Avoid Common Job Interview Blunders

Surviving the multi-step job candidate screening process and receiving an on-site employment interview can be a long and frustrating process. So the last thing you want is to commit some of the common interview blunders that cost candidates job offers. What are these blunders? How can you avoid them?

Dealing with loss of your previous job

Losing a job is traumatic. Nevertheless, you must overcome your resentment against your former employer and not turn your on-site employment interview into a gripe session in which you complain about your former employer and the unfairness of your job loss. I have conducted more than 100 on-site employment interviews and seen many job candidates expressing their resentment and anger. It’s not pretty. These are natural emotions after a layoff but employers interpret this as unprofessional behavior, and you will likely lose any jobs prospects with that organization.

Only mention your former employer in the context of your accomplishments. If asked, explain that you lost your job in a layoff. Be brief. Word your explanation so you can indicate you understand the business reasons for layoffs. Among the most common is reducing headcount to save expenses. Another is outsourcing of your job to another firm. A third common one is a shift of your former employer’s strategic priorities.

Convey your personality and personal warmth

Job candidates often focus exclusively on technical skills during on-site employment interviews. This is normal and technical considerations are important determinants of whether you receive a job offer. However, other factors are also important. You want to give the impression you will be a congenial coworker pleasant to work with. This means showing personal warmth and humor (in good taste) as appropriate..

Show interest and enthusiasm in the job, the company, and the location where you will work.

Research the employer and prepare questions about the company, its products and services, and the nature of the job responsibilities in the position for which you are applying. Internet search engines can provide the information you need to formulate intelligent questions. These should not be questions for which the answers are readily available to job hunters.

Focus on what you can accomplish for the employer

Discuss how your skills, accomplishments and personal energy can help the hiring manager achieve the goals of her department. Effective listening will enable you to clearly understand interviewers’ questions, respond effectively and steer the discussion towards information that presents you in the best possible light.

Don’t focus on what the company can do for you. If possible, wait until you receive a job offer before negotiating salary and discussing allowable relocation expenses, vacation policies, etc. 

Prepare carefully

Even in today’s job market a surprising number of candidates try to “wing it” and do not prepare carefully. Prepare a 60-second verbal résumé, often called an elevator speech.

Prepare answers to difficult questions often asked during employment interviews. You can find lists of these questions in job-hunting books such as the ACS book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers” and in the ACS employment workshop “Effective Interviewing.”

Communicate those skills and qualities that differentiate you from other candidates. Describe the positive impact your results have had on your academic research or your employer’s financial results. When possible quantify the impact your results have had on sales, profits, costs or productivity. Use percentages instead of dollar amounts if you have to.

Make a strong closing

Many employer experts and career coaches say the most common failing people have during their employment interviews is failing to express interest in the job. Close your interviews with hiring managers and other managers by telling them of your strong interest in the job. Then concisely express the most important qualities you can bring to the job.

John Borchardt is a chemist and freelance writer who has been an ACS career consultant for 15 years. He is the author of the ACS/Oxford University Press Book “Career Management for Scientists and Engineers.” He has had more than 1200 articles published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and encyclopedias. As an industrial chemist, he holds 30 U.S. and more than 125 international patents and is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed papers.



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