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3/15/15 - Great Career Success Debate: 8 first interview mistakes you can avoid

By: Patrick O' Brien and Susan Davis-Ali 

Patrick O’Brien, author of Making College Count, entrepreneur and professor, squares off with career expert Dr. Susan Davis-Ali, founder of Leadhership1, author and Carlson School of Management faculty, on how to achieve success after college.

Question: What will help me stand apart in an interview from other qualified candidates?

Susan’s Take:

Great question, but don’t get ahead of yourself. In my experience, first interviews are a time to weed-out the people who make common interview mistakes. Second interviews are when they’ll choose between the remaining qualified candidates. That’s when you’ll need to set yourself apart. Your goal in the first interview is to avoid these common pitfalls so that you get invited back for a second interview.

1. “Is it possible to negotiate for more vacation time?”

Your goal in any job interview is to get a job offer. Save negotiations for benefits like vacation time and salary until after you’ve been offered the job.

2. “Sorry I’m late.”

If you’re late for the interview, you can kiss the job goodbye.

3. “I’m not sure I have everything the job requires, but I learn quickly and I work hard.”

Being quick to learn and a hard-worker are great, but you stepped on a landmine before you got to those good qualities about yourself. The truth is that none of the candidates will have everything the recruiter is looking for, and your job is not to make it easy for them to identify the skills you are lacking.

4. “My old boss was terrible.”

Anything negative you say about your previous boss or your colleagues can and will be used against you. Stay positive in the interview.

Susan’s Bottom Line: First interviews are full of landmines designed to weed out unsuspecting candidates. Your job is to avoid one of these common interview disasters so that you’ll be invited back for a second interview where you’ll need to distinguish yourself from the pack.

Pat’s Take:

1. “This is my second choice job.”

Nobody wants to be the bridesmaid. Period. If you get two offers, then you can have a discussion about an employer about why they believe they are a better choice than the other company. Until then, you need to project interest in a company in an interview with them.

2. “I haven’t done a lot of research on your company so don’t know much about it.”

Honesty is great but the person you are sitting across from chose to work for this company. They like it! To not have taken at least 15 minutes to peruse their website to become knowledgeable enough to talk intelligently about the company is inexcusable.

3. “Your company is awesome – you really rep it well.”

There’s no place for slang in an interview. Speak with some level of formality so you don’t sound like a “kid.” Also, don’t use filler words like the word “like,” which college students are very prone to do. It’s like not that impressive.

4. “I’m a little hungover today.”

No explanation necessary here. Don’t ever say you’re hung over in an interview … and don’t ever go to an interview hungover.

5. Can I work from my apartment one day a week (or start an hour after the standard start time)?

Any flexibility you will get will be earned. Asking for it prior to even getting hired sends a bad message to an employer.

Pat’s Bottom Line: In an interview situation, think before you speak. Along with impressing the recruiter, you need to avoid any knockout punches you might inflict upon yourself.


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