5 ways you don't realize you're turning off your job interviewer
If you've prepared for a job interview recently, you probably know the basics – bring extra copies of your resume, don't bad-mouth your previous employers, arrive on time and so forth. But as someone who's interviewed hundreds of job candidates, I can tell you that there's a lot more that goes into the kind of impression you make, and that an awful lot of candidates do things that really turn off interviewers, probably without having any idea it's happening.
Here are five ways that you might be turning off your job interviewer without even realizing it.
Only looking at or addressing one of your interviewers. If you're interviewing with more than one person at a time, it's important to make sure that you're looking at and speak to all of them. Sometimes candidates will address their answers only to the person they believe is the most important one in the room, which comes across as remarkably rude! (Not to mention, sometimes they're wrong about who the decision-maker is.) Make sure to make eye contact with all your interviewers as you're speaking, so that you don't inadvertently appear dismissive.
Learn the body language mistakes that can make an interview go sour:
Being so formal that the interviewer can't get a real sense of you. Sometimes people get so nervous about job interviews or so hung up on what they perceive as the formality of the occasion that they go into what I think of as "interview persona": They become so formal and reserved that it's impossible to get a sense of what they would actually be like to work with day to day. On the interviewer's side of things, this can be a killer – because you can't responsibly hire someone without knowing what they're really like to work with. Obviously you don't want to treat an interview like a night out on the town with friends, but you should strive to be reasonably relaxed and conversational and let some personality show. A good way to think about it is the way you'd conduct yourself in a meeting with a colleague who you don't see every day but have a warm relationship with.
Offering up fake weaknesses. Interviewers are increasingly moving away from that old "tell me your strengths and weaknesses" standby, in part because so many candidates refuse to answer it honestly. But savvy interviewers will try to get at your weaknesses in other ways, such as by asking what kind of developmental feedback you've received or what areas you're working on improving in. An awful lot of candidates respond to these questions with answers that they think will make them look good – like, "I'm a perfectionist" or "I have trouble not taking work home with me." Leaving aside the fact that neither of these things is actually appealing to a good manager (perfectionism can waste resources and not disconnecting from work can lead to burnout), these sorts of answers have become so cliche that most interviewers see right through them. You'll come across as disingenuous and either lacking in self-reflection or unwilling to have an honest conversation about your strengths and weaknesses and how they might play out in the job.
Turning your time for questions into a sales pitch for yourself. When your interviewer asks what questions you have, this is your cue to ask genuine questions that you have about the work or the company, so that you are better equipped to figure out if the job is the right fit for you. Yet some candidates use this time to ask questions that are really just set-ups to try to sell themselves for the job. For example, they'll ask about whether the job includes much opportunity for, say, public speaking, and then follow that up with a lengthy discourse about their public speaking skills. Or when the interviewer mentions in response to a query about the workplace culture that the team is highly collaborative, the candidate will respond with a long explanation of their past successes in collaboration.
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When interviewers ask what questions you have, they want to use the time to answer things you're genuinely wondering about – not have you pass up that opportunity in order to do a hard sell of yourself.
Not paying attention to your interviewer's cues. Your interviewer will probably give off a fair number of cues if you pay attention, particularly around how they'd like to manage the conversation. Some of those cues might be explicit, like if your interviewer announces at the start of the meeting how long they've set aside for the conversation or says that they have a large number of questions to get through. But some are more subtle, such as an interviewer who seems interested and engaged in what you're saying (thus signaling that you're on the right track with your answers) versus one who looks bored or impatient (and thus probably wants you to start wrapping up an answer that might be rambling). By paying attention to your interviewer's cues, you'll be better able to align your own approach to the conversation with theirs, which will likely result in a stronger conversation and better overall impression.
Now check out 10 things you should say in an interview:
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