These 3 Blunders Will Kill Your Next Job Interview
Byron Choong, Senior Staff Editor
These two words are the quintessential response for anyone who conquers their job interview. Whether they’re in your head, or you blurt them out over the phone to a friend or family member, you can usually “sense” that you just landed your dream job by the time you shake hands to leave.
All-in-all, optimism and confidence are great assets when it comes to getting hired. However, you can only ride that wave so far. Below, you’ll find 3 surprising things that can change an interviewer’s mind on the spot, destroying any chance you had of landing your dream job:
3. Complaining About Your Last Job
You quit your last job for a reason. And if you’re banging your head on your desk (or your forklift), that’s reason enough to abandon your current post. Maybe you’re not making as much as you want? Is your boss overbearing? Is your commute too far to be worth the daily headaches (aside from the headbanging)?
If you answered “yes” to just one of those questions - great! You’re certainly not alone! However, locking up that frustration and burying it deep down is key to mastering your next job interview.
Imagine if you will, a scenario in which you prepare perfectly for your next interview. You’re dressed to kill, you’re sporting a great resume with loads of credentials, and your confidence level is at an all-time high. On top of that, you’re extremely confident in your skills and have all the experience necessary to tackle the position you’re applying for.
So far, so good.
You walk into the office fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, firmly shake the interviewer’s hand (don’t forget to look them in the eye) and sit down to chat. You talk about the commute, the weather, and all the normal stuff to get warmed up. The interviewer begins by asking you about your experience and you respond with everything they want to hear. He asks about your skill set, and once again, you exceed expectations with your carefully crafted response.
And then, the big question that will ruin you:
“Why did you leave your last job?”
At first, you stumble to come up with professional response that sounds positive and cookie-cutter (you’re trying to play it safe, afterall). You say something like, “I wanted to find something that allowed me to grow professionally.” In all fairness, it’s a decent response. But employers hear it all the time. Unhindered by your lack of creativity, the interviewer continues to dig deeper by asking more questions. They hammer you until you can’t take it anymore.
“What was the one thing about your last job you didn’t like?”
(long, awkward pause)
You crack under the pressure and start spewing emotions all over the place:
“Well, for starters, my boss was a complete moron. He micro-managed every aspect of my position and didn’t allow me to do my job the way it should be done. He never sought my advice and very rarely agreed with anything I had to say…”
(the interviewer patiently stares at you, nudging you to continue)
“Second, I wasn’t paid what I was worth. I worked weekends, came in on my days off, responded to every call when I was relaxing at home, and not once did I ask for a raise. The crazy thing is that some of my co-workers, who were terrible at their job, got raises for no particular reason!”
(at this point, you feel yourself starting to ramble, but you continue venting your frustrations)
“And my daily commute wasn’t worth the effort. I drove about a hundred kilometers a day, and my car is on its last leg because of it. Not to mention rising gas prices…”
The interviewer politely interrupts and asks about less controversial topics to start the process of winding down the interview. To your surprise, it ends sooner than expected and you’re led out into the lobby.
“We’ll give you a call within the next couple weeks. We have a lot of other candidates that are scheduled, but you’ll hear from us either way.”
You shake hands and know right then and there that you failed to impress your future employer.
So...what went wrong? As you can see from the example above, the person being interviewed went into what we like to call “frustration mode”. He was put on the spot about the specifics of his last job, and he broke into a long, rambling discussion about how “unfair” his last job was. To a potential employer, these types of rants can often be seen as a lack of professionalism, or even gratitude. In the employer’s eyes, if the potential new candidate can say such things about their old job, who’s to say they won’t do the same thing at your company?
No one likes a complainer! Don’t be one!
2. Using a Resume Template
If there was ever a time where a lack of effort is seen on your part, it’s when you submit a resume that’s been “created” through a template. You can usually find these templates in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or any other word processing software.
Now, don’t get us wrong, a resume needs to be consistent and live up to professional standards. That means you can’t just create something that’s loaded with cute graphics and emojis. 😏 On the flip side, you also want to show your future employer how organized and professional you are...and that can be accomplished through a little ingenuity and knowing how to use industry standards to your advantage. Design your resume (from scratch) around your unique personality and set of skills (without going overboard). Doing so will show your future employer that you’re taking some initiative and putting effort into your job search.
Here are some tips to help you create a resume from scratch:
Don’t Forget Your Contact Info
You’d be surprised how many people forget their phone number and email address. Make sure your contact information can be quickly referenced from the top of the page. Easy, right?
Keep it Simple
Every potential employer that lists a “Now Hiring” ad is usually bombarded with responses - especially in regions with little-to-no work. That means they don’t have time to look through a resume thoroughly. In fact, most of them simply skim over keywords, separating each resume into different piles to browse through at a later time.
That’s why it’s important to keep your resume as simple as possible. If a potential employer has to work hard to find your qualifications, chances are, you won’t be working for them in the future.
Important Stuff First
If you submit a resume with the assumption that the employer is too busy to read each one individually, you’re off to a great start! Keeping that in mind, remember to always list your most important skills and qualifications near the top of your resume so that it catches their eye quickly.
Depending on the position you’re applying for, remember to list work experience first and education second. We can’t speak for every company or field, but most employers want to know who you are as an employee, not who you are as a student.
If your employment history includes multiple jobs, remember to only list the top 3-5 most recent ones. And if you’re over the age of 30, there’s no need to list part-time jobs you had in high school. In other words, no one cares if you mowed lawns part-time after school.
Customize Your Resume for the Field You’re Applying For
If you’re applying for a job as a nurse and list graphic design software under your skill set, you’re wasting your time (and precious space). On the other hand, if you’re applying for a graphic design position, make sure you list every program you know, in bulleted points. Be sure to include versioning and how long you’ve been using each program. And if you’re applying for a position in the medical field, make sure you list every certification you have, along with any training programs completed.
Remember, it’s easy to try and make yourself look better than you are when you’re first creating your resume. We all do it. Don’t try and make up for a lack of skills with bullet points that have nothing to do with the career you’re applying for. This looks desperate to employers, and it doesn’t reflect who you are as a person. If you feel that you don’t have enough skills or experience for the position you’re applying for, maybe you should consider learning more about it, or looking for another opening in a different field. The worst thing you can do is waste someone’s time with “filler” nonsense.
Separate Your Content
Bullet points, borders and headings are your best friends when it comes to designing a custom resume. The separation you create utilizing these elements is important in keeping your resume well-organized and “skimmable”.
How to Create Separation:
- Use bullet points to list skills
- Use bullet points to list programs or software used in your previous position
- Use bullet points to list specific job functions
- Use bullet points to list applicable certifications
Section off employment history
Section off education
Section off skills
Section off qualifications
As you can see from this example, sectioning is extremely important for the employers who like to skim. Remember to left-align your text as it makes everything look a little neater. One more thing - make sure your spacing is adequate without making things too tight. You’ve probably heard the rule that your resume needs to fit on one page, but this simply isn’t true anymore. Most people these days submit resumes that are two or three pages deep...but you probably shouldn’t exceed that. Don’t submit a novel!
Oh, and one other thing...
Keep your name at the top left of the page and decrease the font size. No one wants to see your name in 24pt Impact font. Once you have your name at a reasonable size, you can push the important info closer to the top.
Save Your Resume in Different Formats
Saving your resume in different format options from the very start will save you a lot of headaches in the near future. Most employers want your resume emailed to them, or submitted to them through an online portal. These two methods may require different formats, depending on what kind of software the employer uses to view your resume. Here are some common formats you should consider when saving:
- Microsoft Word document (.doc)
- Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf)
- Plain Text Document (.txt)
Another way to make sure your resume is seen is by uploading the document as a link on your own personal website. Or, turn your resume into an HTML document so it can be viewed as a web page. You should only do this if you’re comfortable with your personal information being accessible by the general public. A a precaution, only give the link out to employers. Make sure that your website is used specifically for employment purposes. You don’t want your future employer to think you’re a weirdo before you even have a chance to interview. Keep that stuff to yourself until you’re hired!
Ditch the Non-Essentials
You may have taken a course on job preparation and resume writing, or you may have learned from your parents or peers. However, they probably taught you a few things that may not “make the cut” in this day and age. Make sure you get rid of sections that cover hobbies, awards, or other non-essential items.
We hate to say it, but employers just don’t care.
Instead, they will mainly focus on what kind of skills and experience you can bring to the position they’re looking to fill. They couldn’t care less about your “Employee of the Month” award or your snowboarding competition accolades.
If they do ask you about extracurricular activities during the interview process, this will be the most appropriate time to share these things. In fact, you might even get them to relate to you during the interview if they share similar hobbies or interests. And getting an employer to relate is always a good thing!
There you have it! We gave you a little more info than needed on resume-building, but it’s a good start without getting too in-depth on why creating a resume from scratch is important. We’ll cover more on resume creation and the interviewing process in the near future!
1. Getting Awkward With the Receptionist
In the day and age of social media and online communications, we realize how hard it can be to actually talk to someone in “real life” - especially for the younger generations. Not to worry! We have some advice that can help you through the unpleasant, stressful experience we like to call, “conversation”.
Now, we’d love to chit-chat about socializing and social etiquette in general, but we’ll write a piece on that later. For this particular article, we want to focus on two people specifically - you and the first person you meet before your job interview.
Most companies have a person who answers phone calls, schedules appointments and greets people in the lobby. This person is called the receptionist, or what we like to call, the interviewer’s first line of defense. Why do we say that? Read our “Rules of Engagement” below to find out!
Rule #1 - Don’t Flirt With the Receptionist
It doesn’t matter if the receptionist is the most attractive male or female you’ve ever seen, one thing you don’t want to do is flirt with them. First of all, it’s sexual harassment in most cases. Don’t believe us? Look it up. Second, it just makes you look bad, especially if they have a significant other. Third, if you do end up getting hired, you don’t want to date a co-worker (more on that in the future). It will only lead to doom. And last, but not least, most companies have some kind of security system that involves cameras. Some of those systems record audio. You don’t want your future employer hearing your idiotic pick-up lines before they have a chance to meet you.
Or ever, for that matter.
Rule #2 - Don’t Bother Them
This is easy. If the receptionist looks like they’re swamped with calls, or they’re furiously banging away on their keyboard, don’t bug them. Introduce yourself, smile, and simply wait for your scheduled interview. Another piece of friendly advice - don’t waste that precious time on your phone. Walk around, get to know the place, see if there are any brochures or other materials that can aid you in your interview. Knowledge is power!
Rule #3 - Engage in Friendly Conversation
Now, we know we’re contradicting ourselves here. We just told you not to bother the receptionist if they’re busy, but if they look like they have a little free time on their hands, talk to them. Engage in friendly conversation. Here are some conversation starters:
- If you’re a little more on the old-fashioned side, talk about the weather. Everyone can relate to the weather, and most people know how to talk about it without being awkward.
- Talk about the company you’re applying for. Ask about the history, how long they’ve worked there, what the atmosphere is like. Inquire about anything you should know before going into the interview (insider tips).
- Ask about restaurants in the area. People love to suggest their favorite restaurants, and this is a great way to break the ice - especially if you get hired and need a good place to eat for lunch!
Why are the guidelines above important to follow? Simply this: the receptionist will be the very first person to relay their feelings about you to your future boss. You want to treat them as though they are the first person interviewing you. Don’t think for a minute that they won’t tell your future boss everything you talked about in the lobby!
Remember, one of the top priorities an employer has is finding someone who will fit in with the team. Sometimes, they’ll even overlook a lack of experience in certain areas if your personality is a good fit. If you’re difficult, awkward, or not friendly toward the receptionist, this is a clear sign that you’re not ready to integrate with the rest of the team.
We hope you enjoyed these tips on what you shouldn’t do during your next job interview! Stay tuned for more employment advice by signing up with our monthly newsletter! You’ll get exclusive tips and advice not seen anywhere else!