There are about five people for every one job opening today, a fact that may not come as a surprise to many job seekers.
That means you have to do everything you can to ace the coveted interview since these days you’re lucky to get one at all.
There are some basic things you should keep in mind, like making sure you’re well groomed and show up on time. But wouldn’t it be great to know what really gets under the skin of employers when it comes to interviews before you don your suit?
I’ve reached out to a bevy of recruiting experts and hiring managers, asking them to share their interview pet peeves and I’ve come up with the following list I call “the seven deadly sins of interviewing.”
1. Winging it
Don’t show up for an interview unprepared.
Chris Laggini, vice president of human resources for DLT Solutions, a reseller of IT products and services that has 240 employees and is hiring about 10 people a month, calls this “winging it.”
He hates it when job candidates show up for an interview and they’re like deer in headlights when it comes to his firm and think their greatness is all they need. “They don’t research the website of the company or even get basic data,” he said. Some don’t know the size of the firm, or what markets they’re in.
There is nothing worse than a job applicant who doesn’t seem excited with the prospect of working at a company, according to many hiring managers and owners of firms.
Typically, the people working at a company you interview with really like what they do, at least you hope they do. And if it’s a smaller firm, or a start up, this fact is even more pronounced.
If you’re not excited, a hiring manager may get the impression you don’t really care about the company’s mission. You have to show a bit of passion, even if you’re not that passionate about the job, or you’re just not a passionate person.
Even if you’ve been unemployed for months and are desperate to know how much a potential job will finally be paying you, resist the urge to talk money.
“Candidates should not bring up the topic of salary,” said Jerome Young, founder of AttractJobsNOW.com, adding that the manager should be the first one to talk dollars and cents.
“Employers usually mention salary when they feel that a candidate is qualified for the job and they are considering making an offer,” he continued. “A candidate mentioning salary first is inappropriate and can be viewed by the employer as desperation or being presumptuous.”
I know, a lot of these sounds like common sense, but many job seekers keep dropping the ball on being polite and appropriate.
“Don't be rude to the receptionist,” stressed Cheryl Barbato, founder of Talent Retriever. “You can blow it in the first two minutes,” she noted, because “they can carry a lot of weight.”
You really shouldn’t be rude to anyone. These days, you never know if the young kid who’s sitting in on an interview is the intern or an executive at a firm.
I don’t care what’s going on in your life, a job interview is no place to discuss a medical condition, your family problems, your love life, or anything that isn’t job related.
Jim Joseph, author of “The Experience Effect” and president of marketing firm Lippe Taylor, sees this a lot.
He pointed to baby boomers who are trying to compete in a youth-obsessed world but spending all their time talking about their kids, he said, “their old kids. Some much older than the interviewer.”
That’s a big mistake, Joseph said. “Talk about yourself.”
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, he continued, stop talking about the gap in your resume. “Embrace it. Talk about your accomplishments while raising the kids, not the kids themselves.”
And, he added, never, never, never bring up “health issues, food allergies, and digestive problems. I have had people do this and it makes them look old, and tired, and a has-been.”
Not to mention that an employer may see you as a financial liability and not want to hire you. Yes, that can be illegal if you have an ailment that’s covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, but why go there in the first place.
6. Too much bling
While most hiring managers don’t want to hire someone who’s dressed shabbily and looks desperate for a job, looking too rich or too fancy can also backfire.
A hiring manager for a major Northeast company, who did not want her name used, told me she did not hire an administrative assistant because of the big diamond ring on her finger. “We figured she would quit easily because she was rich and newly married,” the person said.
This is not an isolated occurrence.
The CEO of work-fashion site Workchic Melissa McGraw had this happen to a friend of hers. “The hiring manager said she didn’t need the salary she was requesting since it was apparent she was ‘taken care of’ and didn’t need the money due to her large ring.’”
“Our advice is to keep your interview attire simple,” said Workchic’s McGraw.
7. Self loathing
I don’t care how long you’ve been out of work or how bummed out you are about it, when you get to the interview get your game face on and pretend you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. Listen to a Tony Robbins tape if you have to.
“One of the biggest mistakes that a candidate can make in an interview is being too modest,” said Diane Samuels, an image consultant and founder of coaching site DianeLSamuels.com.
“I have had to remind candidates that the purpose of the interview is for them to say what they’ve done,” she explained. “There are definitely times when I want them to talk about their specific role on a project.”
She suggested a job candidate say, “’I’ instead of always using ‘we’. I want to know what you are capable of and it’s difficult to figure that out when you don’t tell me explicitly.”
You don’t want to come off as an egomaniac, but if you don’t think you’re any great shakes why would anyone want to hire you?
Eve Tahmincioglu writes the weekly "Your Career" column for msnbc.com and chronicles workplace issues in her blog, CareerDiva.net.