Here is an excerpt from an article written by Adriana Gardella for BNET, the CBS Interactive Business Network. To read the complete article, check out other articles, and/or obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.
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You don’t need interview advice, right? After all, you’ve got stellar credentials and years — maybe even decades — of work experience. To be completely honest, you’re actually overqualified for the job. In fact, you shouldn’t even have to interview.
Stop right there! In this age of shrinking workforces and shuttering businesses, you’ve also got plenty of equally qualified company. And when was the last time you interviewed? Chances are, those skills could use a little polish. Fear not. But make sure you don’t throw yourself out of the race by committing one of these common — and fatal — faux pas.
Mistake #1: Drop your guard in front of “the help.”
Interviewing is stressful. Sometimes you just want to explode. But don’t. At least not in front of anyone who could influence the hiring decision.
Ron Panaggio, regional HR manager for security systems provider SimplexGrinnell recalls one candidate who took himself out of the running when he thought no one was looking. After meeting with Mr. X, a strong contender, Panaggio, who was then working for Emery Worldwide in New York, asked the receptionist who greeted the candidate to share her impressions. Turns out, Mr. X had launched into a profanity-laced tirade about the company’s lack of visitor parking spaces.
Panaggio notes that although the guy may have had a point — the parking situation wasn’t ideal — his delivery, and his questionable decision to attack his would-be employer set off warning signals. “If he was that critical about parking, we could only imagine how he was going to react to substantive policies that he disliked,” says Panaggio.
Employers know that job seekers interact with receptionists and other support staffers — often with their guards down. “They don’t see those people as decision makers, so they tend to be more genuine in their interactions with them,” says Panaggio. But employers routinely ask these employees for feedback. “We like to see whether the interview persona matches the unscripted persona that walks through the door,” says Panaggio. Consider that the next time you’re waiting for a tardy interviewer (who’s probably busy and making do with a reduced staff).
Mistake #2: Over share.
Candidates worried about explaining employment gaps on their resumes have been getting way too personal, says Wanda Cole-Frieman, an executive recruiter for Blue Shield of California. While she enjoys building rapport with the applicants she meets, certain topics are off-limits — or should be. They include descriptions of your medical conditions and information about your sick parents or childcare woes.
It’s not just a matter of propriety. Chatty candidates put interviewers in an awkward position when they raise issues that could identify them as members of a legally protected class. Cole-Frieman recalls that one of her colleagues was forced to contact the legal department for guidance after a candidate announced that he used marijuana for medical purposes. The legal drug use wasn’t a dealbreaker, but raising such issues won’t endear you to interviewers. “We’re trained to say, ‘Thanks for sharing, but Blue Shield doesn’t consider those factors in its hiring decisions,’” says Cole-Frieman.
Mistake #3: Assume your resume speaks for itself.
Your resume may have helped you get the interview, but it won’t get you hired. Susan Strayer, a career coach who also works in corporate HR for a Fortune 500 company, urges job seekers to go out of their way to connect the dots for interviewers, highlighting their work experiences with stories that clearly describe what they accomplished in each role and how it relates to the position they are seeking. Don’t assume that your interviewer is familiar with obscure acronyms and non-intuitive job titles that have no significance outside the organizations that use them.
Strayer recalls meeting with an unsuccessful candidate who breezed through his resume, touting his “A-76 experience,” a term that meant nothing to her at the time, and never pausing to explain it. Strayer says he would have been better-served by taking a moment to add, “If you’re not familiar with A-76, it’s a government mandate to ensure tasks are performed in the most cost-efficient way. My role on the A-76 project was to…”
Note: I agree with everything Gardella recommends in the entire article and presume to suggest that all of her advice applies not only to job interviews but also to any other initial meeting with anyone else who could also be of significant value, such as someone who could provide leads to prospective customers or prospective job candidates.
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To read the complete article, check out other articles, and/or obtain a free subscription to one or more of the BNET newsletters, please click here.