6 Ways to (un)Impress a Job Interviewer
By Bennett Floyd Published on January 12, 2016
You did it! You just landed an interview with your dream employer! You’re totally stoked and ready to nail it. You’ve got this!
Before you start doing your victory dance, however, hold on for just one sec.
There’s plenty of advice on the Internet to help you avoid some of the more common interviewing mistakes, but you may not be aware of some of the dangers of trying just a little too hard to “wow” your prospective employer. If you’re not careful, your excitement, enthusiasm, and eagerness to impress may actually do you more harm than good.
With that in mind, here are five ways to turn off an interviewer really fast.
1. Come on a little too strong
It goes without saying that you want to leave your interviewer with a good first impression, but overdoing it can make you come across overanxious, egocentric, or simply desperate.
For example, it’s a good idea to arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your interview, but showing up half an hour or more ahead of time might be pushing it. When your interviewer goes to shake hands with you, don’t try to impress her with your best kung fu grip. Sure, no one likes a “dead fish” handshake, but you don’t have to crush your interviewer’s hand like a trash compactor, either.
Likewise, making eye contact with your interviewer is definitely a good practice, but making constant, intensely focused eye contact with him throughout the duration of the interview? That’s not professional—that’s just creepy!
Remember, job interviews aren’t just about whether you’re qualified for the position. They’re also a test of whether you’re the kind of person the interviewer wants to work with. Think of it this way: Based on the way you present yourself, would you want to work with you?
2. Overdress for the occasion
Don’t get me wrong, dressing for success is always a good idea, but nothing screams, “I’m overcompensating for my lack of skills and experience,” like wearing a tuxedo to your interview.
A good rule of thumb is to dress for the job you’re interviewing for. In other words, if you’re applying for a job as a construction worker, dress like a construction worker. If you want to join a prestigious law firm, then follow suit!
No pun intended … OK, kind of intended.
Keep in mind that some employers may have a more casual dress culture at the workplace. If that’s the case, dressing up in a fancy business suit may actually be a big turnoff for your interviewer. When in doubt, find out how the employees at the company you want to work for dress and try to go one small step nicer than that. That’s all there is to it.
3. Act like you’re overqualified for the position
You may think that being overqualified for the job is a point in your favor …
Think about it: Employers generally want the best employees for the lowest amount of money possible. It’s called business.
If you act as though you’re tremendously overqualified for the job, your interviewer may assume either a) you really aren’t interested in the job after all, or b) you’re expecting a much higher salary than what the company’s willing to pay. In either event, your interviewer will move on to the next candidate without skipping a beat.
Suffice it to say, even if you are the smartest, most talented, or most experienced person in the room, don’t make it a point to let your interviewer know it. Instead, simply demonstrate that you have the knowledge and skills you need to deliver what the employer is looking for and add real value to his or her organization.
4. Hijack the interview
If there’s one way to make sure your interviewer doesn’t hire you, it’s to hijack the interview.
How do you hijack an interview? Talk too much. Ask too many questions. Make too many demands. Try to take control of the interview. Give long, way-too-detailed answers to questions, etc.
Remember, even if you’re applying for a managerial position the interviewer is the one running the show, not you. Yes, you want to make sure the job is a good fit for you and your career, but, as far as the interviewer’s concerned, this meeting is about whether you are a good fit for the job, as well as the team you’ll be working with.
Here’s a tip: Treat your job interview like any other normal conversation between acquaintances. No one likes a person who goes on and on about himself without giving anyone a word in edgewise. So, give brief, to-the-point responses to any questions you’re asked. You can even ask pertinent questions of your own; just don’t try to take over.
5. Pretend your greatest weakness is actually your greatest strength
It’s that dreaded question that interviewers just love to ask: “What is your greatest weakness?” Before you give the typical sugarcoated answer, however, be warned. You may be tempted to say something like, “Oh, I’m such a perfectionist,” or, “I just care too much about my clients,” or some other insincere line that interviewers are tired of hearing …
No, really. Just don’t.
Just as dogs can smell fear, an experienced interviewer can sniff out insincerity from across the room.
Nobody’s perfect. Believe it or not, your interviewer wants an honest answer. (Well, perhaps not too honest—no need to reveal any skeletons hiding in your closet!) She just wants to know what you’ve done to overcome your personal challenges in the workplace.
It’s not even so much about what you answer as how you answer it.
So, how do you answer this question? Here are some examples.
- Weak sauce: “I don’t have any weaknesses.”
- OK sauce: “My weakness is that I really struggle speaking in front of other people.”
- Awesome sauce: “I get really nervous sometimes speaking in front of other people, especially during meetings. Usually, this isn’t a problem, but I’ve found that sometimes I’ve kept quiet during meetings when I should have shared my ideas or insights. This would have helped address some problems early on and prevented unnecessary work for my colleagues and me. Finally, I decided to approach my supervisor about this weakness. She reassured me that I was a valued member of the team and encouraged me to speak up when I felt I had something important to contribute. It was really difficult at first, but as I began to share my thoughts more and more, we discovered a significant flaw in our project management processes that, once addressed, helped us complete 50% more of our projects on time or ahead of schedule.”
Once again, the key is to be genuine without being too self-deprecating, as well as focus on what you’ve done to improve and positively affect your previous work.
6. Follow up every hour, on the hour
The saying goes, “The squeaky wheel is the one that gets oiled,” but following up too much or too often is not a good way to show initiative and persistence. It is, however, a great way to bug your prospective employer until he decides to hire someone else.
Remember, interviewers are busy people. Chances are interviewing new job candidates isn’t your interviewer’s only responsibility. He may have any number of priorities competing for his attention. Perhaps he even wants to hire you but is busy taking care of other stuff.
So, how do you follow up without annoying your interviewer? Here are a few ideas:
- Ask what the next step is before you leave the interview. This will give you a good idea what to expect and how long to wait before following up.
- Send a “thank you” note or email right away. This will help you solidify the good impression you made on your interviewer while the interview is still on her mind.
- Send your interviewer an invitation to connect via LinkedIn. This is an unobtrusive method to remind your interviewer about your interview without sounding needy. Plus, it’s a great way to build your network! Better yet, introduce your interviewer to a valuable former coworker or colleague.
- If time drags on with no response, check in (periodically). Once again, it’s important not to harass your potential employer, i.e., “Did I get the job yet?” Instead, check in every three to five business days. Even better, offer something of value to your contact, a “reason” beyond just checking in, so to speak. For example, you could forward a blog or article that you think might be of interest to your interviewer. In your email, you could say something like, “Hi Bill. We spoke about two weeks ago regarding the project manager position at ABC Incorporated. I remember you mentioned emerging trends in project management software, so I thought I’d attach this article I found recently on the subject. I hope you find it as interesting as I did!” etc.
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