5 Ways You Fail Before You Start the Interview

Interviewing can be tough. That’s why you should reserve all your time, energy, and intelligence for those hours of scrutiny. What most people fail to realize is that the “interview” begins far ahead of the first handshake with HR and ends far after leaving the in-person interview.

The “interview” is a living breathing ongoing process that begins with your application and ends with your offer (or rejection) letter. Many applicants struggle to realize that every word, look, movement, and email characterizes who you are in the mind of the interviewing company. Everything matters. Pay attention.

1. Food frenzies.

We’ve all been there – so preoccupied with interview prep that we forget how hungry we are. But several HR executives have told me that some of the worst candidates they ever interviewed have had terrible breath (clearly from just eating something smelly), had food in their teeth, or kept burping during the interview. One noted that an interviewee actually came into the interview room wiping his mouth after clearly just finishing a sandwich. And then asked where the trash was for his sandwich bag remnants. None apparently thought that shoving onion-soaked curried lamb burgers down their throat three minutes before the interview was a bad idea. Take note. And for the love of all things fresh, brush your teeth.

2. Cramming.

The most disappointing feeling as an interviewer is walking out into the lobby, only to find a candidate feverishly going over their resumé, cover letter, and hand-written notes of what to say during the interview. We want to know that you’ve prepared, that you aren’t lying on your resumé or cover letter, and that you’ve done your homework on the company ahead of time (preferably even ahead of applying). We’ll be able to tell during the interview, but this is a big warning sign.

3. Poor posture.

Yup, it matters. Not just for your poor little ligaments either. Interviewers are human, and so, subconsciously or consciously, they will take note of your tone, facial expressions, attitude, and posture to create a first impression. Research suggests that humans develop a first impression within the blink of an eye, or more precisely, in 100 milliseconds (1/10 of a second). Perhaps even more disconcerting, those impressions don’t tend to change over time. Science shows us that even before approaching others, expanding your posture affects your hormone levels, which inspires trust in others and the appearance and genuine feeling of confidence.

4. Shrewd and rude.

A big mistake is to be nice only to the interviewers, while treating everyone else rudely or as an inferior. The receptionist, HR generalists, office coordinators, and especially servers or baristas you may meet in the event the interview takes place outside the office should be treated with the utmost respect and politeness. Some companies even purposely incorporate into their hiring process an evaluation by all employees who were designed to encounter the interviewee.  That particular process often includes a variety of employees from new hires to facilities workers to top managers.

5. Typos.

This doesn’t even apply solely to your resumé or  cover letter. This applies to email correspondence or your general application with the company. No HR administrator appreciates typos, grammar errors, or poor sentence structure. Don’t expect that this won’t affect the way you’re perceived or evaluated when you’re called in for an interview.


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