Every time you get an interview, it seems like you have no idea how to go about it. You fuss over what to wear, what to say, even what to eat that morning. When you seek out advice, you get all manner of opinions, and often they conflict with each other. So where you do start? First of all, focus on what not to do.
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1. Don’t overshare.
Despite how much you think you should go on about yourself, getting confessional during the interview sends the wrong message to your potential new employer. Topics to avoid include: dumping on your last job, dumping on your own accomplishments, or spending the whole interview with the focus solely on yourself.
The way to avoid these pitfalls is to spread out the attention. If they ask what you didn’t like about your last job, you should be diplomatic, not crushing. Should they ask about what your “weaknesses” are, have a response ready to go that doesn’t undermine the whole “we might like you enough to hire you” thing. And during the course of the interview, make sure to ask about the job or company a little bit. (But don’t be generic; prove you’ve done your homework.)
2. Don’t be arrogant.
When you’re talking about your accomplishments, keep things mellow when it comes to tooting your own horn. Yes, you will have to talk a bit about your job history and things that you’ve done that are awesome, but it shouldn’t come off as “I’m way more amazing than all of you losers.”
One way to ensure you don’t come off as a jerk is to practice some basic social graces. These can even translate to the outside world, too. Try listening, really listening, to your interviewer. Have a conversation that isn’t just about what you’ve done, but instead talk about what the company has done recently to make them stand out in your eyes. When you’re a good listener, you elicit more compassion from others. Practice your eye contact, and stay engaged during the entire tete-a-tete.
3. Don’t get too relaxed.
A hiring manager once told me how aghast she was when an interviewee showed up in leggings and a tee shirt. While the interviewee might have thought this was hip and casual, and the office certainly didn’t appreciate what came off as her lack of seriousness for the situation.
While it’s debatable whether interviews at anything other than law firms and banks require full-on suits these days, it should still be something that you take a minute to think about in advance. Take some time to shine your shoes, put on your game face, and pull together copies of your resume. Interviews don’t have to mean you go overboard and become something you’re not, but they should reflect that it’s some serious business and you’re a smart, serious business type who’s ready for their new job.
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