Posted November 28, 2017 by

What to do in an interview, and 7 things NOT to do


Entry-level job seekers, if you are invited to a job interview, you’ll definitely want to prepare. We have lots of advice on the College Recruiter blog about what to do in an interview, what to say, and how to dress, but today we will go further and discuss what not do as well. Vicky Oliver, author of “301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions” and other bestselling career books, has advice to avoid blowing your chance at the job. Here are seven things you should avoid:

  1. Don’t be late

The number one thing you should avoid is showing up late. Oliver says, “It shows real disrespect for the interviewer’s time.” Arriving late will tell the interviewer that you don’t really want to be there. You should always plan to arrive, at the very least, 10 minutes early. This will allow you to still get to the interview on time, even if it’s difficult to find parking or if there is traffic or construction, anything that could easily happen.

Oliver stresses that “if you’re going to be late, you really need to call.” You should never be late to an interview, but if you are for any reason, you need to call. If the interviewer has been waiting for you for even 5 minutes, they’re going to wonder if you are going to show at all. A phone call saying you are running late won’t look good, but no phone call at all would be disastrous.

If you are a person that is usually ‘casually late’ to things,  plan on getting there a half hour ahead of time. This would even give you time to grab a coffee or take a little walk around the block. This time will also possibly allow you to settle any nerves and focus on what you are there to do. You’re there to nail the interview. To nail the interview, you need to show up on time.

  1. Don’t be distracted (by your phone or by something you have to do later)

Don't be distracted during a job interviewShowing up late and then also having a busy mind can be a disastrous combination. Nowadays we all multitask too much. We tend to pull out our phones while we are having a conversation, or our minds wander to things that are going on later that day, and we lose our spot in an article or book. It can be difficult to remind ourselves to focus on one thing at a time.

“The interviewer will notice if you’re not on your game,” Oliver warns. So make sure your phone is all the way off. You do not want to risk it ringing, beeping, or buzzing while you’re explaining yourself or being asked a question. You won’t be on your phone anyway, so it’s not worth having it on. Even with your phone off, there is a lot that you can distract yourself with. Keep your mind focused on the interview, don’t start thinking about other things happening later that day, or where you’re going right after the interview. This will lead you to lose track of the conversation, and that can be quite embarrassing.

Let’s say you get there on time, you dress correctly, you’ve done your homework, and your phone is off. A lot can still happen during the period of the interview. They get a phone call, some employee comes in to ask the interviewer a question, or they need to go deal with something in the office. You cannot let those things distract you, no matter how challenging.

Related: How to respond to the 5 most basic interview questions  

  1. Don’t forget to ask questions at the end of the interview

Another damaging thing would be to have no follow up questions for your interviewer. Oliver encourages interviewees to have at least five questions that you want to ask, knowing you probably won’t have a chance to ask all of them. It’s so important to have deep questions that demonstrate your interest in and knowledge of the company. Don’t ask questions that can be answered by the company website. If, during the interview, they answer one of your possible follow up questions, it’s a good thing you have four more.

Good questions include what the job would be like, how much interaction and communication is involved. Make sure to ask questions involving the information you researched about the company. Oliver proposes the question, “I was curious about what happened when that client left last year…” This will show that you really know what you are talking about. Simply look up your interviewer on Google and read a few of their articles or find out something interesting about them that you share in common. Then bring it up in the interview if there is a chance. If not, bring it up at the end when they ask if you have any questions. This shows them you’re actually having a conversation.

  1. Don’t take notes

Don't take notes during a job interviewYou should never take notes in an interview. Oliver admits that not everyone agrees with her about this. She explains that if you’ve been listening attentively and are able to retain bits of information to formulate into a question later, “you shine like a star.” A little curiosity and attentiveness is super helpful when it comes to interviewing.

It’s so much less important to write down every last detail than to keep eye contact. Have a conversation–you’re not in a lecture. Writing down everything will keep you in your own little bubble. According to Oliver, “by nodding and showing that you understand” you are creating a comfortable environment. You should be attempting to bond with the person across the table from you.

Do, however, go over the interview right after. Once you leave and are out of sight, write down the details of the interview. This will help you come up with good follow up questions for the next meeting. Take note of anything interesting your interviewers mentioned about themselves, too. It’s always nice to have someone come back later and ask how something went. It shows you care about them and not just getting the position.

  1. Don’t think of the interview as the end of the process

The interview is just the beginning. Oliver describes a job interview as, “the first in a series of conversations.” You want to make sure that in future follow up interviews you continue with a dialogue. It’s helpful after any meeting to jot down some information to remember and possibly bring up again at the next meeting. This is networking in essence; continuing a conversation with someone. A good thing to remember is that even if you don’t get the job, you have some something to start with when you go somewhere else.

Another important thing to keep in mind during the hiring process is the type of question you’re asking. There’s a big difference between what questions you ask at the end of the first interview and the questions you ask once you’ve been offered the job. Oliver suggests avoiding topics such as promotions, performance review scheduling, and other topics that really only affect you farther along in that position. Instead, ask how someone in that position is measured. Choose questions that are not too difficult for them to answer. You don’t want to derail them.

  1. Don’t dress inappropriately

A good rule of thumb is to wear what you would be wearing if you already had the job and were showing up to work that day. If you are questioning if you’re underdressed, take it up a notch. It is much better to be over dressed than underdressed. Obviously, you don’t want to go overboard. For example, if everyone there wears a t-shirt and shorts, maybe wear a nice shirt and pants, not a 3-piece suit. You want your interviewer to know you are considering the work culture, to know that you’ll fit in. They should be able to see that you understand there is dress decorum. That you are following that decorum.

Related: An entry-level job seeker’s guide to interview outfits

  1. Don’t skip a good night’s sleep the night before

Get good sleep before your job interviewFinally, get a good night’s sleep. You do not want to be off your game. Mistakes will be made if you arrive exhausted.  Some mistakes might be detrimental to your chance of being hired. Oliver remembers an experience she had where the interviewee fell. Missed the chair entirely and fell on the ground. Yeah, that was embarrassing, but you don’t want it to affect the course of the interview. Do your best to laugh it off. Joke a bit about how clumsy you are (even if you’re not… it’s a good excuse), and carry on with the meeting.

Lack of sleep can also diminish your ability to think on the spot. You want to show up sharp and focused. Be ready to answer any question, expected or not, that comes your way. Another little tip from Oliver is that “people who interview in the morning tend to get the job more often than those who interview in the afternoon.” Not a huge difference, but if you have the choice, go for the morning slot. Be sure to show up well rested and early.

Vicky Oliver career consultantAbout Vicky Oliver: Vicky is the author of award-winning career development books. Her career advice has been featured in over 901 media outlets, including the New York Times Job Market section, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and Esquire magazine. She has been interviewed on over 601 radio programs. Her first book, “301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions” (Sourcebooks, 2005), is a national bestseller in its third U.S. printing.

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