What not to say in an interview

Note: This semester I am fortunate to be working with a young man, Kevin Hassard, who is going to write a few guest entries for the blog. Kevin is a sophomore at North Carolina State University majoring in English with an education concentration. He is originally from Clayton, North Carolina. He hopes to work at a local high school before joining the Peace Corps after graduation. Since my primary audience for this blog is college students and recent graduates, I think many of you will appreciate reading entries from his perspective. And if I have something to add, I’ll insert it in brackets.

What not to say in an interview

We’ve all left interviews thinking “Wow! That couldn’t have gone any better” or “That was awkward and terrible.” When it goes bad, lack of interest from an employer isn’t surprising. However, what happens when you think an interview went amazing and you still don’t get a call back? It’s that same bewilderment you’re left with after a great first date, wondering why they didn’t call. I recently read the article “Drinking, Crying and Other Less Obvious Ways to Tank a Job Interview,” which offered tips on what NOT to do during an interview. Yes, there are some things we are all cognizant of, such as not showing up hung-over or in sweatpants to an interview. Also, for anyone who’s ever seen the movie Step Brothers, you know not to do any of that! But what about the small subtleties we’re not always aware of that are red flags for employers? I thought the article did a great job addressing these issues. There are 25 suggestions overall, but I will only address a few I particularly noted in this first blog post.  I’ll cover some more of the suggestions on Thursday.

“Trashing a Boss or Old Job”: Most people have been on interviews where they’re hit with the question, “So why did you leave your old job?” Your minds begin to race. “Where do I start? The low pay, my boss was a jerk, etc., etc.” The article begins with this main point. Do not trash your former employer. Take the high road after leaving an old job. A key point is to “handle it with class.” You have an opportunity to show an employer that you will continue to uphold that company’s name if your employment doesn’t pan out.

“Over-Selling Yourself”: “Interviews should be a conversation, not a sales pitch.” Interviewers don’t want to hear about how perfect you are. The important thing is to state what you do well but also to show what your weaknesses are. Having the “moxy” to admit your own flaws shows a lot more about your character than anything else. Don’t be afraid to reveal your strengths, but know the limits of your self-endearment. [Step 1: Identify your skills and strengths can help you figure out what traits to emphasize. Tip 45: Prepare for difficult questions can help you answer questions about your strengths and weaknesses.]

“Not Preparing Anecdotes”: “Saying you have a certain skill set or experience isn’t enough.” It’s important to go into interviews with stories prepared. Explain how certain circumstances and experiences have given you a particular ability that makes you unique for the job. [Appendix J: Typical Interview Questions suggests how to prepare anecdotes.]

“Having a Know-It-All-Mentality”: Employers want “team players”; don’t walk into the interview like you own the place. You have to earn your place; which means showing respect to those around you. Going into an interview appearing arrogant will almost always leave you without a job. Employers want to hire someone who is going to help their coworkers and who will be easy to work with.

“Not Taking Ownership of Mistakes”: This goes along with a few of the points above. Employers love humility; admit your mistakes, but also say what you learned from them. No employer expects you to be perfect. However, it shows class when you’re able to say what you’ve done wrong, and it shows maturity when you describe the ways those experiences helped you grow.

That’s it for this blog post. I recommend that everyone go through all 25 suggestions in the article. It provides great analysis in addition to the tips they offer. Thank you for reading and be sure to check back for more analysis on other tips from the same article soon!