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Posted: May 22, 2013

Avoiding interview blunders

You've made it this far -- don't blow it!

Shawna Simcik

Interviewing is one of the most important steps in the recruiting proces. It allows the employer to see you in action and ask additional questions about your qualifications, skills and ensure a good fit within their culture. As a jobseeker, you've made it past the first barrier – the dreaded phone screen – and are now waiting in the batter's box. Don't blow it when you get to the plate!

1. Be Prepared – Really? Do we have to say it again? Preparation is everything! Find out as much as possible before the interview not only about the company but the interviewer and/or hiring manager as well. Go above and beyond all other candidates who will just review the company website. Search the company twitter page, LinkedIn page, ask current employees about the dress code and intricacies of the culture that you wouldn't glean from a company website. Is it a public company? Then research their financials.  Come prepared with intelligent questions about your role and the organization. An applicant that I met with went so far as to visit all the branches of a credit union across the state of Colorado and asked the employees what they loved about the organization and what they would change. She was armed with incredible data, research and questions to bring to her interview.

2. Find out More about the Hiring Manager/Interviewer – This directly aligns with being prepared but take the next step and find out a bit more about what type of person you are interviewing with – are they direct, detail oriented or someone who enjoys small talk? Adjust your interview style to meet these small personality characteristics. This allows you to build rapport quickly and demonstrate your fit.

3. Dress Appropriately – I mentioned earlier that you should research the type of dress code and, armed with that information, always dress one step up from the official or unofficial dress code of the organization for an interview. If employees wear jeans every day to work or practice business casual, show up to the interview in a business jacket or sport coat and slacks. Your physical presence is the first thing that an interviewer judges. Take the time to brush your hair and bring your very best.

4. W.A.I.T – Is an acronym that we most often use in our coaching approach. When you find yourself rambling on in an interview setting, stop and ask yourself, "Why Am I Talking?" In situations of stress and uncomfortable pauses we tend to fill the silence with ramblings and talk ourselves right out of a position. Answer the question and stop talking. If you begin to feel uncomfortable and tempted to fill the void, ask a clarifying question, "Did that answer your question?" or "Would you like me to tell you more about that problem/solution?"

5. Get Loose – We tend to get stiff or make awkward movements in an interview setting. We put our hands in odd positions; begin stuttering and some of us even start to rock in our chairs. It's okay to bring out a folder or writing pad with prepared questions and copies of your resume. Bring a pen to take down a few notes or answers to your questions. If you get the chance, video tape yourself in an interview setting before game day. You will notice your odd intricacies that only come out in stressful situations. Stay professional in your approach but remember that this is a two way dialogue. Don't be afraid to say, "That's a great question. Let me think about that." Then glance down at your resume or notes. Then continue, "oh right, let me tell you about a time when I solved this challenge in my previous position . . ."

6.  Millennial's:  Leave Mom at Home. According to The Center of Generational Studies, Millennial's are getting their parents involved in the interview process. Either accompanying the child to the interview or calling later to negotiate the job offer.  Leave mom or dad at home. Use your parents as a resource to help you prepare and research but when it comes to the interview stand on your own two feet. The more prepared you are – the more confident you will be and won't need your parent along for the ride. Mom/Dad – back off. Your involvement in an interview will only reflect poorly on your child's ability to hold a job, think critically and make their own decisions, all key characteristics of a good job applicant.

Shawna Simcik, MA, CMP is genuinely passionate about utilizing innovative resources and market knowledge to drive organizational, career and individual excellence. As President of Business Leadership for a fast-growing, certified Woman Owned Business, Shawna specializes in Executive Recruiting, Leadership Development and Career Transition. Reach her at. or  To learn more, follow her at @shawna_icc or contact her at 303-865-4400.


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Readers Respond

Lida, I've seen the Rockies outfit! Classic example. Thanks for your thoughtful response. By Shawna Simcik on 2013 05 22
AJ, you are right too! How you approach others in the office to find out more information is so important. Don't cross the line to creepy or desperate but a nice level of persistence and tenacity will go a long way! Also, it demonstrates that you are really interested in the company, culture and position; that is, if you take the time to do your research. “Oh, you also talked to Bob to learn more about expectations and the role.” “No one else took the time to do that” . . . this extra effort could possibly put your name to the top of the pile. It also helps you craft your answers more effectively to really hit home how you would be a great fit within their company, culture and can immediately help them solve problems they are facing. Thanks for the comment! By Shawna Simcik on 2013 05 22
D Louis - Jeff is right! You can obtain more information about the interviewer or hiring manager by exploring LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites. Additionally, if you have champions within the organization, ask them for 10-15 minutes to chat. Ask about the interviewer’s personality and "hot buttons" - what are they looking for and what will get you removed immediately. Thanks for the question and comments! By Shawna Simcik on 2013 05 22
D. Louis, To get more information on the interviewer, try using LinkedIn and look up the interviewer's name. By Jeff Cann on 2013 05 22
I agree with everything except the getting more information on the interviewer. The only way to do that would be to call other people in the office and to me, that borders on the creepy/desperate. Paying close attention to how the interview begins and the questions they ask will give you enough information to adjust your style. Then asking the interviewer about their leadership and communication styles is a great way to determine your fit for the organization. By AJ on 2013 05 22
Great article, Shawna. While it might feel like we tell interviewers these same (practical) bits of advice ad nauseum, it's amazing how often a candidate will ask the interviewer "So, what does your company do..?" and dress like they're headed to a Rockies game as soon as the interview is over. Thanks for providing the information in such a concise and entertaining way! By Lida Citroen on 2013 05 22
How do you get more information on the interviewer? By D Louis on 2013 05 22
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