By Joy Ehonwa
Congratulations, you applied for the job and you’ve received a call asking you to come in for an interview. Before you break into a victory dance however, be reminded that the call only means you are close; you do not have that offer yet.
A few weeks ago, I was surprised to hear a senior executive at one of Nigeria’s top breweries express relief at having successfully filled a position. One would think that, with the number of job seekers in Nigeria today, hiring managers would have it easy. The truth is that way too many job seekers are victims of pitfalls that can easily be avoided.
Having been selected from probably hundreds of applicants to be one of the serious contenders for the position, the last thing you want is to mess up your interview. Here are ten common ways interviewees do this.
1. Arriving late: This may look like a “duh” point, but you’d be surprised how many job seekers dash through the door five minutes after the hour, sweating, panting and looking dishevelled. So ‘not’ the impression you want to leave. You want to be relaxed and well put together. Show up on time, or 10 minutes early, sit down and study the environment. Or better still; spend time making sure you are not a victim of number 2 below.
2. Showing up unprepared: Applying for a position at a company without knowing what EXACTLY the company does is totally unacceptable. Employers expect you to walk into an interview fully cognizant of what they do, their competition, and other necessary bits of information- and rightly so. Showing up at an interview without pre-interview research and preparation is probably the best way to put your name on the “Thank you for your interest, but no thanks” list.
3. Adopting a Know-It-All Attitude: You’ve done your research, but the interview is still an opportunity for you to find out precisely what the company and your prospective boss have on their plate. Bearing this in mind, ask as many questions as you can, instead of showing off how much you know about their accomplishments. When you have the chance to answer a question, make your answer rich, yet concise; balance is key.
4. Going on and on about irrelevant topics: Your prospective employer doesn’t really want to hear about how things were done in your former place of work, a rambling speech extolling the merits of office prayer sessions, or why you prefer XYZ internet service provider. Even if they ask you, keep your answers short, and focus on the more important issues; issues relevant to the job you’re applying for.
5. Not having a story: When you’re asked about your experience, don’t just list your job titles. You need to state exactly what challenges you helped overcome, and how this saved your employer money or added value to the company. This is an opportunity to sell yourself and you don’t want to appear like a bumbling idiot, going “emm, err, you know…” Practice your pitch; it will help you pull it off effortlessly! You want to come across as confident and articulate. The best way to do this is by preparing a specific short story with these important details, keeping you at the centre of it.
6. Forgetting where you are: Interviews are known to be mentally and physically tasking. However, no matter how exhausting it is, be prepared to go the distance. You do not want to look or sound like you lack the stamina to handle demanding assignments. Mentioning the wrong company name, referring to your interview with a competitor, calling someone by the wrong name, or letting slip that you are only using this job to pass time until so-and so happens, are all interview no-nos. The same goes for bad posture or negative body language. No yawning, elbows off the table, don’t slouch…
7. Sharing too much information: This classic is famous for ruining many an applicant’s chances. No matter how friendly an interviewer appears, beware of the “getting-too-familiar” trap. Refrain from talking about your social life more than as a conversation starter, if necessary. Don’t be too familiar with the interviewer—for instance, if there are photos of children displayed in the office, don’t say “Cute kids! How old are they?” Be professional and respect the interviewer’s personal space. You don’t want it to seem like you’re unprepared for the main event and trying to hide behind small talk.
8. Name-dropping: Maybe you know a colleague of the interviewer’s from church, or their granddad and yours worked together in the olden days. Save the “People We Know in Common” chat for when you’ve actually got the job. Focus instead on the interview itself and why you are the best fit for the job
9. Badmouthing your former employer: This is a really easy mistake to make, especially while trying to make yourself look good. “They didn’t even have their own website until I got there, and they call themselves a communications company.” That’s no way to treat the hand that fed you. For what it’s worth, you gained experience while working there. Trashing your former boss in ANY way makes YOU look bad. Steer clear of it.
10. Failing to follow up: Where possible, send an email after the interview, thanking the interviewer for their time. You can also bring your conversation with the interviewer back to mind by thanking them for a specific explanation you received, and offering a reminder of one topic the two of you discussed. Follow that up by sharing a new idea or initiative you’ve had since the interview—this shows the interviewer that you’re already putting yourself mentally in the job.