You just have to chuckle when you read a story like the one I did recently about a young woman who showed up for a job interview as a buyer at American Eagle with her cat in a crate. She then proceeded to put the crate on top of the interviewer’s desk and play with it.
That may be the quickest way I’ve heard to sabotage a job interview. But there are plenty of other ways. Here are just a few I’ve seen.
1. Blaming others for your failures
I like to ask job candidates to tell me about a project they were working on at their last company that failed. It gives me a chance to learn about how they work with others. The big red flag: when they blame others for everything that went wrong. Yes, there are people who claim they have never made a mistake and probably really believe it. But I won’t hire those people.
2. Being overly negative about your current situation
No one likes to hang around negative people. And even though your current job is making you break out in hives from stress, there has to be something positive you can say. If that’s a stretch, focus on what you are looking for instead. You can say you are leaving for more growth opportunities or a chance to take on more responsibility. Don’t ever forget that no matter how big the city is where you are interviewing, it’s still a small world, especially within a certain industry. Your interviewer could be a golfing buddy or in a book club with your current boss. It can only hurt your career to be negative.
3. Focusing more on what the company can do for you rather than what you can do for the company
It’s good to ask questions. In fact, it’s a big red flag if an interviewee doesn’t ask questions. But if those questions are all focused on what you’ll be getting out of the company — salary, benefits, vacation, type of office — rather than what you are bringing to the company, well that’s a huge red flag. Companies want to hire team players with a motivation to contribute to the goals of the company.
4. Talking too much or not answering the question
I get it. You’re nervous and that may cause you to talk way too much and take five minutes to answer one question. Or not answer it at all. I get really frustrated when I ask what I think is a simple, straightforward question and I get a rambling, long-winded, irrelevant response. It’s like asking a politician a question at a press conference. And it tells me this person needs to work on his or her communications skills.
5. Not knowing your own strengths and weaknesses
An interviewer doesn’t expect anyone to be perfect. But he or she does want to know what strengths you are bringing to the team. You wouldn’t conduct a draft for a baseball team without knowing whether your shortstop has the strength to throw the ball to first base. You also need to know the batting stats of all the potential recruits, whether good or bad. It’s the only way to build a winning team.
Another candidate left his cat at home. But he also left his shirt. The HR manager couldn’t recall any policy against candidates being half clothed, so he interviewed him. After that he added a sign to his office that read “No shirt, no interview.”
So here is one last tip. Arriving fully clothed to any interview is always appropriate.