Past Issues

July 18, 2011

Ways To Ruin Your Chances
During A Job Interview

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Ways Ruin Your Chances During An Interview

By Jessica Liebman, Managing Editor of Business Insider

I've been Business Insider's Managing Editor for nearly a year now. A big part of my job is recruiting; since we're a fast-growing company, we're constantly looking for new talent, from interns to site leads.

I've estimated that between career fairs and in-office interviews, I've interviewed over 150 people. This doesn't count phone interviews, which I usually do one or two of every day.

To be fair, many people do come prepared. I've also had many disappointing interviews.

There are some people who have called Business Insider a great print magazine, but it's actually a quarterly publication and blog. A couple of intern candidates have come dressed like they are headed to an all night dance club - extremely inappropriate.

During my time here, I've been taking notes and putting together a list of what not to do during an interview process. Each one of these warnings comes from a real life experience I've had while interviewing someone for a position at Business Insider.

Tips on what NOT to do in an interview:

  • Don't come a half an hour early. It makes the interviewer feel pressure to finish what they were doing. 5 minutes early is more than enough.

  • Don't bring your own cup of Starbucks coffee to the interview. It's not professional, and it may make the interviewer wish you brought them one too.

  • Don't touch your face or twirl your hair during the interview. It shows that you're unsure of yourself, nervous and it's distracting.

  • Don't wait more than 24 hours after the interview to write a thank you note. Be short and sweet, but specific.

  • Skip the "thank you note in the snail mail" thing. It's 2011. Send an e-card with your professional profile links.

  • If the interviewer asks you to take a skill test after, take it. No matter what you have going on after, it's a huge red flag if you say you don't have time.

  • Don't talk about how successful your father or mother is. Talk about your own success stories. Otherwise it may make the interview think they're responsible for getting you all your past jobs and internships.

  • Don't arrive with wet hair. It's better to be five minutes late with dry hair.

  • Don't have disgusting breath. If the interviewer is sitting across a conference room table from you and can smell it, that's a bad sign.

  • Don't say "I still haven't figured out what I want to do yet." It makes you seem lost. You have figured out what you want to do, and it's exactly what this job is.

  • Don't tell the interviewer wrong information about the company. Do your homework and be prepared!

  • When asked what websites and publications you read, don't say The New York Times. Many people read the New York Times. Be creative.

  • Don't ask what the hours are. It makes it sound like you'll be clocking in and out. There's a better way of putting that: "What's a typical day like here?"

  • Don't send a cover letter email that's more than one paragraph long. Employers don't want to read about your childhood. Save the details for the interview.

  • Don't attach your resume to an email and title it "Resume 2008". Seriously, come on. You should be updating your resume yearly with new job skills and experience.

  • If you're at a career fair, don't talk bad about other candidates - your competition. It makes you come across as a gossip, and desperate.

  • If you're interviewing for a specific job, don't tell the interviewer that your lifelong goal is to be a designer, or a golf announcer. Why would they hire you?

  • Don't come to an interview without spending at least 20 minutes looking around the company website. A smart interviewer will ask you: "What are your impressions of the site?"

  • Don't say you have no questions at the end of the interview. You have to at least ask ONE question, and it should be more creative than, "What's the culture like?"

  • Don't ask if moving within the company is easy. That gives the impression that you're trying to get your foot in the door for another job. The interviewer cares about filling their current open position.
Jessica Liebman is the Managing Editor of Business Insider, where she oversees hiring, among other things. Prior to that she was an editor at Big Think, a website that produces video interviews with thought leaders. Jessica is a graduate of Cornell University and lives in Manhattan.

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