NEW YORK (MainStreet) Have you ever felt like you nailed a job interview, but then were left wondering why you never received the offer? Aside from the typical interview "dos," like dressing up, offering firm handshakes, and toting at least five hard copies of your resume, there is a whole slew of lesser-known actions that you may or may not be doing at your interviews that are seriously hurting your chances as a prospective employee. Be sure to follow these ten tips from professional interviewers.
1. Do not smoke beforehand. Ian Aronovich, president and co-founder of GovernmentAuctions.org, explains that he has quite a bit of experience with interviewing potential employees for various positions within his company. One of the worst offenses that a candidate can commit is to come into the interview smelling of smoke, Aronovich explains. If a candidate comes in smelling like smoke, that candidate is basically excluded from consideration on the spot. "These days, nobody wants to hire a smoker because of the frequent smoke breaks that he or she would take," Aronovich said. "Moreover, if a candidate who smokes could not hold off smoking until after the interview, it would show his or her lack of self-control." While most smokers do so to relax or ease their nerves, it is recommended to find another way to relieve that anxiety prior to an interview.
2. Be nice to the receptionist. "One small thing that you can do is to be very kind to the gate keeper, receptionist and any other people you may see in the office before you reach the interviewer," says Shilonda Downing, founder of Virtual Work Team, LLC. Downing says that she always asks the receptionist how a candidate presented his or herself upon entry into the office. While the candidate may feel that he or she need not impress anyone other than the interviewer, the way that the person treats those other people is key when trying to figure out whether or not the candidate would be a good fit among the other team members.
3. Do not have anything in your mouth. While every candidate should ensure that he has fresh breath for the interview, it is not O.K. to show up mid-gum chew. The same rule also applies to breath mints, and any other kind of hard candy. Trevor Simm, founder and president of OpalStaff, explains that "many interviewees often forget to ditch their gum before the questions begin -- by then, it's too late, and dropping your gum in the trash can next to the interviewer's desk is tacky and uncomfortable." A better choice would be to bring a toothbrush and toothpaste with you, and if you feel that your breath is anything less than fresh, do a quick brush in the restroom right before the interview.
4. Perfect your appearance. It's always a good idea to arrive to an interview a few minutes early. In doing so, ask the receptionist where the restroom is, and make sure everything is intact with your appearance. While it may seem shallow, simple things like a visible makeup line for women or a crooked tie for men can knock points off of your candidacy for the position. David Popple, president of Corporate Insights, a company that trains people to interview more effectively, explains that minor appearance flaws like this can make interviewers assume, either consciously or subconsciously, that the candidate cannot handle bigger, more important tasks.
5. Take notes. The key to looking compelled during an interview is to make sure you write something down. According to Karin Hurt, CEO of Let's Grow Leaders, interviewers enjoy feeling like they're saying something profound and smart enough to capture. It's also your obligation as the interviewee to bring something appropriate to write with, and also to write on. While she has experienced candidates writing with crayons on old phone bills, a professional-looking pen and a clean, unused writing pad are much more appropriate options. It is also imperative to get the proper spelling of the interviewer's name, as well as his or her title.
6. Drop the corporate jargon. While buzzwords and jargon may sound appropriate in a cover letter or resume, they're not the best choice of language for the actual interview. Interviewers want to get to know the candidates as people, as this will help them to decide if the candidate is a good fit for the company. Ben Doda, public relations director at BDC, explains that using simple, plain language helps better differentiate your personality and character. It also makes it easier for the interviewer to follow along with your story. "You must find a balance between honesty and professionalism," says Doda. Overuse of buzzwords and jargon puts across a lack of confidence, lack of experience, poor communication skills, and even potential inability to think critically.
7. Pay attention to your nervous habits. Lisa Benson, staffing director with Mary Kraft Staffing & HR Solutions, explains that sometimes body language speaks louder than your voice. "When candidates are constantly fidgeting or touching their faces, it sends a message that they are not confident in their abilities," she said. "It also makes the interviewer wonder if that candidate will be able to communicate effectively and confidently with the other co-workers and clients."
8. Line up your references in advance. While the cover letter and resume are considered the most important written documents in the hiring process, the list of references is just as important. Ray Bixler, CEO at SkillSurvey, explains that candidates who show up for interviews without a set list of references are usually not chosen for the position. If the candidate has to scramble to write down their references at the end of the interview, it shows poor organizational and preparatory skills. "It's also important for interviewees to ensure that their references are well-informed about their capabilities and strengths, and know why they're looking for a new position," says Bixler. "Making sure the interviewee has their references ready to go and briefed about the position they are seeking before they start interviewing can give the interviewee a leg up over the competition."
9. Ask for the job. "Every good salesman knows and every interviewee is a salesman for him- or herself that you have to ask for the sale," explains Richard Lewis, professor at New York University and author of Why Hire Jennifer? How to Use Branding and Uncommon Sense to Get Your First Job, Last Job, and Every Job in Between. At the close of the interview, candidates must always be prepared to explain why they want the job and also why they can do the job. While the concept of explaining these things may appear simple, it's connecting these two reasons to everything you have previously said during the interview in a cogent and articulate manner that is the true challenge.
10. Follow up properly. While the standard "thank you" email or letter is always a given, Kolby Goodman from TheJobHuntr.com explains that candidates can do more than just show their gratitude. Goodman says that candidates should also use that letter to display your knowledge and interest in the company and the position.
He also suggests that candidates consider including an article or book that relates to what was talked about in the interview, as it would show the manager that, even though the interview is over, they are continuing to think and put effort into what was talked about. Hopefully, that will encourage the interviewer to continue to think about the candidate, too. This is also where taking notes comes in especially handy, as the candidate will have jotted down ideas and subjects that were discussed.
--Written by Ciara Larkin for MainStreet