Congratulations! You’ve made it to the interview round! In the previous Interview 101 post, I provided some tips on acing your interview, as well as listing some of the most commonly asked questions. For this post, I compiled a list of what not to do during an interview. These are the most important things that I highly recommend NOT to do, although there are other things that you should pay attention to in order to distinguish yourself as a stand out candidate.
- Arriving late
- Dressing inappropriately
- Forgetting to do your research about the company
- Not being able to sell yourself
- Fidgeting too much
- Using improper body language
- Badmouthing your previous employer or company
- Not asking any question
- Lying about yourself
- Not following up afterward
There’s no bigger turn off than arriving late to an interview. It shows that you’re neither taking the interview nor the job seriously. How can recruiters hire you when there’s a chance that you’ll always be late to important meetings in the future? If you have a legitimately good excuse for being late, call the recruiters or HR personnel and rearrange the interview with them as soon as possible. Don’t use excuses such as being stuck in traffic or being lost on the way. Instead, leave earlier, even visit the company a day before the interview so you’ll know how to get there and avoid being lost on the actual day.
Don’t be late to any interview, but arriving too early is not always a good thing. A recruiter once told me one of his pet peeves is when interviewees show up an hour early before the actual time. He feels the obligation to rush what he’s doing to start the interview so the interviewees wouldn’t have to wait for too long. Therefore, I highly recommend arriving to an interview 10-15 minutes early, not any longer, not any shorter. You don’t want to just sit there and have nothing to do because you arrive too early, or have to frantically rush to the interview because you’re late.
For the majority of time, business professional attire (Men: suit and tie, black shoes and dark color socks. Women: blouse or buttoned shirt, knee-length skirt or long pants, and flats or heels) is the way to go for interviews. If recruiters specify beforehand that business professional attire is not required for the interview, you should still dress in neat casual attire (e.g. dress shirt or blouse and long pants). You want to convey a positive impression by what you’re wearing to recruiters.
Don’t come to an interview wearing extremely casual or sloppy clothes! I’ve heard a lot of stories where candidates were immediately rejected simply because they forgot to iron their dress shirt or they wore bright green socks instead of dark color socks! No matter how impressive your resume and cover letter are, you still won’t get hired if you can’t dress nicely and appropriately!
If you want to be a stand out candidate, do your research homework before the interview and learn some background information about the company that you’re applying to. Recruiters may test your knowledge about the company such as when was it founded, who’s the current CEO, where’s the headquarter, and who are the main competitors etc. You’ll be out of the game right away if your answer is simply “I don’t know.”
Don’t come to the interview unprepared without any knowledge of the company or the position. Google the company’s name, visit its website, social media sites and read its About Us page, understand its mission statement and how it relates to you.
For 90% of the time, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be asked the questions of “Tell us about yourself” and “Why should we hire you?” Your task in the next few minutes after being asked those questions is to really sell yourself and convince the interviewers that you’re just what they’re looking for. Although these questions seem simple and straight-forward, they’re the hardest questions during the interview. I interviewed a lot of candidates who have the required skills for the job. Ultimately they’re still not hired because they didn’t successfully sell themselves.
With that being said, how do you sell yourself? The first step is to do your homework before the interview and come up with some ideas on how you would answer the 2 questions above. For the first question, write down a 1-minute introduction about yourself (your name, your school, your degree and major, your experience, your interests etc.) and practice saying it out loud. Ask your friends to listen and give feedback.
For the second question, you should’ve thought about it when writing your cover letter already. Make sure to mention (1) any relevant experience and impact that you had in relating to the position that you’re applying to, (2) your qualifications, (3) what you like about the company (the culture, the product/service etc.), (4) how can you contribute to the company, and (5) how can the company help you grow. Interviewers want to know that you’ll be competent to do the job and will be a good fit with the company! Once again, always practice saying your answers out loud and in front of friends to be familiar with what you’re going to say and to build confidence.
Fidgeting includes but doesn’t limit to flickering your pen, biting your nails, playing with your hair, shaking your leg, tapping the table and chewing gum. Once, I interviewed a candidate who flickered her pen pretty much the entire time. I couldn’t really focus on her answers at all since the noise just drove me crazy! I was so tempted to just take the pen out of her hand and throw it away!
Sure you don’t want to be too rigid like a robot during an interview. But don’t fidget too much either. Just relax, have good posture and pay attention to your interviewer and the conversation.
Having good body language is extremely important in an interview. It shows that you’re confident and attentive. Always remember to shake the interviewer’s hand (not too firm, not too loose) and introduce your name when you first walk into the interview. Smile, have good posture, and maintain good eye contact with the interviewer. You neither want to creepily stare at him/her, nor look around like you’re not paying any attention!
Another tip that I learned is to mirror the interviewer’s body language. So if the interviewer is sitting straight up, you should also sit straight up. However, if he/she is sitting in a more relaxed and laid-back way, you should also do the same.
Don’t speak negatively or talk sh*ts about your previous employer or company during an interview, no matter how much suffering you went through. If interviewer asks the reason why you left your previous job, simply answer that it wasn’t a good fit for you instead of spending half an hour ranting about it. If you’re badmouthing about your previous job already, you could very well be ranting about the job that you’re interviewing in the future, and interviewers don’t want that.
Besides, you can never know how small the world can be and who may be connected to who. What if the employer that you’re badmouthing about is the sister of the interviewer, or a large customer to the company?
Besides the 2 questions of “Tell us about yourself” and “Why should we hire you,” you’re also guaranteed to be asked if you have any question for the interviewer. Your answer should never ever be “No” right away! Instead, brainstorm a list of questions that you want to ask the interviewer beforehand. I’ve included some examples of these questions below. Asking questions demonstrate that you’re curious and interested. It’s a great opportunity for you to learn more about the job and the company, and find out whether you would be a good fit for the company.
Examples of questions to ask the interviewer:
(1) What’s a typical work day like for the position that I’m applying to?
(2) How would you describe an ideal candidate? What qualities and skills are you looking for in a successful candidate?
(3) What do you enjoy the most about working here?
(4) Can you tell me more about the company’s culture and value?
(5) What do you like the most and the least about working in this industry?
(6) How do you evaluate success?
(7) What’s the next step after the interview?
Don’t lie about yourself. Don’t exaggerate your accomplishments and skills. Don’t make up extravagant experiences. Interviewers will know. Even if you manage to wow your interviewers and get the job, who you really are and what you’re able to do will quickly show. So don’t lie, ever!
No matter how good or bad your interview goes, you should always follow up with the interviewer afterward and send him/her a thank-you email. Even better, send him/her a handwritten thank-you note! An interviewer once told me that he always appreciates a handwritten thank-you note more than a typed thank-you email. The candidate actually takes the time to write it down and thus it’s more special than a digital email that can be sent anywhere. My recommendation is to send a quick thank-you email first within 24 hours after the interview so the interviewer remember you. Then compose a handwritten thank-you note and send it to the interviewer (either by mailing or dropping off at the HR office physically), since it may take a few days or even weeks.
Some information that should be included in the thank-you email and thank-you note include: (1) you thanking the interviewer for his/her time, (2) what you learn/enjoy from the interview, (3) a reiteration of your interest in the position, and (4) a 1-2 sentence summary of why the interviewer should hire you and how you can contribute to the company. The thank-you email or note should be concise, short, and sincere.
Remember to follow up after your interview, but don’t nag or beg your interviewer to hire you! Nothing’s worse than receiving 20+ phone calls and emails every single day from candidates begging to be hired or asking for the results! Give the interviewers at least a week to make the decision before spamming them with phone calls and emails.
About Hue La
Hey there, I'm Hue (pronounced “huay”, not “hue” like how you would normally say it in English). I'm a USC graduate and traveler with 6+ years of study abroad experience in the U.S. I founded Study Abroad Corner with the goals of providing helpful advice and building a social network for fellow study abroaders around the world.