine how well you will fit with their team. If he/she can’t get a good feeling about that, you are not giving yourself the best chance moving forward.
Not Dressing Appropriately
I firmly believe that it is better to be over-dressed for the interview, than underdressed. You can align with the company norms regarding attire once you get there. Make sure your interview attire is neat and professional. If you are interviewed on video, dress as if you were going into the office. Make sure your suit/attire is neatly pressed. No wrinkles or stains! If you are prone to spilling something on you, bring something to help you take care of that. I have been known to pack an extra dress shirt and tie for interviews just in case I got an unexpected stain on them.
It’s annoying when someone interrupts, but during an interview, it is also rude. Let the interviewer finish their thoughts. If you unintentionally interrupt, apologize and let them finish. Anticipating how they are going to finish their question or sentence is not advised. Listen. Listen carefully. And remember your manners.
Not Being Able to Tell a Clear Story
When answering interview questions that require you to tell a story, it’s particularly frustrating when a candidate isn’t able to put clear thoughts together. Stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. In a previous blog post, I referenced using the STAR method when responding to behavioral interview questions. Your interviewer is not only listening to what you say, but how you say it.
Using Too Many Buzzwords and Filler Words
Sometimes people think they need to drop the latest jargon or catchphrase in an interview. Be careful of that. For example, when people say they are a great team player, I always ask them to explain what they meant. The candidate is assuming that we have the same definition, but until I ask them for clarification, I don’t know. Be careful of your language. If you use a particular “buzzword,” define it, so there is clarity. And watch the use of filler words such as “um,” “like,” “you know,” “so,” etc. Filler words make it difficult to hear your message and make you sound as if you don’t have all of your thoughts together. Slow down. Think about what you are going to say. And say it clearly.
Not Mastering the Phone / Video Interview
Before you get to the in-person interview, you may be asked to participate in a phone interview or video interview. These interviews are used to qualify potential candidates before they come into the office for an in-person meeting. There are a few good rules to follow when conducting a phone/video interview.
Don’t eat or smoke during a phone or video interview.
I know this sounds weird, but I have heard it/seen it. Having some water to drink is fine but trust me, there is nothing worse than hearing someone eat on the other end of a phone interview because the candidate “just didn’t get time to eat lunch.” And the smoking thing goes without saying.
Bad Audio and Video Quality
If you are using headphones, make sure that someone has told you about the quality of them before you use them. Telling the interviewer, “Oh, I just got a new headset for the interview. How does this sound?” isn’t your best move especially if the quality is poor. Clean your camera lens. Nobody wants to conduct a video interview if you look like you are in a fog.
“The Talking Head”
A good friend of mine is a professional videographer, and he advised me that whenever someone is doing a video to make sure that their eyes appear in the top third of the screen. I’ve conducted video interviews with people, and their head is at the bottom of the screen, and I get a great picture of their living room artwork. Video interviews are not casual. This is an opportunity for you to knock that interview out of the park!
Having No Sense of Humor
Find some way to interject your sense of humor during the interview. Having a good laugh at something that happens or by telling a funny story, let’s the interviewer know you are human and personable. If the interviewer makes a joke and you think it is funny, laugh. Remember that the interview is a dialogue between both of you. Be personable. It’s okay.
Not Following Up
After the interview is over, make sure to send a “thank you” note. Whether it is by email or snail mail, make sure you acknowledge and thank those whom you met for their time and share something about what you learned or were impressed by during your interview. Not following up is missing an opportunity to let them know how much you appreciated their time and the opportunity.
These are some of my pet peeves. I’m sharing them with you to help you “show up” for your next interview at your best. My wish for you is that any time you interview, you leave the interview knowing that you were authentically you. You “showed up” with the energy, competence, and confidence to know you’ve done all you could. Once you have done all of that, it’s time to wait on their decision.
Know that I wish you all the best in your interviews!
What are your interview pet peeves? Commen in the box below and share your thoughts with our readers.