7 sure-fire ways to fail an interview

19 April 2017 | Careers Advice | Thomas Peacock

No one likes interviewing, regardless of what side of the table you’re on, it’s a stressful process for all involved. If you’re straight out of university, the novel experience of corporate interviewing can be rather daunting to say the least. But, fear not as there are a number of ways you can reduce your stress levels, inspire some confidence in your own ability and avoid embarrassment on the day. Here are seven guaranteed ways to fail an interview before you’ve even left the room.

Avoid these at all costs and your chances should increase ten-fold.

1. Bring a copy of your CV!

The number of interview candidates who turn up on the day without a copy of their CV; the one physical element of evidence that validates their professional credibility, is truly astonishing. One mustn’t assume that the interviewer has memorised every aspect of their resume or that they’ll have yours printed off for the interview. Often the latter is the case, but by turning up without a printed copy, it shows lack of organisation and can prove embarrassing if the interviewer also doesn’t have a copy, knocking your chances a million miles downwards instantly.

2. Be on time but don’t show up too early

Arriving on time for an interview holds paramount importance; that goes without saying. Turn up late and you may as well go straight home. What many interviewees don’t realise is how detrimental it can be if you turn up half an hour before your arranged time. It puts the interviewer under stress as they may rush what they’re doing in order to see you. One can argue this is of trivial importance and that if you are fully prepared with every conceivable answer loaded and ready to fire, then turning up early is the least of your worries. There may well be some truth there, but if your interview doesn’t go as smooth as you’d hoped and your application is on a knife-edge; you don’t want to irritate your interviewer before you’ve even met them!

3. Improvisation is great, if you’re auditioning for drama school that is

Being able to think on your feet and answer a tough question effectively without hesitation is an excellent skill to possess. But there’re many times in an interview where your innate gift-of-the-gab will not only fail you but also reveal a rather telling aspect of your work style. By answering questions with improvisation and not with real substance, which only comes through doing your research, you are leaving yourself exposed for more complex follow-up questions that are designed to probe your TRUE knowledge of the topic. Fail these tests and you immediately reveal to the interviewer that you don’t do your homework and tend to rely on luck for important professional situations. This will get you scratched off the potential candidate list in a heartbeat.

4. A one-word answer is never a proper answer!

This ties into the previous point. By making sure you do your research prior to an interview, you should always be able to expand on a simple yes or no question sufficient evidence. To do otherwise would be a total no-no (excuse the pun)! If the question is about how you’ve performed in a previous work situation, this is your chance to make that very clear. If you haven’t encountered that situation before, be honest and state what you WOULD do to solve the problem. Keep your answers clear, concise and to the point, and don’t say anything that you can’t back up!

5. Manners maketh man

It may seem insignificant but the manner in which you present yourself both physically and verbally is incredibly important. Remember, not only is the interviewer assessing your professional ability but also who YOU are as a person. It may be a small office you’re applying to work in. If they feel you’d add an undesired source of friction in the work environment, they’re unlikely to hire you, regardless of whether you’re the perfect candidate on paper or otherwise. Small things like looking someone in the eye when shaking their hand, addressing them politely and holding the door open for them makes all the difference in the end. They want to see a mature, respectful individual who’s going to show emotional intelligence every day, not a loudmouth with an attitude problem.

6. Show interest!

Again, this may seem small. But would you hire someone who clearly didn’t care much at all about the company and is simply just looking for a paycheck? We all have jobs in order to make a living, but any reputable employer is going to want his/her employees to possess a genuine interest in what they do and why they do it. Not only is this a comforting sign for the employer, but it also shows them you’re in it for the long haul and won’t jump ship the moment you get bored.

7. A question about my weaknesses, yes please!

This is often seen as one of the toughest questions in an interviewer’s arsenal. Reveal too much and you can destroy your application in one sentence. Reveal too little and you’ll come across as untrustworthy, like you’re dodging the question for fear of unveiling a damning secret. Well, fear not as this is actually a gem of a question, delivering the opportunity to showcase where you’ve demonstrated improvement in the past. Everyone experiences failures, but it’s how one tackles them which is the real challenge. Overcoming adversity with intelligence and maturity is one of the greatest things you can show a potential employer. It fills them with confidence that you’ll have the ability to undertake significant responsibility in the future, should they decide to employ you in the business.

So, with all that in mind, remember that the single most important thing to bear in mind before an interview is to remain calm. If you do your homework and remember these points, you will maximise your chances to sign your name on that dotted line and put the stressful nature of interviewing behind you - until you decide to change job at least! Good luck!

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