We’ve all read tips from job coaches and HR pros about job interview do’s and don’ts. Everything from proper eye contact and reading body language to preparing succinct stories of personal work successes.
My company is currently on a hiring spree and expects to grow from its current 100 employees to 350 employees over the next five years. As a result, interviews are taking place all the time. Here are the 10 things that hiring managers have determined can make or break a job interview:
1. The way you smell. While ensuring you are showered and clean is essential, it’s potentially just as detrimental to wear a fragrance. Not only might interviewers be allergic to a scent, they simply might not like it. In addition to fragrance being a very personal preference, our sense of smell is also our strongest trigger of memory. If you walk into an interview smelling like someone’s despised ex-partner for example, you’ve immediately biased him or her against you. The same goes for fresh breath. What you say will be lost if the smell of the words leaving your mouth is too much for the listener to bear.
2. Self-awareness. Many of us have certain habits, traits, and quirks even. Being aware of what they are is essential however, so that we don’t fall into a pattern of potentially bothersome behavior when we’re being scrutinized. Pay attention – if you’re a nail biter, hair twirler, foot shaker or cuticle picker. Whatever your tendency when sitting still, know it and nip it in the bud before you enter the interview room. Displaying such habits not only shows a lack of self-awareness, it also makes you look unfocused and more nervous than you may in fact be.
3. Name-dropping. Trying to find a link or impress an interviewer with the contacts you know is understandable. Making the interview about who you know versus what you know is bound to backfire. It’s fine to name names when it underscores your experience in a specific example. Filling the time with a who’s who of elbows you’ve rubbed however, will likely turn most interviewers off and give the impression that you’re trying to make up for what you don’t know with who you do know.
4. Articulating. In addition to being clear in your message, it’s important to annunciate your words and speak up. Not only does this allow you to show better presentation skills, whatever the job, it may be essential. You can’t know for certain that every interviewer has perfect hearing – assume they may not.
5. The details. Yes, people still look at whether your shirt is properly tucked in and whether your shoes are polished. Really. These little things - no matter how much the times have changed - still signal attention to detail for most interviewers. If you appear not to care about the little things when it’s crunch time (i.e. – you’re being interviewed), how do you think that speaks to what you’ll care about when performing your job day-to-day?
6. Honesty. When faced with a question you don’t know the answer to, you have two choices – make it up or say why you don’t know or aren’t sure in a thoughtful way. Know that most interviewers will see through the decision to lie because it presents differently from all your other answers. So no matter how good you think you are at “faking” it, doing so may risk your integrity as well as your perceived knowledge.
7. Indifference. All employers want to hire people who are passionate about the work. That means a deep, strong, sincere desire to be employed in that role at that company in that sector. Know why you’re there and convey the enthusiasm. If you’re looking to move into a new sector be able to express why you want that. If you don’t know why or you aren’t passionate about the opportunity, don’t apply for the job.
8. Reading the audience. Interviewers give clues all the time as to whether you’re connecting or losing contact. Smiles are good. Checking watches is bad. The list is long but noticing the signals as to when to keep going or wrap it up are evident. Read the signs coming from their actions and follow them.
9. Framing the past. We’ve all had bad experiences. But an interviewer never wants to hear a candidate speak negatively about a former employer or colleague. It shows a lack of tact and maturity and negates any hope of loyalty. If you’ve had bad experiences work on preparing answers about those situations well in advance. You should be able to talk about them in ways that show objectivity while showcasing your strategic efforts to address the issue and highlight the learning that resulted.
10. Asking questions. At the end of most interviews the candidate has a chance to ask questions. This is your opportunity to show you are informed, curious, passionate, insightful and anything else you want to be remembered for in those five minutes. Asking about next steps is fine – but cliché. Give some thought to preparing questions you can ask the interviewer that will establish you as someone they want to see again.
Jeff Quipp is the founder and CEO of Search Engine People Inc. (SEP), Canada's largest digital marketing firm, which has been on the PROFIT 500 ranking of Canada's Fastest Growing Companies for the past five consecutive years.