5 interviewing turnoffs to make sure you avoid

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The Biggest Mistake You Can Make on a Job Interview

Simply being qualified for a job may get you an interview, but it won't get you the job itself. That's where interview skills come in.

Smart employers don't expect job candidates to be perfectly polished interviewees, but some turnoffs that might seem minor on your end can be deal-breakers on the employer's end. Here are five common ways candidates turn off their interviewers without even realizing it.

1. Not speaking in specifics. Interviewers are trying to understand exactly what you've accomplished in the past and how you operate. If your answers are overly vague, you're going to make it very hard for them to assess whether you're the right fit for the job. For example, there's a big difference between "I know a ton about online marketing" and "In my last role, I headed up our online marketing team and was responsible for increasing our social media engagement by 40 percent. I did that by ..." Who would you be more interested in hiring?

2. Rambling or being too long-winded. Giving long, rambling answers can signal that you're not able to organize your thoughts well and convey information reasonably quickly – and it can be annoying for an interviewer who has a number of questions to get through and limited time to do it. In some cases, being overly long-winded can also signal that you don't pick up on conversational cues; if your interviewer is looking impatient or disengaged or rushing you through an answer, it might be a sign that you need to shorten your answers. Pay attention to time cues, too; if your interviewer tells you at the start of the conversation that she has 45 minutes and a lot of questions to ask, that means you shouldn't spend 10 minutes answering the first question.

Of course, you don't want to go to the opposite extreme and give answers so short that they're not helpful. If you're unsure, you can also ask, "Did that give you what you're looking for, or would you like me to talk more in-depth about this?"

3. Not understanding the basics of what the organization does or the job itself. Obviously, you can't be expected to know every detail as an outsider, and some job ads are frustratingly vague, but if you seem to lack basic knowledge that was in the job posting or available on the company's website, you'll come across as unprepared and disengaged. When I interview someone who asks me basic questions that were answered on our website, I assume they'll be an employee who isn't terribly resourceful or self-sufficient.

4. Playing coy about questions you don't want to answer. Sometimes job candidates try to avoid talking about subjects that they worry will be unflattering, like why they left their last job or whether they've ever been fired. But most experienced interviewers can see right through attempts to avoid direct answers, and you can end up looking evasive or disingenuous. You're usually going to come across far better if you own whatever the answer is and present it confidentially and without defensiveness. If an interviewer has to dig and dig to get an answer, you could end up looking untrustworthy.

5. Minimizing or dismissing concerns about your fit for the job. This is a tough one for many people, because job seekers are typically told to sell themselves for the job they're interviewing for – but good interviewers don't want to be sold; they want to have an open discussion about your fit for the job. If an interviewer notes that you haven't had much experience with a crucial part of the job, she's looking for a candid conversation with you about how much of an obstacle that's likely to be. Or if an interviewer expresses a concern about the fact that you'd be moving from a very casual culture to a much more buttoned-up one, he's seeking a real discussion of the likely challenges with such a transition. If you brush off these concerns without really engaging with your interviewer about them, you're not likely to resolve the concern; you're just likely to make your interviewer worry that you don't quite grasp why the concern matters.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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