Interview mistakes: Part 1

When I talk with my students about job interviews, we not only talk about all the things that you need to succeed, we also talk about the things you should avoid. I compiled an extensive list of dos and don’ts for interviewing, but Dave Kerpen, writing for LinkedIn, has come up with an even longer list than mine. His list is based on actual interviewing mistakes, and you can read all the gruesome details in his complete article (along with the sources for each “mistake”). However, in this and the next few posts I’m going to tell you about some of the more egregious behavior that you’ll want to avoid in your job interviews. Today, I’ll focus on the mistakes that I can’t believe anyone would actually make. I call this category, “I like mom’s basement just fine.”

Drinking a beer during the interview. Now, granted, this was reported as having occurred during a Skype interview, so it’s not like the interviewee carried a beer with him into the building. Do I need to add that you should not drink alcohol during an interview? Possible exception: If you’ve gotten to the point where they’ve taken you out to dinner in a nice restaurant, and they’ve ordered a bottle of wine, and you regularly drink wine, it’s okay to have one glass of wine with dinner (or a beer if the others are drinking beer and you like beer). However, keep it to one, and if you don’t normally drink alcohol, don’t do it just to fit in. You could really embarrass yourself.

Saying you don’t want to learn or work too much. This one took me by surprise as I couldn’t really imagine someone saying this in an interview, but Kerpen says it happened. The story he relays is that the interviewee said that she’d had to work and learn too much in her old job and she didn’t want that type of job again. No matter what your “next” job is, you’re going to have to learn a lot. Even transfers to a new department within the same organization—or a move to a similar job at a different organization—is going to involve learning new ways of doing your work, new people to work with and new cultures to work within. If you don’t want to learn anything new, stay in the old job!

Asking the wrong questions. There are lots of different questions that could be considered wrong in an interview, but the Kerpen article is talking about things such as asking about vacation time within the first few minutes. I would add that asking anything about benefits is a mistake until you have been offered the job. Another of Kerpen’s mistakes is Focusing on the benefits over the value, which is essentially the same as this, so I won’t make it a separate entry. (For advice, see my book’s Tip 46: Know when to ask about salary and benefits.)

• Not having passion. Well, the story told in the article is not what I was expecting. The employer reported that the interviewee didn’t care what kind of job he got as long as he got paid well. Just the other night I was talking with a student organization about the whole job search process, and I asked what was most important to them. One young man immediately put up his hand, and before I could even call on him, he said, “I want to make a lot of money.” Well, sure, who doesn’t want money? But there really is more to life than money, and you need to connect with a job—and a career—that is meaningful, fulfilling, and enjoyable if you want to be happy. And who doesn’t want to be happy?