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  • Writer's pictureLeanne Brownoff

Top 5 Interview Blunders That Will Keep You Off the Shortlist

If you or someone you know is contemplating a career or employment change, you are going to want to check out these 5 avoidable blunders that are costing experienced candidates their chance at getting the job, or the very least getting on the shortlist.

I am frequently asked by clients to assist in the interviewing process for some of their key positions and I can tell when a candidate will get a call back- and when they will not.

Currently the economic climate has provided an abundance of highly qualified individuals looking for work. At the moment, the businesses have the advantage of selecting from a rich pool of talent.

Beyond the obvious expectations of candidates highlighting their skill set, experience and results, there are some critical and yet simple actions that put their resumes, in the call back pile.

You might be a perfect candidate for the position but if you are going to stand out and be noticed you must avoid these five common errors when you get called for that all-important initial interview.

Top 5 Interview Blunders that Will Keep You Off the Shortlist

1) Not creating an easy-to-follow resume

Resumes have evolved significantly. In the past, the rule of thumb was for a resume to be 2 pages. Now the focus is on a single page with succinct and relevant information that will make it easy for the reviewing parties to identify education, experience, interests and outstanding achievements. A popular new format provides a single page with a thumbnail photo and key sections that include infographics. Providing pie and bar graphs offers a quick visual on the candidate’s fit for the position. This allows the interviewers the ability to focus on the interview and not on trying to sift through papers in the process. This format isn’t necessary and the traditional format may be more appropriate depending on the position, but it does stand out from the traditional resumes. Regardless of the format always think of the interviewer. Make it easy for them to maneuver so that you can showcase your skills and be memorable.

Note: The one page infographics format may seem easy but it will take time to get it right. Don't try to "wing it" with a Word Document. Use a professional template. If the information is not lined up in an easy-to-follow-format, the reader will get frustrated and move on. It will also speak to your lack of attention to detail, so make it right.

For professional, online templates check out Venngage, Hloom and Canva.

2) Not researching the company and providing a generic cover letter that does not integrate the position’s requirements

Cover letters are still a must for professional applications. It gives the business a glimpse into who you are and it sets the tone for the interview. Do your homework. The Internet has a wealth of information- use it to your advantage! Check out the business’ website and social media posts to gain insight into the company’s position in the industry, its current activities and future projects. Investigate who the decision makers are before the interview and look them up on LinkedIn or other social media sites. Include relevant points from your experiences that will catch the attention of your interviewers. This will show that you have initiative and are willing to go beyond the basic information that the position posting may have provided.

3) Not asking questions about the position or the company

One of the most disheartening ways to end an interview is to say that you do not have any questions, when asked. Always come prepared with 2 or 3 questions that show your interest in the company. Ask questions that highlight the business’ possible hot buttons. Consider topics such as; business growth challenges, or customer service goals, or potential product and services expansions. This will start a new dialogue and if you did your homework, noted in point 2 above, you can speak to how your expertise might assist that area.

4) Not engaging with the staff upon arrival

NEWS FLASH! The interview does not begin when you sit down with the interviewer. Not by a long shot! The interview starts the moment you interact with any member of the company you are hoping to be part of. This might be a preliminary screening phone call or possibly when you walk into the business on the day of the interview. Many business’ include their staff in second interviews so the impression you make with those people that say ‘hello’ as you enter or offer you a coffee while you wait, may be part of the decision making more than you know. I was recently involved in interviewing for a client and after each candidate left we interacted with the staff. Even if we had an excellent interview behind closed doors, if the staff felt the person was not a good fit, the candidate was eliminated from the shortlist.

Engage in friendly conversation as you wait. Get people’s names and shake their hand when you introduce yourself. Even small talk makes an impression. Make eye contact and smile at everyone that you contact. If you arrive early and are required to wait, ask if they might have any brochures on the company’s products and services that you could peruse. If they have a showroom ask if you could wonder through and take a look at their offerings. If you have, and you definitely should have, done your homework about the company, this is a good time to show it. If you are offered a coffee or water- take it. It doesn’t matter if you really want it or not. Accepting hospitality puts you in a positive light.

5) Not engaging with the staff upon leaving

When you are leaving, remember to engage with the staff on your way out. This is your last chance at a last impression. Smile, say thank you for the coffee, and wish people a good day. Even if the staff is not directly involved in the interview process you will likely be working with them if you are the successful candidate, so do everything in your power to make that a successful transition. Never assume the interview is over after you leave the interview room. Use the staff’s names as you leave. “Thanks for the coffee Bob, best cup I’ve had all morning!”…”Appreciate you showing me around the showroom Linda, it’s really impressive”… These personal touches will go a long way to keep you top of mind and in the lead for the race to be the successful candidate.

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