Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Learn From the Job Interview Mistakes I've Made, and Be Better For It

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I've made a lot of job interview mistakes in my lifetime of looking for jobs. And although at this point, I can navigate the labyrinth of the interviewing process fairly well; I have definitely committed my share of blunders. I'd like to share some of those with you, in hopes that you might not repeat them; or at least give you a good chuckle.
Learning from your mistakes is a good thing. Learning from the mistakes of other is a great thing.
So, without further ado; here are a few of my blunders.

1. Not respecting the interviewer's time.
There are essentially 2 ways you can blow this. First is in taking too long to give an answer. There are all kinds of pithy advice out there about having 2 ears and 1 mouth, meaning that you should listen twice as long as you speak. That could work. The key is that an interview is a give and take between you and interviewer (s). The interviewer asks a question. You answer in bite-size pieces that she can digest and end by framing it into a relevant question. She answers, giving you time to think. If you don't, you run into the 2nd way that you disrespect an interviewer's time; which is overstaying your welcome.
This is hard - I get that. You've been out of work for a while; and finally, you are in front of a human being that can give you a job. The last thing you want is to get in and out without fully presenting your case. And yet you must. You must be out in 20 minutes - absolutely no more than 30 minutes. Even if the interviewer wants to spend more time with you; respect her time and get out. If you cannot persuade the interviewer to move your along the hiring process with a 20 to 30 minute session - an hour will not improve your chances, to the contrary, it will only make it worse.
And speaking of worse - don't make the interviewer looked at her watch.
I had an interview that I thought was going great. I was hitting on all cylinders. This guy was simply enamored with me. I was in - like Flint. Then he yawned. Then it was over. I was in there for over an hour. Pathetic. Don't you make the same mistake.
So, don't make the interviewer look at her watch; and definitely, don't make her yawn.

2. Dumb jokes to break the ice.
I was invited to a panel interview with 3 individuals (2 HR and 1 Management). I had already met with one of the interviewers and that got me in front of this panel. I was very excited. The opportunity was with a major airline and I had already cleared a few hurdles.
Somewhere toward the beginning of the interview, I make a joke about "how great it would be to work here, at least you get to fly for free." What was I thinking?
No jokes, no funnies - no irrelevance. Respect the interviewer, respect the company, and don't be compelled to break the ice (they're break it for you).

3. Late to an interview and being "different."
Don't be late and don't dress in anything other than a conservative business suit with a plain, matching tie. I was late and I wore a red tie with white sheeps all over it except for one black sheep right in the middle of the tie. I thought it was cute. I thought I was quite magnificent in using the black sheep symbol to illustrate my willingness to stand for my principles and willingness to do the right thing in spite of tremendous pressure to go along.

You know - HR folks like people who fit in. They want to preserve the corporate culture. They aren't necessarily looking for Lewis and Clark to beat a new path through the wilderness. An owner might, but chances are, HR is not. I was meeting with an HR manager.
She probably thought I was a potential troublemaker and a blowhard. I was magnificent in my mind, but obviously not in her's. I didn't get a call back. Of all the things you must do; the one thing you cannot do is shoot yourself in the foot.
So, there you have it - three of the biggest blunders I have made in the past. Before you do into any interview, spend some time dissecting and analyzing your last performance. Learn from your mistakes. Better yet, learn from my job interview mistakes.

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