Every day I am asked questions by veterans, hardened job seekers and new college graduates on how not to blow those coveted job interviews. What I have noticed is that most people are very reactive, rather than proactive, when planning for their interview.

Looking at the current business climate, most people, whether they have been laid off or are just intimidated by today’s business climate, seem like a deer caught in headlights.  They are not prepared for this life changing event. I have met hundreds of people who have not had to look for a job for years; they’ve had no problems in the past finding a job and have even been recruited aggressively to new jobs. Now, they do not know where to begin their search or how to find a job. What’s worse is when they do get an interview they are just one of the many people fighting for that spot…

I want to focus this blog entry on avoiding common interviewing pitfalls so you do not trip yourself before you get to the finish line. The information I am going to share is cross generational and relevant to any industry. These tips will work in any economy (boom or bust) and business climate.

What Kinds of Issues are Recruiters & Hiring Managers Facing Right now?

Some of the issues we’re seeing in the job-hunting market would blow your mind. I cannot tell you how many resumes I read that are fabricated, which always comes out in the interview process. This = disqualification, immediately. We are now seeing even the most unscrupulous candidates getting someone more skilled in their field to do the verbal interview. I have heard horror stories from clients who interview candidates they want over the phone and what shows up on the first day is a candidate who cannot do anything that they said they can do. Even with Social Media, like LinkedIn, candidates are manipulating fake profiles and getting people to write excellent reviews that make these candidates look like the Top 20%. Why am I sharing this? Recruiter, recruiting and hiring managers are now very skeptical on everyone they interview in today’s market.

How to address Red flags in your background

A red flag is something in your resume that strikes the Employer as odd, unclear or inappropriate. The most common red flags are gaps in employment, terminations, short durations on a job etc…

The key in this area is to identify your red flags and to be able to explain, in concise and honest detail, about those areas. If you can answer clearly and concisely the interviewer is more likely to go on to the next question, BUT if you are fumbling around in your answer the interviewer will become skeptical and is going to probe these wounds further.

Never embellish or fabricate your resume. I’ve interviewed numerous candidates who claim to have knowledge for certain responsibilities. When I grill them however, their knowledge is that they sat next to someone who did it. In an employment downturn employers are going to go line by line on your resume to see what you have actually done. This is not to catch you in a lie but to find out what value you can bring into the company or project. If you get caught with credibility issues during the interview your candidacy will most likely be done.

If you have been unemployed for over a year you will need to explain what you have been doing to find a job. If you are unable to share your plan and the effort you’re putting into finding a job, then your interviewer will focus less on your candidacy and more about what’s wrong with your attitude. Since there are so many people who been unemployed for such a long period of time, it’s almost fashionable.

If you have any legal issues, be honest in your application and/or any questions being asked. Most recruiters and companies understand mistakes happen in life and will look past it if you are honest. If they do not, then that’s not a company you want to work for.

Don’t forget to Google your name to see what info is out on the web about you. You can simply put “Joel Abraham” AND IL OR Recruitment in the search box to see what come up. This is important to do because the recruiter and/or employer will see what kind of info they can find out about you. You should Google the interviewer name to see if they were quoted on any articles etc…

Finally, make sure you have dependable references of past managers who can add credibility to your work history if called upon. This is important because in most cases companies may have 1-3 interviews with you and the final step is a call to your references to verify that what you said is true.

Dreaded Salary Question & How much info do I give?

Not sharing salary or compensation with the recruiter limits your candidacy.  Why? First, the company is not sure if they can afford you and will spend more time with candidates that fall into their rate range.  Secondly, it could be misconstrued that you are difficult to work with, or that you have something to hide. The truth of the matter is that you’re simply trying not to price yourself out of the opportunity, or leave money on the table.

KEY: How to position yourself for an opportunity so that you do not price yourself out of the job. See pitch below and practice before you say it.

“There are two reasons why I am here today. First, money is important. The second and more important reason is opportunity. I see a lot of opportunity here at ABC Company, and I do not want to price myself out of it. Is that fair? My compensation is, or was X$$ with a bonus program of XX$”

What this does is tell the hiring manager that you are willing to take a short term loss for a long term gain. If you make it to the offer stage, they know to make you the best offer that they can. Then the ball is in your court!

Watch Out For The Loaded Interview Question:

Make certain that when an interviewer prefaces a question by describing a program, or process challenge, that you ask who created the program or process, and inquire why it was created. Ask for a description of the problem that they are trying to resolve with this program or process. You want to know who created the program before you assassinate it. The interviewee might have thought it was a great idea, and if you slam it, there goes your shot at that job!

Follow up after the Interview

Please always remember to follow up with a letter or an email thanking the prospective employer for their time. I understand most people’s frustration today and that they receive little to no feedback from the employer; so why should you send them something? Manners and appreciation! An attitude of gratitude will definitely open new doors for you! I sometime get cards in the mail thanking me for my time and I save every single one. Most people do not get mail anymore. It can be a way to truly differentiate yourself, and if it was me, I would do both. Send an email so the urgency is there and then surprise them with a thank you card or letter. You do not need to spend big $$ on this.

Summary of the 5 most important things to do before your interview.

  1. Have the proper attitude
  2. Properly research the company and position
  3. Rehearse
  4. Prepare Questions
  5. Follow up

I hope these tips helps and please remember no one is perfect. Everyone makes or has made mistakes in their past. If you can articulate your story of:  where you came from, where you are at now and where you want to be, coupled with knowing what value you bring to any company or job you will be positioned to land the job you want.