What Not to Do in an Interview

Six-Figure Job Interview Guide

There are many things that can go wrong during an interview. This section will help you avoid common mistakes and stay ahead of competition.

Believe it or not, “guessing” is one of the biggest mistakes you can make during an interview. Do not guess! If you are unsure about a certain question, rephrase it, and if necessary, ask back to confirm. This not only buys time, but also helps you stay on track.

Do not make the mistake of offering suggestions for the company for which you are interviewing. While it is very important to have a solid point of view, there’s a very fine line between expressing your opinion and actually making suggestions about an environment with which you are not familiar.If the interviewer specificallyask you how you would do something atthat company, only refer to your own success stories or to specific procedures/steps that have worked well for you in the past in similar situation.

Don’t be cynical or negative,o matter how sympathetic the interviewer may seem. Some interviewers use this tactic to have you spill the beans about why you are really looking for a new opportunity. Stick to your story, no matter how much you would like to let the interviewer know that your current manager sucks or how low the pay is that you receive.

Do not try to cover up. If you are being asked a technical question to which you do not know the answer, be honest and answer that you do not know the answer to this question. However, do not let this situation go by—it actually provides a great opportunity to shine.

For example, once I was asked several technical questions during an interview. I was asked about a certain feature of a software product (VMware vSphere). While I consider myself to be an expert in this product, there are certain features I never had the chance to use due to those features being tied to a very expensive product license and none of my employers ever bought that type of licensing. So, I never had the opportunity to work with this feature. I replied with some basic knowledge about this specific feature, but also admitted that due to licensing limitations, I never had the opportunity to work with this feature and therefore did not have a need to learn all of the facts about it. (Hint: try to take something that could be considered negative and turn it into something positive.) But I also pointed out that if the new company would have this feature enabled, that I am also very fast in picking up new knowledge and that I would not see my lack of knowledge as a problem.

It turned out that the company I was interviewing with did not have this feature either (due to licensing). However, it was well noted that I admitted not having certain knowledge about this feature, but was willing to learn new things right away. So, use these situations to shine, don’t let the initial lack of skills take over – it’s not necessary.

Do not ask any questions that add zero value!

Do not ask any questions that add zero value to you. Examples would be questions such as,Why is this position open?“How long have you been with the company?” What is the work-life balance like? or “How many people are part of the group?” You have very limited time to sell yourself as the best candidate—do not waste this time by answering questions you can still ask down the road when they reach out to make you an offer.

Don’t interview them. While you need to ask certain questions about the position and the company, do not interview the interviewers. From experience, I know that if you do so, you are most likely not going to land a job offer. In the end, it all depends on the position and how you are going to contribute to the team and to the company. Concentrate on the position, and ask questions centered on that position. It will be a win-win situation for you. Also, asking questions should not take up more than 20% of the interview time. In my most recent interview series, I went through a phone interview, a technical interview, and a non-technical interview with a VP and a director. I used each interview to gather more information—but in small chunks. For me, the best interview strategy is to have two questions ready toward the end, when they are done interviewing you and usually ask you if you have any specific questions. I limit it to two questions, and I have fared well with that strategy.

Don’t ask dumb questions! Please, spend some time to familiarize yourself with the company for which you are applying. Ask intelligent questions. Also, if you are interviewing with a vice president or director, do not ask questions about benefits or how many hours per day you have to work. Your questions should be targeted to the position level of the interviewer. Technical questions go to the system admins; benefit questions need to be asked when speaking with the HR representative. For high-level strategy questions, go and ask the VP or director-level interviewer.

This is also a big offender, in my opinion: candidates who bring a notepad—or worse, one of those leather notepad folders. When the interview starts, they sit there with a pen in their hands, notepad open—almost like a secretary waiting for orders to write down. If you can’t memorize questions or other things mentioned during the interview, then practice and train your memory before interviewing. If you start writing things down during an interview, you are wasting the valuable time of the people interviewing you, and moreover, you are wasting valuable time showing off the best of you. So, no notepad or anything like that.

For in-person interviews, business attire is very important to wear. You only have one chance to make a first impression—use it wisely. Guys: Do not take off the jacket during the interview. If you are wearing a coat (due to the weather outside), it is fine to take off the coat, but leave your jacket on. You do not want to look too relaxed or comfortable just yet. If you were invited for a round of several interviews on the same day, things might be a little different. You have to follow your gut feeling based on each situation. For example, it is acceptable to take off your jacket during lunch. Gals: You want to look nice, but definitely stick to business attire—you’re not heading out clubbing; you are going in for an interview. Look professional, not sexy.

Body Language

Body language is a very important factor that can make or break an interview. Some hiring managers pick up so many clues from how a candidate acts—it is simply amazing how fast an interview situation can go down the drain before it has even started.

Here are several deal breakers to remember: Do not sit with your arms folded across your chest. It makes an unfriendly impression and looks kind of defensive, as well. Do not constantly rub or touch your nose—these gestures are associated with dishonesty. Do not blankly stare into the room or away from the hiring manager (or worse – do not look down to the floor the entire time). This provides the impression that you would rather be elsewhere. Even if you want to be somewhere else at that moment, do not show it.

Be engaged, and make a positive impression. Do not play with your hair or drum with your fingers; do not play with the notepad or pen that you brought in (you did read the paragraph about this, right?). When shaking hands, make sure that your handshake is firm, but not brutally firm or weak. You do not want to make an “impression” on the interviewer by leaving your hand imprint for a few hours on his or her hand.

When the interview is over, leave with your chin up. Do not leave with your head down, avoiding eye contact. You want to walk away looking strong —nothing they did to you can bring you down.

The most important question you never want to ask: How much does the position pay?

Don’t ever ask this question during an interview. If they bring up the money question, fine—we will deal with this a little bit later, but let them do it.

As you can tell, the list of items not to do during an interview is quite long, and believe me—this list is definitely not complete. Use common sense, and do not forget: You can practice these situations with friends and family. The more you practice, the more secure and in control you will feel during the interview.

Your Attitude

Do you have the wrong attitude? One of the most important things that shine through during a job interview is the attitude of yours. And your attitude matters not only because it tells the interviewer how you handle the actual interview process, but it also shows how you would probably be to work with on a daytoday basis.

Attitude is not something you can simply hide behind a smile. But the wrong kind of attitude will come through during a good interview (good from a hiring manager’s perspective) in one way or the other. Especially stress type interviews can bring out your attitude and this would tell the interviewer a lot more than you ever wanted her to know.

One problem might be that you do not realize you have the wrong type of attitude (or maybe you do know?). It is important to ask others about how they perceive you in certain situations (think stressful situations). Make sure you can handle negative feedback and do not take it personally. You can only improve your overall attitude and personality if you know that there are things you need to work on.