Fifteen Ways to Knock Yourself Out of the Job Search Race

Interviews are challenging enough without competing against yourself. Yet, everyday, thousands of job seekers beat themselves. They knock themselves out of competition for jobs because they do something that irritates an interviewer.

If you haven’t received a job offer, maybe it’s time to determine if you may be doing something to turn off the hiring manager.

Over the past several months, I have been sending out questionnaires to experienced managers to determine the reasons job seekers fail to advance in the interviewing process. After reviewing their responses, I came up with a list of the Top 15 interviewer turn-offs.

1. Lack of preparation

This was the managers’ No. 1 response. Managers had zero tolerance for a job candidate who had not taken time to research the company or the position. The managers reasoned that if someone was too lazy to do the very minimum of visiting a company website, than he or she would be too lazy to meet job expectations.

2. Poor appearance or inappropriate dress

Managers were in agreement that this nonverbal communication was high on the disqualification list for job seekers. Our appearance and the way we dress convey credibility and confidence. Credibility and confidence have a direct impact on our ability to influence others.

3. Arriving late for the interview

When you arrive late, the impression you convey to the interviewer is that you aren’t that interested in the position, or that you are just plain disorganized. Neither one of those impressions is how you want to begin the interview. You either need a very good explanation if you arrive late or the hiring manager must be really desperate to hire someone in order for you to have a successful interview.

4. Difficulty articulating answers

You can anticipate 80 to 90 percent of the questions that an interviewer will ask. Because you can predict what the questions will be, you can prepare and practice your answers in advance. Trying to think on the spot is one of the reasons individuals have difficulty articulating answers. Take that pressure off yourself by rehearsing your answers in advance.

5. Lack of successful experiences or accomplishments

Most people agree that the best predictor of future success is past success. Consequently, most interviewers will want to know about your accomplishments. If you hesitate on this question, the interviewer will wonder why you think you can be successful in the future. When a person can’t think of some achievements in an interview, it’s not because he or she doesn’t have any. It’s because of failing to think about them before the interview. Prepare to discuss four or five achievements. Wrap them into stories detailing what, where, when and how they took place. Be prepared with these short stories when the interviewer asks you to mention some of your past successes.

6. Speaking poorly of a former employer

The old saying, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything,” is never more true than during an interview. If you have something negative to say about your old employer, tell your old employer about it – not a prospective new one.

7. Boasting or arrogance

Satchel Paige, the great pitching legend, used to say: “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” In an interview, make sure you can back up the accomplishments you claim with concrete examples and evidence.

“Arrogance is something that always turns me off,” said Mark Wainscott, regional manager for Spectranedics. “There is a fine line of being confident and highlighting your accomplishments versus telling me how great you are. If someone doesn’t understand where that line is drawn, I usually don’t ask that person back for another interview.”

8. Negative attitude

A negative attitude is like a virus. It spreads quickly. No intelligent manager wants to allow a person with a negative attitude to infiltrate the organization. The first line of defense to prevent negative attitudes from entering an organization is during the interview. Successful companies know that “positive people get positive results.” They also know the opposite is true. Check your negative attitude at the door if you want to have any chance of advancing in the interview process.

9. Not asking relevant questions

Asking relevant questions demonstrates two qualities that interviewers like to see in a job candidate:

• Curiosity about the company and position

• Interest in the position

10. Not asking for the job

The managers I surveyed said that when a job candidate does not ask for the job, they assume that the job seeker is not interested in the position. At the very minimum, a job candidate needs to ask, “What is the next step in the interview process?”

11. Not sending an e-mail or letter after the interview

Laura Ball, marketing manager for Kimberly Clark, emphasized the importance of follow-up after an interview. Sending a thank-you e-mail or letter to the hiring manger demonstrates:

• Interest in the position

• Attention to detail

• Ability to follow-up

12. Lack of good eye contact

Looking a person in the eye (at least in our culture) connotes self-confidence. When we fail to make eye contact, it may give the impression that we are trying to be evasive. It’s difficult to connect and build rapport with an interviewer if you don’t make adequate eye contact. But don’t just stare into someone’s eyes. The best rule of thumb is to mimic the interviewer’s eye contact. If he or she holds eye contact for three to five seconds, you need to the same.

13. Weak handshake

June Simmons, AtriCure Inc. sales analyst said: “Greet me with a firm, solid handshake, look me in the eye and say hello. Don’t give me a fish handshake that makes me feel that you are uncomfortable with what you are doing and yourself. You have to sell yourself to me and convince me that you are the right person for the position.”

14. Poor posture

Sit up straight in the chair, with a forward lean. Don’t slump. Poor posture can be interpreted as a sign of lack of interest and/or low energy level.

15. Displaying nervousness

It’s good to have some nervous energy prior to an interview. But it’s important to make that nervous energy work for you and not against you. If you feel nervous, take the pressure off yourself by focusing your attention on the interviewer. Try to get the interviewer talking about himself or herself and soon your nervous energy will dissipate.

Most interviewers are trained to look for the negatives in potential job candidates. Don’t make their job too easy. Learn to avoid these 15 common interviewer turn-offs and increase the chances for your next job offer.

BoomersNextStep Guest Author

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