6 Ways to Kill Your Chances in an Interview

6 ways to kill your chances in an interview

By Susan Ricker, CareerBuilder Writer

From applicant tracking systems to appropriate résumés, there are more than enough hurdles to overcome before getting a job interview. The interview itself might be the biggest challenge for some job seekers, who leave having no clue how it went. 

CareerBuilder surveyed hiring managers to find out what’s going on in job interviews and why a promising candidate may not get picked. Six factors contributed to why interviews go badly for some, and while these mistakes may not seem substantial on their own, the job market is still too competitive to allow these simple errors to slide.

When asked to identify the top mistakes made by job seekers during interviews, hiring managers reported:

Mistake No. 1: Appearing uninterested — 62 percent of employers
Tip: Body language and how you respond to the interviewer’s questions may be sending a different message than what you mean. Be attentive during the interview, sit up straight and make eye contact with your interviewer. Take your time responding to give thoughtful answers that convey your interest in the position.

Mistake No. 2: Answering a cell phone or texting — 60 percent
Tip: As soon as you enter the site for your interview, turn your phone off and put it away. While it may be tempting to use your phone while you’re waiting or leave it on silent, don’t risk your chances of getting the job because you wanted to check your phone. Focus your attention on the interview.

Mistake No. 3: Dressing inappropriately — 60 percent
Tip: While what you wear on the job will vary by industry and company, the standard and most appropriate look for a job interview is a business suit or “business casual,” a collared shirt and dress pants. You should look and feel professional so both you and the interviewer can focus on your answers and not on your clothing.

Mistake No. 4: Talking negatively about a current or previous employer — 58 percent
Tip: Interview answers can walk a fine line between showing your appreciation for past employers and asserting that the current job opportunity is preferable. Stay positive during your interview and concentrate on how your past roles have prepared you for the current role. If you did have a negative experience, keep your answer short and end on a positive, such as what you learned from it.

Mistake No. 5: Failure to make eye contact (72 percent) or smile (42 percent), bad posture (38 percent) and a weak handshake (28 percent)
Tip: While interviews can be stressful and nerve-wracking, do your best to appear confident and friendly by preparing for your interview and practicing your answers ahead of time. When you’re adequately prepared, your confidence and smart answers will wow the hiring manager.

Mistake No. 6: Not providing specific examples — 34 percent
Tip: When answering your interviewer’s questions, remember that they’re trying to make a smart business decision about whom to hire. While you may think that you’re the most creative, capable and task-oriented candidate, it’s best to provide quantifiable proof of your worth, such as how much new business you brought in or the top ways you saved your company money.

What else can job seekers do to prepare for interviews? “A job interview can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences out there, so it’s important to plan and practice,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Have a friend run through a mock interview with you, asking questions you think will come up and some curve balls you’re not expecting. Thoroughly research the company ahead of time, and draft responses that incorporate your accomplishments. The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to run into mishaps.”  

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