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What NOT to Do in an Interview

Last week I had lunch with a colleague who had recently hired someone for a part-time position for her office.  My colleague was interested to observe the wide variety of people who applied for a low-paying, part-time position.  She was even more intrigued by one candidate’s behavior during the interview.

Apparently this candidate had called on her way to the interview to say she was en route.  Based on her supposed whereabouts, the candidate should have arrived 10-15 minutes early.  Somehow, she actually arrived 40 minutes late—without offering any explanation as to why.  As if her tardiness weren’t bad enough, this candidate then proceeded to scroll through and reply to e-mails on her Blackberry during the interview!

I know what you’re thinking: yeah, that’s what happens when you interview college students.  Not so!  This badly behaved candidate was an administrator in her 50s, looking for an additional job to earn a little extra money.  My colleague was stunned that someone of this age—and at this stage in her professional life—would act so poorly in an interview setting.  So, in case it needs to be said:

1.Show up for every interview slightly early.  Between 5-10 minutes is perfect.  If you get there anymore than 10 minutes early, hang out in your car until it’s closer to your appointment time.  Interviewers don’t like to feel rushed into talking with you.  On the other hand, leaving yourself extra minutes will still allow you to arrive on time if you happen to miss a turn, get caught behind a school bus, or find yourself waiting at a railroad crossing as a 3-mile-long freight train moseys its way toward Montana.

2. Set your cell phone to silent or turn it off.  If your vibration mode is as loud as mine, it’s too loud for a quiet interview setting.  If you’re like the woman above and can’t keep your hands off your “crackberry”, leave it in the car.  Many people consider it bad form to even be looking at your cell phone while you’re waiting to be called in.

3. If something truly crazy occurs that causes you to be late, apologize profusely.  There is no easier way to get off on the wrong foot with a potential employer than to give them the impression that you don’t value their time—or that you’re not worth hiring in the first place because you’re not dependable and inconsiderate.

In this tough job market, any face time you get with a hiring manager is absolutely invaluable.  Make sure you’re on your best behavior!

Before you land the interview you need a stellar resume to get you in the door. For great articles and tips on resume writing visit our blog or view our collection of professionally-written resume samples.

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Jessica Holbrook Hernandez

A nationally recognized resume expert, Jessica Holbrook Hernandez is President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast and a former human resources manager and recruiter. Leveraging more than ten years’ experience directing hiring practices for Fortune 500 companies, Jessica's innovative and brand-driven resume development strategies have secured a 99.6% interview-winning success rate for her clients. As a global resume authority and trusted media source, Jessica has been featured and quoted numerous times throughout CNN.com, The Chicago Tribune, Monster.com, Local Job Network Radio, International Business Times, and more.
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  1. ferd
    September 4th, 2010 at 11:12 | #1

    Let’s please have some on-time courtesy from interviewers too! I’ve been on time but kept waiting for fifteen minutes or more many times, without any apology. The last interviewer’s attitude was that she was doing me a favor by interviewing me anyway, so I can wait. I thought she was interviewing to get more professional help in her office — not to enjoy a power trip. When I arrived ten minutes early for my last interview, I found a locked door and no signs of life. I tried calling in but got no answer — not even voicemail. Finally, after almost half an hour past our appointed time, the interviewer came out and was surprised that I was there waiting for him. He mumbled a half hearted apology, and the rest of the interview confirmed that he wasn’t a good manager to work for. I may be unemployed, but my time is valuable too!

  2. Kathleen
    September 7th, 2010 at 10:47 | #2

    Even though these tips are self-evident, they are worth repeating. Being a former hiring manager I was astonished at how many times people’s phones would ring during the interview!

    I have an interview this Thursday and am taking in all the tips I can get in order to land this MarCom position.

  3. Jeffatdell
    September 8th, 2010 at 15:28 | #3

    True Story: During an interview I invited the candidate to lunch. As we drove to the restaurant, the candidate pressed the button to close my window, breaking 4 fingers. We spent our lunch in the emergency room getting 4 splints. Rule #1: Don’t break any of the interviewers parts.

  4. February 9th, 2011 at 14:38 | #4

    It blows my mind that some of the things that people apparently have done in an interview. I can’t imagine what any other kind of business meeting with them might be like!

  1. September 3rd, 2010 at 19:47 | #1

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