Why People Mess Up Job Interviews

Man and woman interviewing

So, you’ve researched positions and companies, crafted stellar cover letters and résumés, and submitted your materials to openings that are a good fit for your background. And you received some responses — they want to interview you!

Joy and happiness! You get face time! Now you get the chance to really show your stuff.

Unfortunately, bad interviews happen, even to highly qualified people. So what causes a person to blow it?

Lack of preparation is a big culprit. People think, “I know myself and what I’ve done. I’m fine!” The problem is: most people who feel like they are “under the gun” can’t produce coherent, interesting examples. If you have not practiced your answers, you will have a much harder time recalling the details of experiences that will demonstrate your accomplishments. Stumbling around for words will not impress your interviewers.

A case of the jitters can also derail a person. The cartoon that was put together on The Oatmeal details a few of the nervous habits that surface when someone goes to a job interview — the nervous twitcher (who constantly clicks the pen, taps the foot, twirls the hair), the talker, and the mute are all perfect examples. Other ways that candidates show they are less than calm are through verbal tics (“um,” “uh,” “y’know”), flapping hands (which I have done), and laughing too loud or at inappropriate times in the interview.

Overpreparation can be as big of a problem as underpreparation. If you have rehearsed so much that you can recite your answers in your sleep, you have to guard against getting out your answers too fast. Giving such rapid responses can convey the impression that you are so focused on what you plan to say that you are not really listening to what is being asked.

Slow down, take a breath — this is not a quiz show — and then give your answer. By pausing for a couple seconds or saying, “Let me think about that” (even if you don’t), you give the impression that you are giving serious consideration to the question, which also demonstrates a great soft skill that allows you to work well with others.

And while you want to appear confident, the perception of overconfidence is a turn-off. Yes, you want to act in a way that helps the interviewer “see” you as part of the team, but don’t do it in a way that assumes that you are a shoe-in for the position. (Note: If they ask you why they should hire you, don’t say, “Because I’m the best.”)

You are interviewing because they want to get to know you more, but remember the other candidates under consideration, as well. Be confident in what you bring to the table, but also have an appropriate level of respect for the interview process.

Have you ever gone into an interview for a job you were qualified for, but then blew the interview?

Image courtesy of bpsusf

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Comments

  1. Ed Han
    Twitter: ed_han
    says:

    Some very good points here, Melissa, esp the reminder re: pressure derailing candidates.

  2. Melissa Cooley
    Twitter: TheJobQuest
    says:

    Glad you found them helpful, Ed!

    A little bit of pressure is not a bad thing as it can help stimulate the brain and give you a boost of enthusiasm, but if it’s not controlled, that’s when the odd behaviors surface.

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