Five Interview Mistakes and How to
Avoid Them, Too
you are in an interviewing mode, stop for a moment, and think about
the uncanny parallel between choosing the right job and finding a
great marriage partner. If you make a good match, you will live with
your spouse and your colleagues for years motivating and mentoring
each other, pursuing common goals, celebrating successes, and
Even though career and marital
relationships are both very important, job seekers spend much longer
selecting a mate than deciding on their next job. Below are some
common mistakes that job seekers make on a regular basis. Avoid
them, and your chances for interview success will improve
1. Focusing on Experience Rather Than
Anyone who has taken a sales course
knows a potential buyer is more interested in how you can benefit
him than how your product or service works. This is also true of a
potential employer. While discussing your experience is useful, it
isn't nearly as intriguing to an interviewer as how your background
and skills will apply to his particular situation.
Fortunately, this basic tenet of
human nature can be very helpful to a job seeker who hasn't already
held a position like the one she is pursuing. If she can show an
employer how her innate abilities and personality traits will
benefit the company, she may win the position over other candidates
who have more applicable experience, but don't know how to sell it.
If a career changer can prevail over a career veteran by talking
benefits, imagine how powerful a veteran's case can be, if his
interviewing techniques equal his technical ability.
2. Accepting a Position Without
Interviewing Your Immediate Manager
Would you agree to marry someone you
have never met? Not many Americans would, yet quite a few decide to
work for a company without talking to their potential boss. This is
especially true for young people who are looking for their first
No one has more impact on your career
than your immediate manager. His performance, feedback and attitude
will have an effect on everything you do. His conversations with his
boss (the one who has the real power to promote, reward, and fire
you) may color higher management's perceptions of you for years to
Before you accept a job, get to know
your manager. Ask probing questions to determine if you and he have
compatible work styles and philosophies. Determine if he is someone
whom you could admire and cultivate as a mentor. If he isn't, look
for another professional who more closely mirrors your image of a
good boss. There are many terrific supervisors searching for
talented employees. With a little sleuthing, you will find one.
3. Assuming the Compensation Offered
is an All-or-Nothing Deal
In the book, You Can Negotiate
Anything, author Herb Cohen talks about the power of precedent. He
says the written or spoken word of a person in authority is often
perceived as being immutable. Yet very few things in life are as
inflexible as we believe, including compensation packages. Most
positions carry with them a range of salaries based partly upon
experience and education and partly upon what the market says they
If your job offer is less than your
desired compensation, you probably have room to negotiate,
especially if the number quoted is not at the top of the position's
salary range. It's better to ask for what you want than feel
exploited. If you don't, you may put a chip on your shoulder that
grows every time you work overtime on a hot project for your Scrooge
of a company.
4. Failing to Use Your Leverage
This mistake is closely allied with a
number of others in this and last week’s articles. What do they have
in common? Fear the employer is a rigid autocrat who expects the
candidate to do his bidding or else.
Many job seekers don't realize there
are two needy parties in a job transaction. The employer is
dependent upon finding the right candidate. The candidate is anxious
to settle into the right job. Both people have an equal desire to
develop the best possible match.
Yet many job seekers relinquish their
power when they are chosen as the number one person for the
position. Instead of using their blue ribbon status as leverage to
ask for what they want, they squander their advantage worrying about
what the employer will think. Will Mr. Jones say I'm greedy if I ask
for the company to pay for my parking spot? Will he withdraw the
offer if I don't take it as is?
When you are selected for a job you
haven't yet accepted, the balance of power between you and the
employer is in your favor. If there is something you want, make a
counter offer before you say "yes." Once you start working, your
stock will take at least a year to rebuild.
5. Obsessing over Catastrophic
When you were a child, did you ever
awaken in the middle of the night afraid there was a monster hiding
under your bed or behind the closet door? While these shadowy
creatures were pretty scary, they always lost their power when
exposed to the light.
Few adults still worry about monsters
under the bed, but many job seekers find themselves threatened by
other, more insidious ones like:
The “I Will Never Work Again”
The “I’m Too
The “I Will End Up Sleeping Under
a Bridge” Monster
and the scariest one of all: The
“I Am Worthless” Monster.
Catastrophic expectations and
negative self-talk are much more deadly than bad dreams, because
they linger in your conscious mind, capitalizing on every
opportunity to frighten you into emotional paralysis. It's no
coincidence that people want to stay in bed and pull up the covers
when the "I Am Worthless" monster comes to call.
Thinking the worst would be bad
enough, if it only affected the job seeker's self esteem. But it has
an even more far-reaching consequence. People who feel worthless and
desperate are very poor interviewees. No matter how hard they try,
they cannot disguise their negative feelings about themselves. They
become victims of their own self-fulfilling prophesies.
If you find yourself in an internal
negative dialog, stop immediately. Use an affirmation, pet your dog
or cat, call a friend, pray, meditate, etc. to help you halt you’re
stinkin’ thinkin’ (phrase courtesy of Zig Ziglar).
If you need to banish a psychological
dragon, expose it to the light of rational thought. The next time
you are obsessing about a catastrophic expectation, confront its
reality. Quantify the probability of finding yourself sleeping under
a bridge in the next three months. You may be amazed by how low the
realistic number is. Develop some alternatives for what you would do
should you be evicted from your home. Could you stay with friends or
relatives, rent a room somewhere or sleep at a homeless shelter?
Once you have considered the true
probability of your catastrophic expectation and devised a plan to
deal with it, it will lose its power.