Survey Shows Interview Blunders That Can Undermine the Job Search

MENLO PARK, CA -- It is certainly a job seeker's market. But if you're planning a career move, beware of interview mistakes that can prevent you from securing an employment offer. OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service for administrative professionals, recently surveyed its offices for the most unusual or unconventional interview antics they had ever heard of from clients and colleagues nationwide.

Those surveyed were asked: "What is the most unusual thing you have ever heard of happening in a job interview?" Here are some of their responses: 

  • "After arriving for an early morning interview, the job seeker asked to use the hiring manager's phone. She proceeded to fake a coughing fit as she called in sick to her boss." 
  • "When asked where she wanted to be in five years, the interviewee responded, 'I don't plan that far ahead ... after all, I could be hit by a bus tomorrow.'" 
  • "When the hiring manager called the candidate, she asked him to bring several copies of his resume and three references. He called back an hour before the interview and asked to reschedule, saying his references couldn't come with him." 
  • "The interviewer asked the candidate to describe his ideal job. His response was, 'I don't know ... I haven't had it yet.'"  

"No matter how well your resume and cover letter represent you, the hiring decision hinges on the interview," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. "This is the manager's best opportunity to gauge your interpersonal skills and potential fit with the corporate culture. Despite the strong employment market, companies still make hiring decisions very carefully."

Here are some additional examples of interviews that definitely could have gone more smoothly:  

  • "The job seeker halted the conversation about work hours and the office environment, saying she didn't like being confined to a building, but would consider taking the job if she could move her desk to the courtyard outside." 
  • "When asked about her greatest job skill, the candidate said she was proudest of her computer illiteracy." 
  • "In response to the hiring manager's offer to answer questions about the position, the job seeker replied, 'What happens if I wake up in the morning and don't feel like going to work?'" 
  • "When asked what motivated him, the job seeker replied, 'I've got a big house and a big car and a big credit card balance. Pay me and I'll be happy.'" 
  • "When asked what he wanted to be doing in his next position, the job seeker said, 'I'll tell you what I don't want to be doing - sitting in boring meetings, doing grunt work and having to be nice to people all day long.'"  

Domeyer notes that diplomacy and tact are key when meeting a prospective employer for the first time. "To ensure you're putting your best foot forward, consider having a friend or family member role-play possible interview questions with you, and critique your presentation skills." She offers these additional tips:

Put yourself in the hiring manager's shoes - He or she is looking for a strong work ethic, motivation and a positive attitude. Be sure your answers emphasize these qualities.

Know how to handle tough questions - No matter how prepared you are, one or two questions may surprise you. Take your time in answering these tricky inquiries and keep your responses concise and to the point.

Be yourself - Pretending to be someone you're not to impress the interviewer can help you land the job, but you may end up in a position for which you're either unqualified or ill-suited. It benefits both you and the hiring manager to present an accurate picture of your skills and work style so you can ensure the best job match.

Focus on your value to the company - What is it about your background that makes you the best fit for the job? By discussing experiences and accomplishments that relate directly to the open position, you demonstrate your ability to become an immediate contributor.

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