NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The job market has improved and hiring has picked up. Companies that were sidelined are now recruiting candidates to fill positions that have been on hold for years. Their appetite is enormous, particularly for individuals with highly specialized skills in areas like data security and financial engineering. And as summer fast approaches, there will be a secondary spike in hiring for seasonal jobs.
Jobs are readily available but only for those candidates who understand that the rules for interviewing have changed. Companies were spoiled during the market downturn. With many more candidates than open positions, the process looked more like a beauty pageant -- minus the swimsuit competition. The bar was set pretty high for candidates to be thoroughly prepared and for flawless delivery. It also took many more interviews to cross the finish line. Rejection was the norm.
Although there is room now for an occasional faux pas, some interview mistakes are irreversible. They may not eliminate you immediately from consideration but when comparing you to another candidate at the point of an offer, you are likely to lose out if you make one of these mistakes. Here are 10 rules that you should never break in an interview. If you can avoid some of these land mines, you have a better shot at acing the interview, beating out the competition, and getting the job you want.
So, here they are, in order from least bad to worst, the ten best ways to blow a job interview.
10. Oversharing personal life details
One of my clients happens to be menopausal. She has occasional hot flashes and can move in a heartbeat from feeling chilled to being overheated. She carries a fan with her wherever she goes and dresses in layers that can be easily removed. That's all fine and practical -- except in an interview.
She scheduled an appointment with me two weeks after a second-round meeting with a company where she really wanted to work. She followed up immediately but had not yet heard back and was now concerned that the process had broken down. I asked her to describe her conversation with the hiring manager. It seemed to go well until she felt a flash coming on. She explained to the fellow that she was in menopause and then proceeded to remove her sweater revealing a rather skimpy camisole. She also began to fan herself. Uncomfortable for her? Yes! But even more awkward for her interviewer.
My client felt that she had already impressed the company in her first round of meetings. That was why, she presumed, they invited her back. Now was her opportunity for her and her future colleagues to become better acquainted. In this particular situation, she shared far too much information far too soon. A classic example of too much information. In fact, this level of intimacy should never have been reached at any point in the interview process.
9. Continuously looking at your mobile device
Many of us have an unhealthy attachment to our smartphones. We all, on occasion, leave it on when we should have powered it down. That's okay and forgivable. If you need to leave it on -- say for a sick child or an elderly parent -- do so on vibrate and explain in advance. If the call is, in fact, an emergency, simply excuse yourself. But leaving your cellphone on and taking or making a call that isn't an emergency is unacceptable. The same goes for texting, twitter, email or anything else that could be flickering on your phone's screen. No device is ever more important than the person who is interviewing you.
8. Smelling bad
This is a touchy subject but good grooming is essential. Some people prefer not to use deodorant. Here's a fact: When you interview for a job and you smell bad, you won't get the job. Ask people you trust and respect if you suspect you're not getting the second interview because of what may be perceived as poor hygiene. I had a smart and talented client a number of years ago who was missing his sense of smell. That was an awkward, but important, conversation for the two of us to have to help him get a job. Go easy on the perfume and cologne, too. Equal but opposite is almost as deadly. If in doubt, get feedback from a close friend.
7. Asking no questions
Prepare questions in advance to show that you've done your homework -- that you not only have the qualifications necessary to be successful and productive, you have the interest, motivation, and passion, too. Make sure the questions are relevant. The better and more insightful the question, the smarter you look. You don't want to lose the interviewer's interest by asking questions that anyone - or everyone else - will ask. Your questions must reflect the research you've performed. It's also a good way to engage the interviewer. Ask about issues and challenges the company faces, how performance and success are measured, perhaps your interviewer's background. All serve as food for thought in your follow-up after the interview.
6. Interrupting the interviewer
Many of my clients have children. The kids may be toddlers or teens. It doesn't really matter. What does is their tendency to talk over their interviewers. That's how they manage to be heard at home and that's what they often do in their interviews. I refer to this as the "parent effect." When you don't listen, you don't get invited back for a second interview, or a third. Interviewers, in general, want and expect to be in the driver's seat. If you raise your voice to be heard or to get your point across at home, you may forget the fact that an interview is essentially a conversation -- not a debate and definitely not one-sided. It's also a conversation with another grown-up who's sizing you up. Don't interrupt and don't force your point.
5. Not anticipating tough questions about your candidacy
Be prepared for the tougher questions. Good interviewers will always ask them. It's inevitable and not necessarily a deal-breaker. These are the questions that are asked when we talk about ourselves or the resume is dissected for gaps, unusual moves, or missing information. It's usually the "why" question or more often than not, the "why not?" For example, push-back questions could be asked when we've been out of work for an extended period of time, we left a job under curious circumstances, we've hopped around from job to job, or our dates of graduation have been omitted from the resume. The goal is to address the question comfortably and to move on to more important matters.
4. Dressing too sexy
For both women and men, tone down any overt sexual display, especially if you are blessed with a remarkable figure or buff physique. Don't show off. It will make most interviewers uncomfortable. Unless you're interviewing to be a pole dancer or a personal trainer, cleavage and biceps should be contained. Don't over-dress or over-groom, either. This is a job interview, not an evening event or a night out. Complicated hair styles or clothing which may be intended for more festive occasions are not appropriate for interviews. When you distract the interviewer, her attention will be focused on whether or not you fit in -- not on what you have the potential to contribute and to accomplish.
3. Embellishing the details
It should go without saying but always tell the truth. Lying on your resume or in your response to a question is like playing with matches. You will get burned. Never stretch the truth or misrepresent your experience no matter how tempted or desperate you may be to get the job. Most companies will fire you on the spot if it is discovered that you lied on the application or in the interview.
2. Shaking hands like a dead fish
Take note: this applies to both male and female candidates. A limp or weak handshake makes an immediate bad impression and suggests weakness either of character or ambition. It feels creepy, too. How to correct? Practice.
1. Arriving late
There is no excuse for showing up late for an interview. Not sure how to get there? Figure it out in advance. Concerned about the very real possibility of a delay? Leave home early. When you keep an interviewer waiting -- even if you think it's not a big deal or you expect to be kept waiting once you arrive -- you will discover that it is a monumental turnoff to the person you are meeting. It conveys that you don't value their time - and, by implication, as an employee you are likely to be equally careless.