Job Interviews - 10 Cardinal Sins

As an expert in the field of career management, my job is to help people craft cover letters and résumés that showcase the specific transferable skills that would be a value to all potential employers. Nothing makes me sadder than, once having heard that my clients have secured the interview, to find out later that they have been found guilty of one or more of the cardinal sins related to job interviews.

Cardinal Sin #1: Resting on your laurels. Falling into the trap of believing that your stellar credential and years of work experience speak for themselves is disastrous.

Cardinal Sin #2: Practice interviews are unnecessary. Think about the last time you were on the receiving end of job interview. Although it is likely that the information required by employers has not changed, it is highly likely that the employers' method of acquiring that information has. Candidates should be prepared to respond to all types of interview styles including the following:

Behavioural Interviews - This type of interview is sometimes called a 'competency-based' interview. This type of interview is based upon the idea that a candidate's past behaviour is a good indicator of the candidate's future behaviour. Behavioural interview questions typically begin with the words, "Tell me about a time when....." 
Stress Interviews - Interviewers and hiring managers use this interview technique in an effort to intimidate candidates and to find out how these candidates handle pressure. While most questions will concentrate on areas related to the job, i.e. work overload, dealing with multiple projects, handling conflict, etc., candidates may also find themselves responding to an interviewer who appears to be completely uninterested in the candidate's answers to the point of appearing almost hostile. Interviewers, who deliver stress interview questions may, choose to avoid eye contact, roll their eyes at the candidate's answers, interrupt the candidate's answers, or ask questions in a demeaning or challenging style. Candidates should know that the interviewer is playing a role and that the secret to successfully navigating through this style of interview is to de-personalize the process. Stress interview questions fall into a number of categories: 
Sticky situations - "What would you do if you caught a colleague stealing?" 
Putting you on the spot - "[Interviewer] I believe that this interview is going poorly. What do you think?" 
Popping your balloon - "Is that your best answer?" 
Oddball questions - "How many jelly beans do you think would fit in a 747?" 
Platform Interviews - During this type of interview, the candidate is asked to make a presentation as part of the selection process. Some interviewers find this tactic to be a useful predictor of how the candidate will perform under similar on-the-job situations. 
Technical Interviews - These types of interviews focus on problem solving and creativity. Interviewers expect that this type if interview is a good indicator of the candidate's knowledge and ability. This type of interview may be delivered via computer module and use multiple-choice questions to determine proficiency 
Telephone Interviews - This type of interview is typically used by hiring managers to reduce the number of prospective candidates that will be invited for a second 'face-to-face interview.

Cardinal Sin #3: Dropping your guard in front of 'the help'. - Be forewarned that hiring managers will often ask the receptionist for their input on hiring decisions. Also be forewarned that in many smaller companies, it would not be uncommon for the person who will be conducting the interview to place themselves in the receptionist seat to get a first impression of all potential candidates.

Cardinal Sin # 4: Over-sharing. - While all job-seekers should be prepared to address gaps in employment history, these holes in history need to be addressed in a formal manner only after these gaps are brought up by the interviewer or hiring manager.

Cardinal Sin #5: Using acronyms. - Job-seekers should not assume that the interviewer is familiar with the same acronyms you have used in your current or previous job. It is not unusual for acronyms to be organization specific and that these acronyms may mean something different for other organizations. If you, as a candidate want/need to use a particular acronym, make sure that you take the time to explain the acronym to the interviewer.

Cardinal Sin #6: Ringing cell phone - You've got places to go and people to see - we get it, you're a big deal. But when an employer has taken the time to meet with you, your undivided attention is a must. Note to Gen-Yers (and iPhone addicts of all ages): Acing the interview is your primary mission. If you lack the impulse control to keep your hands off your phone, turn it off or leave it behind.

Cardinal Sin #7: Talking the employer out of hiring you. - In today's tight job market, job seekers may find themselves accepting interviews for positions that they would normally consider as not taking advantage of the tremendous number of transferable skills they have to offer potential employers. Be wise and keep your option open! Remember that just because an opportunity has been offered, it does not mean that you, as a potential new hire, are required to accept the position.

Cardinal Sin # 8: Act like a Stalker. - There's a fine line between enthusiastic and desperate, and you don't want to cross it. If you are going to make a follow-up call and/send a "Thank you for taking the time to grant me an interview" e-mail, and you should, limit the number to ONE and leave a polite message to indicate that you would be happy to answer any other questions that may have come up as a result of the interview or to supply the interviewer with the information they requested. Do not fall into the trap of believing that if you hang up without leaving a message that somehow negates the number of calls you have made. With the popular use of caller ID interviewers and hiring manager can track the number and frequency of hang-ups serves no positive purpose other than to leave a negative impression.

Cardinal Sin #9: Ignoring the value of social media. - Social media is another of the many tools that employers and hiring managers use to screen candidates. Make sure that your social profile is clean and a Google search of your name will not produce negative results. If you wouldn't want your grandmother to see what's on your profile, you don't want potential employers to see it either.

Cardinal Sin #10: Treating social media communications casually. - These days, many employment relationships begin - or end - with social media. To ensure that yours falls into the former category, heed this tale. Whether you are using Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, or instant or text messaging, you still have to be professional in every communication related to your job search. Always use correct grammar and proofread your interactions before you hit the 'send' button. It is critical to maintain your professionalism at all times.

© Salvino 010910

Mary Salvino MBA is a freelance writer and career/business consultant who lives in Vancouver, BC. She has decades of hands- on experience in all aspects of retail management and is a valuable resource to both corporations and individuals in the area of strategic planning.