Being familiar with the basic interview “do’s” and “don’ts” can go a long way when it comes to your job search. But unfortunately, many of these golden rules often get ignored!
This list of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of interviewing will help you walk into the room with confidence that you’re putting your best foot forward.
Ready to show what you can do and leave a lasting impression during your job interview? You can’t do that by merely showing up and hoping for the best. Here are the most important job interview “do’s” to ensure that things go smoothly, and help you improve your chances of getting a job offer.
Do Your Research
Always show up to interviews well-prepared. You can’t expect to have a rock-solid interview if you know nothing about the company or the position. Do your research well before the interview.
Understanding what the company does, what it stands for, and what type of applicant the hiring manager is looking for goes a long way. It helps you determine if it’s a job you genuinely want. But more importantly, it gives you the insight to shape your answer, ask questions in return, and make it sound like you know what you’re talking about.
Make a Great First Impression
This interview “do” is broad and all-encompassing. The ultimate goal is to leave a lasting impression. Your interviewer will likely speak to many people during this hiring process. You want to stand out!
There are a few ways you can do this (we’ll go over all of them in a bit).
However, the best way to stand out is to be personable. Practice your interview questions before the big day and get comfortable speaking about yourself. Do what you can to leave the nerves at the door and focus on being confident and having a good conversation.
Always listen to the interviewer. Once again, that sounds simple enough. But so many people are flustered with nerves that they forget to listen actively.
Unfortunately, it shows. Not listening will result in a sloppy answer that doesn’t provide the information that the interviewer is looking to get. Keep your ears open and listen to every question that comes your way.
Get The Details
Job interviews are a fantastic opportunity to ask questions of your own. You might find it hard to get clear answers on essential job details during your research. Now is your chance to ask them!
Get clarity on the little things. For example, you can ask about work culture, job advancement opportunities, and anything else you want to know more about during this conversation.
Asking questions can leave a lasting impression. They show that you’re genuinely interested in the company and position. Plus, it keeps the conversation going and makes you a bit more memorable.
Mention What Sets You Apart
During an interview, the best thing you can do is explain what sets you apart from other candidates. That doesn’t mean you should go off on a tangent or dominate the conversation. The trick is to weave those explanations into your answers.
For example, you can use your responses to talk about your strengths and how they can benefit your work in this position. Alternatively, you can utilize personality-based questions to talk about what makes you unique. Whenever possible, use STAR interview method to answer questions.
This job interview “do” is about showing that you’re the perfect candidate and a cut above the rest.
Ask Great Questions
Earlier, we mentioned that asking questions is a big plus. But don’t just ask generic queries. Think outside the box and ask unique interview questions the interviewer doesn’t typically hear.
You can ask about work culture, the interviewer’s history with the company, or even recent events that affect the entire organization. Once again, it’s about building that connection and showing your genuine interest in working with the company.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Dress for success.” When you’re going in for an interview, take that old saying to heart! How you dress has more of an effect than most think. It’s the interviewer’s first impression of you, and it comes before you utter a word.
There’s a delicate balance between overdressing and underdressing. You don’t want to be super casual, but you don’t want to wear a three-piece suit if the job doesn’t call for that.
One good tip is to look into company culture during your research. Look for photos and consider reaching out to current employees for information about the dress code. Use that information as a guide, and go one step further to add a little polish to your aesthetics.
Act Calm & Confident
Here’s an interview “do” that’s quite challenging for many applicants. Given what’s at stake, it’s easy to let your nerves get the best of you. Interviews are a big deal and could affect your future. But do what you can to ease your nerves and act calmly.
Hiring managers usually don’t want to hire someone who seems easily shaken. They want people who can go to work and get things done!
Practice your responses early and unwind a bit during your interview. You can be shaking in your boots internally, but don’t let that reflect in your demeanor or how you speak.
Interview “do’s” are important, but you should also make sure to avoid common mistakes as well. The following job interview “don’ts” can leave your interviewer less than impressed. Committing these cardinal interview sins can hurt your chances and even kill your chance of getting hired altogether.
Don’t Be Late
There are few things worse than showing up to your interview late. Punctuality is crucial in any workplace environment. Showing up even a few minutes late doesn’t leave the best impression.
It’s a red flag that makes interviewers wonder if you’ll be late frequently if you get the job. Plus, it makes it look like you’re not taking things seriously.
Before your interview, do everything you’re supposed to like setting multiple alarms and getting plenty of rest. Additionally, consider driving to the interview location the day before. Know how to get there, look at traffic patterns, and make a game plan for parking.
A number of things can go wrong on the interview day, so it’s best to plan for every worst-case scenario to ensure that things go smoothly.
When you’re in the moment, the urge to lie can be ever-present. What’s the worst that can happen, right?
Resist that voice telling you to bend the truth! Hiring managers will do their due diligence before making an offer. Many will contact previous employers, and they might even ask about something you said during the interview.
The truth always comes to light. Lying will get you into trouble more often than not. Not only will it ruin your chances of getting the job you’re seeking, but it can tarnish your reputation. Word gets around fast, and you might lose opportunities you never knew you had.
Don’t Bash Your Previous Employers
Many job-seekers go into interviews thinking it’s alright to bash former employees. But it doesn’t matter if you’re going to your old employer’s biggest rival or an entirely different industry. Speaking badly about your old boss or company is a big interview “don’t” that you should avoid.
Hiring managers want to see positivity. Focusing on the negative things will only make you look down and pessimistic (which are traits that nobody wants in a coworker). But that’s not all.
If you’re speaking badly about your old employer now, what will stop you from doing the same in the future? A hiring manager will think twice about negative applicants because they know that they’ll turn around and do the same thing about them if they seek employment elsewhere.
Do yourself a favor and focus on positive things. You can bring up bad experiences but wisely choose your words and attitude.
Don’t Brush Off Your Weaknesses
You’re supposed to talk about your strengths during an interview. But that doesn’t mean you should brush weaknesses aside. Be upfront about them (if they come up) and address those shortcomings head-on.
Interviewers will appreciate the honesty. You can highlight how you’ve changed and what you’ve done to work on those weaknesses. It could be a bad experience, an old termination in your work history, a hole in your skillset, etc.
Whatever the case may be, find a way to address it and put a positive spin. This is your opportunity to handle any potentially negative impacts those weaknesses might have before it becomes something that affects your chances of getting a job offer.
Don’t Dominate the Conversation
Interpersonal skills are a big plus for any job. But if you’re dominating the conversation and speaking over the interviewer, you’re showing that your interpersonal skills aren’t good at all.
Be respectful and remember that this is a discussion. It’s not a speech where only you have the microphone. The interviewer needs time to respond, ask follow-up questions, and even provide comments. It’s a two-way conversation that needs to breathe.
Don’t interrupt or try to be the one who gets the last say. Listen to the interview and let the conversation flow naturally.
Don’t Let a Bad Past Interview Hinder Your Current One
Many people have heard job interview horror stories. You might have some of your own that makes you cringe every time you think of them. However, you shouldn’t let those awful past experiences affect you now.
Treat every interview as an opportunity to learn and grow. Harness those old failures to make positive changes for your following interview. It’s easy to get scared or become anxious about how things will go.
However, never let them prevent you from advancing your career. Take time to reflect, figure out where things went wrong, and take steps to ensure that it never happens again.
Don’t Inquire About Other Applicants
You might have some interest in learning about other applicants. For example, everyone is curious about the types of people coming in for an interview. You may even want to know where you stand after meeting with the hiring manager or interviewer.
Either way, don’t ask about other applicants. It comes off as tacky and somewhat needy. The interviewer is in the middle of an extensive hiring process. They’re speaking to many folks, and that process is something they will handle.
Let them do their thing and focus on your own experiences.
Don’t Chew Gum
Does this interview “don’t” even need an explanation? Chewing gum is a big no-no. You can pop in some gum or a mint before you head in to get some fresh breath. But make sure you toss it out before getting to the interview desk!
Chewing gum can come off as juvenile and unprofessional. No one wants to see gum bouncing around in your mouth as you speak!
While we are at it, don’t bring food or water either. The interview is a business meeting. Chewing food or slurping water can be distracting to the interviewer. If you are offered something to drink, you can accept it.
Don’t Be Overly Modest
Finally, leave the overt modesty at the door.
Being humble and gracious is always a plus. But this is a job opportunity, and you should spend time talking about what you do well. Interviewers want to know what you have to offer, and they like to see confidence.
There’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. As long as you avoid boastful language you should be just fine. Stick to the facts.
This is your time to shine and put your best foot forward. Don’t waste it trying to be super modest. You can be confident while still maintaining a sense of professionalism and respect.
Now that you’re familiar with the “do’s” and “don’ts” of interviewing, it’s time to apply these to your own job interview habits.
Make improvements, prepare, don’t shoot yourself in the foot, and you’ll have a great chance of getting the job you want!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.