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How to Bomb Your Job Interview Without Even Saying a Word


When you’re preparing for a job interview, you probably spend the bulk of your time rehearsing answers to common interview questions, or researching the company. These are worthwhile ways to spend your time, but don’t forget that when it comes to impressing a hiring manager, it’s not just what you say: it’s also how you say it. Here’s how to master the silent aspects of communicating with a prospective employer.

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(Photo Credit: Mike Licht/Flickr) 

Before the Call for the Interview:

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1. Applying for multiple job postings in the same company, with the same resume.

Assuming that each job posting is different and requires different skill sets, if you haven’t updated your resume or customized it per job requirements, you are sabotaging your chances for a call. Most Applicant Tracking Systems can show the count of duplicate resumes. In many organizations, recruiters work on multiple profiles. So having your resume pop up for every role, if your resume is the same across all roles, doesn’t necessarily project you as a candidate of multiple talents; it reflects negatively on you that you have applied to all jobs without even reading the job description.

2. Your cover letter is a summary of your resume.

A cover letter is your opportunity to highlight your areas of expertise while making your case to the recruiter/hiring manager that you are the best fit for the role. Just stating the same information that’s already available in your resume is an opportunity lost.

3. You make many resume mistakes.

Resume fails like typos, bad grammar, cliches, or outright lying can cost you the job today and possibly a connection to that company in the future. 

4. You haven’t cleaned up your internet presence.

If you have posted photos, posts, or videos of you that do not portray you in a professional light, get rid of them before you start your job search. According to a 2013 research report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 76 percent of companies said that they do use or are planning to use social media sites for recruiting. Keep your profiles clean, especially when you are in the job search process, so as not to risk your chances for an interview call.

During the Interview:

1. Your body language isn’t friendly.

You don’t make eye contact, don’t smile, don’t shake hands, have a loose grip, or your hands are firmly locked against your chest. Knowingly or unknowingly, the physical cues you send out speak volumes about your personality. If you are completely closed, then you are sending signals across that you are not a team player, do not like interacting with people and lack basic courtesy.

2. You have odd mannerisms.

If you are too fidgety, move around your swirling chair, keep pulling your hair, tapping your fingers and so on for no apparent reason, you risk distracting your interviewer, leading him/her to think that you are too tensed or too distracted to participate in the interview. They may not invest as much time or energy in the interview process as they had intended to at the start of the discussion.

3. You take very long pauses.

It’s OK to pause for a few seconds before responding. But pauses lasting a minute or two before every response could be off-putting, testing the patience of your interviewer. If you must gather your thoughts, you could seek permission from your interviewer, especially if the question posed requires a lot of analysis/calculation. “Could I take a minute to think that through?” is a perfectly valid way of answering a question, provided you don’t do that for even questions like, “tell me about yourself.”

4. Not thanking the interviewer.

“It was nice talking to you,” “I enjoyed this discussion,” or “Thanks for your time, I look forward to the next steps” are standard ways of closing an interview. These responses not only show that you are courteous but also that you were interested and engaged in the discussion. If you leave the interview without as much as thanking the interviewer for the time or expressing your enthusiasm for the next steps, you’re losing valuable openings to share your excitement for the job.

5. You bring a parent with you to the interview.

According to a survey by Adecco, 38 percent of U.S. workers between the ages 18 – 24 involve their parents in their job search, with 4 percent saying that their parents accompany them to interviews, and 1 percent adding that they join in on the interview. Unless it is an unavoidable requirement — and why would it be — bringing a friend/relative to the interviewing venue can indicate that you are not very confident or independent as a person.

After the Interview:

1. You don’t pick calls or return them.

If your recruiter is trying to reach you and you are not picking the calls or returning them, it is clear (after a few attempts) that you are not interested in the role.

2. You don’t keep your recruiters updated.

If you are traveling, or have received another offer and are still in the interviewing process, let your recruiter know as a professional courtesy, so they can make decisions appropriately.

3. You make some basic post-interview mistakes.

Failing to send a thank-you note, trying to connect with the recruiter on social media, or outright stalking the hiring manager are all mistakes that will get your candidacy terminated and your file moved to the trash.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever missed out on a job because of something you didn’t say? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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