The Interview

April 12th, 2013

So congratulations you made it through the first round: your resume successfully presented you as a suitable candidate for the job. Now you need to wow them in person.

Creating a great first impression and establishing a real connection is crucial. Smile, make eye contact, be enthusiastic, sit forward in your chair, use the interviewer’s name…. Be yourself, but be the best version of yourself you possibly can.

With so many job hunters struggling to even get an interview, it would be deeply frustrating to throw the opportunity away by saying something stupid when you get there, so here are a few things you should NEVER say……

1. “Sorry I’m late.”

It goes without saying that punctuality is crucial – being late wastes their time, and creates a bad impression. Check with them 12 or 24 hours before that the meeting is still going ahead on time. And, if you end up being late due to a genuine disaster, call ahead to warn them … So get a contact number or email for the person you are meeting.

2. “I want to start by saying, I really want this job.”

Why? Because you don’t know yet and it’s easy to see through false commitment. Instead, throughout the interview ask questions about what really matters to you: who you will work with, who you will report to, the scope of responsibilities, etc.

Interviews should always be two-way, and interviewers respond positively to people eager to find the right fit. Don’t be afraid to ask a few questions – but don’t take over completely!

3. “Do you always dress so formally here?”

Check out the regular dress code of the agency before you go (ask an employee, the recruiter or look at the website.) You want to make a professional first impression. My rule of thumb is to dress for a position several notches above the one for which you’re interviewing.

If you’re interviewing at a super casual creative agency, make sure whatever you choose is clean, ironed and professional — wait until you’re hired to show off your more fashionable, relaxed side.

4. “I’ll just take this call.”

It is not ok to take telephone calls, texts or snap chat during an interview. Turn your phone to silent. It’s rude and unnecessary for the hour you need to concentrate.

5. “Sorry I’m a little tired/hung over/sick today”

No kidding, I have had a candidate admit to a hangover in an interview – immediate fail! If the meeting is important to you, don’t party the night before. If you are tired, drink a coffee and perk up for the hour. If you are sick, mention it once, then forget it.

But, if you think you will sneeze and cough all the way through an interview, it will spread germs and create a poor impression, so call ahead to reschedule.

6. “What’s your holiday and sickness policy?”

It doesn’t look good if you are planning time off before you’ve even been hired.

Further, if you are asked “What do you expect to like most about working here?” never reply: the hours, the perks, the pay, lunchtimes, or the holidays.

7. “My previous job sucked.”

No matter how mind-numbingly boring previous jobs might have been, mouthing off about a previous boss or company is not only unprofessional, it reflects badly on you.
Your new employer will contact your former employer for references following an interview, so it’s never wise to burn your bridges. Or as Ben Affleck said in his Oscar speech “Never bear a grudge.”

8. “I didn’t know you had Nike as a client.”

Failing to do your research is a big mistake. Saying you’ve seen the company website is only marginally better. Read at all the elements of the website: stated values and objectives, news and people you might know. Then, search on the web and trade publications to see if the company has achieved anything noteworthy recently: whether an industry award, a new client or new office.
Finally, it’s also important to do some research into your interviewer. Look them up on the web, read their company bio and find them on social media. Understand if you have common experiences, friends or colleagues. Bring up something interesting (though not stalker-ish) in the interview.

9. “I don’t really have any hobbies or outside interests.”

A sad truth of interviewing is that few candidates are truly memorable, particularly if there are many applicants for a single job. Interviewers tend to identify people with a hook: “The guy with the crazy hair” or “The lady who did an Iron Man”.

Create your hook: it could be clothing (within reason), or an outside interest, or an unusual fact about your upbringing or career. Hooks make you memorable and create an anchor for interviewers to remember you by – just make sure it’s a positive one – not “The woman who was late and had to leave early” or “The guy who swore a lot.”

10. “I don’t have any questions for you.”

Another easy area to prepare for. Some ideas could be:

What would you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 days?
What are the common attributes of your best people?
What are a few things that really drive results for the company?
What do employees do in their spare time?
How do you plan to deal with… technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends etc?
What do you like best about working for the company?
What is the growth opportunity like for this position?
What’s a common misconception about the company you would like to clear up?


Caroline Watt is a headhunter based in London who specialises in placing strategists in the US and UK. She is regular contributor to Junior Strategy and you can find out more about her here.


Photocredit: Deflam

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