Stellar skills and a great background can get you a job interview, but they won’t necessarily get you the job. There are plenty of missteps you can make during an interview that can redirect the focus from your qualifications to why you’re not right for the job.
We asked employers to share their job interview turnoffs. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Not Knowing
These days, there is no excuse for not having a good handle on what a prospective employer does. An interview is not the place to gather basic facts about a company. Research companies ahead of time!
“I am amazed at this day in age with the level of technology how many candidates do not attempt to do any research on a business before applying,” Jen Strobel, HR director at Flagger Force. “If a candidate cannot clearly articulate the basic premise of our business, then the perception is they are not truly interested in becoming part of the team, they are just looking for a job. If a candidate is simply looking for a job, then I have no desire to pursue them any further.”
2. Failing to ask About the Team
Interviewers will judge you by what you ask. Your questions should demonstrate that you’re knowledgeable about the company and industry, that you want to broaden that knowledge and that you care about finding the right company. Be sure to inquire about teams, work style and workflow.
"Our work is highly collaborative in nature. People must constantly work closely with clients, vendors and colleagues,” says Matteo Fabiano, founder of marketing firm FireMatter. “If an interviewee asks no questions about, or otherwise shows no interest in, the team he or she will become part of, that is a major red flag."
3. Being Arrogant
Having the right skills and experience are important for getting a job. Employers, however, also care a lot about attitude and cultural fit. No one wants to hire someone with a superiority complex. And, unless you’re in a highly specialized field with a shortage of candidates, an employer is likely to go for the slightly less-qualified candidate who has a great attitude.
Just ask Jonathan Singer, who was responsible for hiring therapists for a mental health agency: “During the interview, a candidate said, ‘I know I'm the most highly qualified candidate so let's just save us both some time. When would you like me to start?’
The verdict: “Didn't get the job.”
4. Being Self-Centered
During an interview, focus on what you can do for the company – if you like them and they like you, there will be plenty of time to talk about compensation, perks and benefits. (Of course, if the interviewer brings up the subject of compensation, it’s a different story).
“There's one thing that can kill the interview quicker than anything else: When the interviewer asks if you have any questions and your first three questions show more interest in what the company can do than what you can do for the company,” says Barry Maher of Barry Maher and Associates.
5. Living in the Past
Talk about your experience at your last job, sure, but avoid being sentimental. Put your past experience in context of how it has prepared you to do great things for this new company. Pining for your previous employer raises questions about your dedication and adaptability, says Lily Bast of Pulley Media.
“When candidates appear married to their previous jobs, my experience has shown that they'll often be less adaptable,” she says. “An interview spent telling me all about how their previous job had all the answers will lead me to believe they are not ready to embrace change.”
6. Not Sanitizing Social Media
Despite your qualifications, social media can sink your job interview before it even starts: “A few years ago when I was at a very large global agency, we had the perfect candidate for an entry level position,” recalls Michelle Metzger, President of Metzger & Associates. “But when we checked his Facebook page, his profile picture was a little crazy with a bong clearly showing in the picture. Definite deal breaker!”