Top 10 Interview Fails

Dear, Anita,

I just sent a follow-up letter to a highly desired position I applied for by email using a draft for another industry. Unfortunately, I didn’t make all necessary changes that apply and cannot stop beating myself for this silly mistake on such a grand opportunity. Any words of comfort?

Dear, Oopsy Daisy,

There, there; everything will be all right. Seriously, don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ve all made mistakes before we hit the “send” button. It won’t be your only grand opportunity and maybe not even the best one for you.

Oops keyYou may be wondering if you should send a follow-up email apologizing for the error. I would not. Who knows? The recipient of the email may not have even noticed your mistake, and calling attention to it would not be wise in that case. If they did notice it, it will either be significant (and they won’t call you back because of a perceived lack of attention to detail) or it won’t (in which case your bringing it back up will mean nothing – or it will make them change their mind about its significance).

So, take the lesson – proofread everything twice before sending – and move on.

To make you feel better about your smallish error, here – in no particular order – are 10 interview fails I have seen in my ample years.

  1. Bringing your boyfriend to an interview. Or your mother. Or your kids. If you need a ride, get dropped off. The few dollars you spend on a babysitter is money well spent toward your career.
  2. Arriving for an interview with a cup of coffee in hand. While Starbucks would be proud to have infiltrated the interview space, this is not a casual chat with your best bud.
  3. Wearing flip-flops. No matter how relaxed the work environment, dress appropriately and professionally. Interview outfits should be a notch above what you’d wear once you land the job. (Side note: I once interviewed a college student who committed both #2 and #3.)
  4. Answering phone or texting during an interview. Cell phones should be silenced and out of view, and for goodness sake, take off your Bluetooth earpiece.
  5. Trash-talking your former boss or co-workers. While you may not be able to take grandma’s advice, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” frame your responses about your less-than-perfect previous jobs in neutral language.
  6. Showing up late. Take traffic into account when planning for your appointment. If you arrive too early, drive around the block so you’re not staring through the office window at your interviewer.
  7. Showing up deathly ill. An interview is an important meeting not to miss, but nobody wants to share the air with a walking Petri dish. Call and let the interviewer choose to reschedule or not.
  8. “Ummm, I’m, like, such a people person, ya know?” Practice answering interview questions with a friend to minimize your speech idiosyncrasies.
  9. Interrupting. Curb your enthusiasm and wait for the interviewer to finish his or her thought or question. Just like on the Jeopardy, if you buzz in too early, you’ll likely lose points.
  10. Acting desperate. Telling the hiring manager that you really need the job, or sharing your financial hardships will backfire. Just as in dating, desperation is a turn-off for employers. Self-confidence will bring respect, while sad sack stories will just bring pity.

Readers: Don’t be shy! Share your interview faux pas.

Need some job advice? Anita Clew is happy to help. Click here to Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

“Atta Girl” – Handling Compliments at Work

Dear, Anita,

I recently worked extra hard on a project. My boss complimented me, saying, “Thanks for working over the weekend to get our presentation ready for the big meeting,” to which I replied, “It was nothing.” My co-worker later told me I shouldn’t have said that, and I’ll never get promoted with my unassertive attitude. She says I should have said something like, “Thanks, I had to miss going to a birthday party, but work comes first.” Is she right?

Dear, Applause! Applause!

Atta_girlYour co-worker does have a point about downplaying your boss’s thanks, but I don’t agree with her 100%. Playing the martyr isn’t necessary. Learn to accept compliments graciously, even without an eye on a future raise. Working over the weekend wasn’t “nothing.” You went over and above for an assignment, and your boss already knows it. If you say something that infers to your boss that he hasn’t realized it, not only might he resent the pointed comment, but he might also think you only made the extra effort in order to get the credit and not because of your great work ethic, sense of loyalty, or desire to impress.  If you want to respond with more than just a humble “you’re welcome,” a more self-confident reply is, “It was really satisfying to see that the presentation helped win the client over.”

Who doesn’t feel a warm glow when you get a well-deserved pat on the back? Businesses know the importance of testimonials. Someone else bragging about you has much more cachet than you boasting about yourself.

To keep those reassurances on hand, create an “Atta Girl” file (or an “Atta Boy” file, but as a general rule, women tend to have a harder time accepting compliments than men).  What should go in the file? Email kudos from co-workers, supervisors, or clients; performance evaluations; certificates of achievement; surveys/feedback forms; even notes from the departmental birthday card!

If compliments are hand-written, you may wish to transfer them into an Excel or Word document, along with any significant facts (date, the problem solved, context, etc.). Be sure to keep a copy on your home computer just in case you are terminated or laid off suddenly.

When a client or co-worker gives you verbal appreciation, ask them if they wouldn’t mind taking the extra step of putting it in writing and/or posting a recommendation on LinkedIn, and endorsing you for the skills and qualities they complimented. In fact, you can email them a follow-up with the recommendation typed out (remind them they can edit the verbiage if you inadvertently misquoted them). For a LinkedIn recommendation or any testimonial to be most powerful, include the original problem/situation, the results that exceeded expectations, and the character traits you exhibited while working with them. Endorsements on LinkedIn are easy to complete with a simple click on the appropriate skills that one can attest to.

When you make a mistake or have a bad day at work, go to your “Atta Girl” file to combat those waves of self-doubt. There’s nothing better for a bruised ego than remembering past triumphs.

And when it’s time to update your résumé, you can put those warm fuzzies to work! Polish up your CV, or even replace “References upon request” with a document full of glowing testimonials about your skills and favorable qualities.

Readers: Can you take a compliment? What’s the best work-related commendation you’ve ever received?

Do you have a question for Anita Clew? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

Advice from Dad

Dear, Readers,

This touching car commercial shows a dad teaching his daughter a valuable lesson in self-reliance. “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst” is an axiom that all of us can also apply on the job.

In honor of Father’s Day, let’s take a look at some other lessons and advice from dear old dad and their application in the world of work.

“When I was your age, I had to walk (insert large number here) miles to school.” It’s helpful to keep your business’s roots in mind, particularly the values upon which it was founded.

“If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?” By the same token, don’t just settle for business as usual. Constantly innovate and do things differently.

Tie“How will you know if you don’t try?” While this may have applied to tasting your peas as a toddler, develop a business culture where employees are not penalized for trying (and possibly failing with) new ideas.

“I wasn’t born yesterday, Mister.” Really? Your great-aunt died… again? You may think your employer just fell off the turnip truck, but I wouldn’t recommend using these excuses for a day off work: http://business.time.com/2012/10/30/funniest-excuses-for-missing-work/

“There are starving people in Africa who would gladly eat your dinner.” Substitute “starving” with “jobless,” “Africa” with “America,” and “eat your dinner” with “do your job.”

 “Don’t burn the candle at both ends.” When you, in your teenage invincibility, overloaded your schedule with school, sports, and extracurricular activities, your wise father figure knew that you could only handle the pace for a limited time. Just so on the job.

“No one on their deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’ ” Maybe it was your much older grandfather, with the benefit of hindsight, who reminds you of the need for a work-life balance.

On the flip side, do NOT use these fatherly expressions in business situations:

  • “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.” While it’s true that if you hired someone, you can indeed fire them, reigning with fear won’t endear you to your employees.
  • “This is going to hurt you more than it’s going to hurt me.” When you are letting someone go, it really is going to hurt them more.
  • “You’ll live.” A little compassion when your direct report complains about aches and pains will make you a more well-liked manager.
  • “Because I said so.” A few words of explanation will help your employee understand the importance of a procedure, rule, or task.

Readers: What piece of fatherly advice have you been able to translate to the work world? Don’t remember? Go ask your mother.

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Graduates: Attempt Temping

Dear, Anita,

I just graduated from college with a degree in business. But I have no idea what I really want to do! I’m paralyzed with fear that I’ll start down the wrong career path and wind up doing something I hate. What should I do?

Dear, Dazed Diploma Holder,

GraduatesIt’s only natural to feel some trepidation as you begin your job search and your career. But rest assured, you’ll never be stuck in a bad situation – career or otherwise – unless you choose to be.  You can always change jobs. And life is funny; even if you did have your one-year, five-year, and 25-year career goals all nicely laid out, fate often has a different plan.

So just get started! Here’s a great excerpt from Careerealism on why you may want to consider a temporary job.

“Some job seekers are hesitant to accept temporary or contract assignments because they are concerned if they commit to something short-term, they will miss out on opportunities for full-time assignments. This may be a bit short-sighted because many employers are now using staffing agencies (and sometimes internal recruiters) to ‘try before they buy’ job candidates.

In many cases, short-term assignments are being extended and even becoming full-time opportunities for some workers.

If you’re currently unemployed, determine if this assignment could give you some valuable income and also help build your resume. If you can answer ‘yes’ to both of these items, it might be worth accepting the assignment. If you do a good job, you may also be able to obtain a reference for future employers.”

Read the entire blog post at http://www.careerealism.com/job-seekers-temp-jobs/#rfDuA8cQybt8SwJV.99

While the blog mentions that employers can “try before they buy” job candidates, you as the job seeker can “try on” different positions to see what interests you and suits your personality best.

Readers: Readers, what was your first job out of college? Did it prepare you for your dream career?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Want to receive these tips by email? Simply subscribe for once-a-week advice for career success!

Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
%d bloggers like this: