Job Interview: What Not To Do

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One of the first priorities any newcomer to Canada has, apart from finding a place to live, is finding a job. So you have been sending your résumés day and night, and there has been complete silence. It is unnerving, but keep at it. One fine day, the phone will ring and bingo, you will be shortlisted for an interview.

As you let out a cry of joy at the step forward, you face the great unknown. Will you succeed or not? You don’t want to make a single mistake, down to the shine on your shoes, the color of your tie or the smile on your face.

Suzanne Hague, owner of Anne Whitten Bilingual Recruitment, based in Toronto says, “In my decade and a half in the business I have seen people make such glaring mistakes during their interviews that one wonders, how did he or she do that one? Right from keeping their glasses perked on their forehead throughout the interview to being outright rude and arrogant.” She identifies some of the most common mistakes to avoid during a job interview.

  • Do not (and this is a special do not) bad mouth your past or current employers. It brings negativity into the conversation and reflects very badly on you.
  • Do not be overly casual, friendly or extremely shy. Keep a professional bearing. No sob stories. They don’t take you far. Leave mom at home; do not bring her to the interview. It reflects poorly on you.
  • Don’t show up in casual attire. Yes that tattoo, nose piercing or wacky haircut gives you individuality and endears you to your inner circle. Employers unfortunately don’t like that too much, unless you are applying at a tattoo shop or a hairdresser.
  • Don’t chew gum, turn up smelling of cigarettes or walk in reeking with your favourite perfume. When you walk out, so should your ‘aromas’. A number of people are allergic to strong smells, and so most work places discourage them.
  • Be well groomed. No long dirty nails for men, or peeling nail polish for ladies. Be properly dressed with facial hair shaved or trimmed, hair on the top properly combed. Yes, at times some folks turn up with hair protruding from their nostrils, ear lobes or eye brows. Employers like to have a smart, well turned up employee. Wear clothes that fit you, not a size more or a size less. Clothes are important. Vertical stripes make you look taller while horizontal ones make you look shorter. Yes the red tie is a power tie, and its knot and length say a lot about you and your personality.
  • Do not cut off the interviewer. Do not interrupt. Listen carefully. This is for all those folks who have already thought of an answer, even before the question is finished. Do not simply hear the sounds, listen. Pause, comprehend and then answer. You will be more coherent. On the same subject, do not blabber and wander off the topic. It may sound smart and relevant to you, but ask yourself does it sound the same to the interviewer. Answers should be simple, concise, properly structured and well thought out.
  • Never start telling tall tales, exaggerating or telling lies. Yes, sometimes people do stretch the truth and hope no one notices. Interviewers are trained to spot lies, exaggerations and fabrications, often they are subject experts. There is no point in claiming things that are wrong or misleading. Don’t forget there will be reference and background checks, and you don’t want to be shown the door at the last stage. Be honest, simple and straightforward.
  • Do not fail to research. Imagine being in an interview and not knowing the name of the CEO or the products and services of the company or worse still, the name of the company.
  • Don’t fidget, scratch, be nervous or have a verbal tic (repeat the same phrase again and again).
  • Do not use the phrases “to be honest with you” and “between me and you”. Observations show people often use these phrases when approaching a slippery slope or a dicey situation.
  • Do not tell your marital status, religious beliefs or sexual orientation or enquire about the interviewer’s. Privacy is an important concept in Canada. These things should not be mentioned on your résumé or brought up during the interview.
  • Do not forget to smile and use phrases like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Be polite and diplomatic.
  • Do not get angry. Oh, so do you think people would never do that? Well, interviews have ended with screaming candidates, wounded interviewers and police at the door. Keep your emotions in check at all times.
  • Do not stare into someone’s eyes. You do have to look directly into the interviewers eyes and make eye contact but don’t start a staring match, embarrass the interviewer or be irritatingly shy, coy and demure.
  • Do not have a limp handshake or an ‘iron grip’. Handshakes subconsciously communicate a lot about you. Keep it firm, brief and polite. Do not get into an arm wrestling match. The interviewer may lose it, and with it you may lose the job.
  • Do not turn up at the wrong address. Nothing more funny than a candidate calling from across town saying that “I am at your office and there is some other company here”, only to be told that “Sorry sir, you are at 1900 Eglinton West, we are located at 1900 Eglinton East”.

The list is endless, but above are some of the most common “don’ts” for a job interview. A call for an interview means the company feels there is a reasonable potential in your résumé and they want to explore further. It is a precious and hard earned opportunity, so be prepared, focused and come across as a sane, sensible potential employee instead of appearing as a freak, maniac or even worse an incompetent nervous wreck.

They have the job, you have the interview. It is yours to throw it away. Be smart and nail it.


Pankaj Tripathi

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