Seven unexpected ways people sabotage job interviews

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Job interviews are tough, in most cases it is hard enough to get one despite sending out countless applications.

So how do you play the interview right to make sure you get the job?

There are the obvious dos and donts – you’ll know to research the company, don’t be late and at least appear enthusiastic. But there a lot of faux pas that employers see time and time again, which candidates do not even realise they are doing.

The Independent spoke to a selection of recruitment and hiring experts about the lesser-known ways to impede your interview.

Misjudging the dress code

Many workplaces and industries have a strict, smart dress code and you’re obviously expected to reflect that in what you wear to the interview. However, there can also be such a thing as being overdressed.

Rob Blythe, co-founder of the intern and graduate recruitment agency Instant Impact told The Independent the way you dress demonstrates your understanding of the culture of the company.

“It is a common mistake for both men and women to be too smart when interviewing with early stage start-up and scale-up companies. Instead of making you look professional, wearing a suit to an interview with an early stage tech start-up can make you stand out like a sore thumb,” he said.

Arriving outside the sweet spot

Arriving late for a job interview is obviously a big no-no. If you can’t turn up on time for the interview, then how will you convince a prospective employer to rely you will turn up to work each day? While turning up bang on time might be chancing it, arriving too early is also an issue.

Lee Biggins, the founder of CV-Library, said: “Employers will likely be balancing their own workload with meeting a range of candidates, so if you’re overly keen they might feel rushed, or not in the zone for the interview. It’s always good to arrive around 10-15 minutes before – this gives you time to settle down, go to the toilet if you need to or even grab a drink. It also shows that you can manage your time effectively, without being too early or late.”

Misjudging body language

It is important to build friendly conversations with an interviewer and show you them you are nice and personable. But being too familiar can be off-putting – do not address the interviewer like they are your friend at the pub. This is an important point to bear in mind during the conversation but also with your body language. For example, if at the end of the interview you are walking through a door with the prospective employer, do not pat their back in a Barack Obama-greeting-another-world-leader style.

Turning up note-less

Even if you have spent days and days preparing for an interview, there is no harm in bringing in something physical to reflect this. One anonymous employer told The Independent they are always impressed when a candidate brings in notes. “It is quite bold for a candidate to walk in and think they have memorised all their points and ideas for the company,” they said, “what happens if I want to drill down into facts and figures that they throw out during the interview?”

However, don’t rely on your notes and keep your eye on them all the time – Mr Blythe warns that relying on them too much will fail to build rapport with the interviewer.

Showing too much interest… in the wrong things

While interviewees are always encouraged to ask questions at the end of an interview, the wrong questions can give the wrong impression. James Reed, the chairman of Reed recruitment company, warns against being too interested in what is in it for you.

“To an employer, a job is a problem to be solved,” he told The Independent. “All other concerns are secondary, including yours. When framing answers to interview questions, this is where a lot of candidates go wrong. Your answers should focus on how your skills and experience will help you to solve the problem, not how great the job would be for you… many candidates see a job as a means of achieving their personal economic or psychological advancement, and forget that a job is primarily about solving problems on behalf of someone else. This personal bias surfaces in their answers.”

Treating an interview as a Q&A

Preparing for an interview is vital but there is danger that too much preparation will mean you lose the conversation – which is equally as important.

Richard Hogg, managing director of Jackson Hogg Recruitment, said: “During an interview, people often focus purely on their suitability for the job, rather than building a rapport with the interviewer. The fact is, they are far more likely to hire someone they get on with, as it’s a strong indicator that they will fit in their organisation’s culture. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to go overboard on the small talk, but bear in mind they aren’t looking for a robot.”

Following up too frequently

When the relief of ending an interview sets in it can be tempting to put everything to the back of your mind and forget about it. However, sending a follow-up email to say thank-you is always a nice touch.

“It is professional to send a note after you’ve met with the interviewer, to thank them for their time and perhaps raise a couple of points to show that you were alert and attentive. For example ‘I really enjoyed hearing about how your company does xyz’,” Mr Biggins says. However, sending too many follow-ups is not a good idea even if you think it will remind them of how keen you are for the role.

“Make sure you ask in the interview about when they expect to get back to you by, and resist the urge to send them any further communication until after that date. If you don’t hear back within this time frame, try and wait a day or two before you email them again and make sure you are polite when you do. Patience is key here – no one wants somebody pestering them for a response, when they clearly aren’t ready to give one.”