As anyone who has been in a job search for a while knows, being invited to a job interview is not something easily achieved.
Becoming one of the few "job candidates" rather than being part of the usually gigantic crowd of "job applicants" is a major victory.
Unfortunately, too many job candidates blow their interview opportunities, wasting all that time and effort.
Don't be one of those candidates. Never assume that the job offer is "in the bag" simply because you were invited for an interview!
What you do during a job interview is viewed as a "sample" of your work. Everything you do is being judged because they don't know you (unless you are one of the lucky referred candidates).
Show them you would be a great hire. Don't make these mistakes:
This one drives employers crazy. Most employers have more applicants than they need or want. If you aren't demonstrably interested in them and the job, they certainly aren't interested in hiring you.
Demonstrate your interest in the company and the job. Know the job you are interviewing for and why you want the job. Be dressed appropriately. Turn off your cell phone and focus your attention on the interview and the interviewers.
Ask intelligent questions that indicate you have done some research, but do NOT ask a question that could be answered in 30 seconds with a Google search or a peek at their website's homepage.
Obvious lack of preparation is an opportunity crusher. And, lack of preparation usually becomes obvious quickly.
Be prepared! Preparation will help you demonstrate your interest in them and the job. You will also perform better in the interview when you are prepared.
Successful preparation has several elements:
Read The Winning Difference: Pre-Interview Preparation for more tips.
Sometimes, people have a whole-truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth mindset in a job interview, so they "spill their guts" in answer to every question. Not smart or useful!
I'm not recommending telling any lies, but I am recommending that you avoid boring the interviewer and blowing an opportunity by sharing too much information. If they want more details, they'll ask.
Answer their question, and then stop talking. Or, ask a question of your own.
If you never smile, have a limp handshake, and don't make eye contact with the people you meet at the employer's location, and especially with the interviewer, you'll come across as too shy or too strange or simply not interested.
Show your interest and enthusiasm. If you are naturally very shy or an introvert, express your enthusiasm as Wendy Gelberg, author of The Successful Introvert, suggests.
[If you're a veteran, put yourself at "Attention!" (but skip the "Yes, ma'am" and "Yes, sir").]
Smile, say hello, look them in the eye, and shake hands as though you really are happy to meet that person, and soon you will be.
To an employer, no questions = no interest. Number one, above, indicates how deadly that is to your success with the opportunity.
As bad as having no questions is asking the wrong questions. During the first interview, asking questions only about raises, promotions, vacation, and benefits are not usually well-received. Those questions apparently indicate that you are just interested in specific personal benefits rather than the job.
Ask the questions that occurred to you as you were doing your pre-interview research, as you talked with the people during the interview, or as you observed people in the location.
Ask for details about the job -- what an average day is like, if the job is new or being filled because the previous employee was promoted, etc.
Read 50+ Good Questions to Ask in Interviews and 45 Questions You Should NOT Ask in a Job Interview for more help.
If you were laidoff, fired, or ended your last job unpleasantly, you may feel very angry. You may be angry over a horrible commute to the interview, earlier fight with your kids or spouse, or anything else. Whatever the reason, dump the anger before the interview, at least temporarily.
Angry people are NOT people employers want to hire. Angry people are not fun to work with. They may frighten co-workers and/or customers or clients. They may also abuse both people and equipment (computers, cars, etc.). Not good contributors to a happy workplace or a prosperous business, even if they don't "go postal."
Stop, before you enter the employer's premises, take a few deep breaths, focus on the opportunity that awaits you at this potential employer, put a smile on your face, and do your best to switch gears mentally so you are not "in a bad place" in your mind.
Unless you are interviewing for a job as a comedian or host/hostess in a social club, don't try to be entertaining or amusing. And, don't flirt with anyone, including the receptionist and the security guard.
If making them laugh isn't a requirement of the job, take the interview seriously. Save flirting for your second day of work.
Don't chew gum or bring food or drink into the interview. Mind your manners, like your Mother taught you, and be polite to everyone you meet there. The interview is an "audition" for the job. Show them your best!
Many job seekers leave the interview(s) with no idea of what will happen next in this employer's hiring process. They also often don't know who is the best person to contact as well as when and how to contact that person.
At the beginning of the interview "play (business) cards" with the interviewer(s). Hand them your business card (or networking card, if you are employed), and ask for their card. This is the best way to gather the name, job title, location, and contact information of each person who interviews you. If you don't have this information, you won't be able to proceed with appropriate job interview follow-up (Mistake #9).
Then, as the interview ends, ask what the next steps in their hiring process are if no one volunteers the information. Find out who your post-interview contact is and when and how to contact that person. Note the email address and/or phone number carefully, paticularly if you don't have that person's business card.
For more details, read The 5 Absolute MUST-ASK Questions in Your Next Job Interview.
Don't go to the interview thinking that you are the only one trying to "make a sale." You need to ask questions to help you discover if the job, the people you would be working with, and the employer are what you want. You also need to decide if you would be happy working there for at least one year.
Have your own list of questions ready (not the ones in #6 above). Observe what is happening at the location. Are employees and customers smiling or not? Do people seem busy or bored? Does the environment look like a pleasant place to spend most of your day? Is the location is good or bad for you (commute, parking, personal safety, etc.)? Anything else catch your attention (noisy, very quiet, bad music playing constantly, crummy restrooms, scary elevators, etc.)?
Read 50+ Good Questions to Ask in Interviews for ideas.
Often, job seekers leave at the end of the interview(s) with a sigh of relief that the interview is over, and they can get on with their lives. They leave, and wait to receive a job offer.
Remember this is a demonstration of the quality of your work as an employee.To stand out in the crowd of job candidates, which usually number four or five, immediately send your thank you notes to each person who interviewed you. Also send a thank you to the external recruiter, if one was involved, or the employee or networking contact who referred you for the opportunity, if you were referred.
To send an effective thank you, read Sending Your Thank You After the Job Interview including the Sample Job Interview Thank You to the External Recruiter who may have referred you.
Everyone makes mistakes, and, often, the mistakes are not "fatal" for your job search. But, do your best to avoid these errors, and you should have a short job search.
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.