You've been called in for an interview. As you know, first impressions are critical. The people you interview with will unknowingly make judgments about you within the first 30 seconds of meeting you. Those impressions may be based on how you shake hands or how you're dressed, among other things. Bad impressions are very difficult to overcome, so strive to make a positive first impression.
Some interviewing mistakes to avoid:
1. Being Late. Promptness is important. Otherwise you're wasting the interviewer's time and placing seeds of doubt in the interviewer's mind as to whether you can be trusted. If you're going to be late, call your contact. Apologize and let them know when you think you'll arrive. When you do arrive address the issue head on and apologize again for being late. If you are a late person by nature, leave early. A plan to be on time is a plan to be late.
2. Your cell phone. So back to that phone, make sure you turn it off. If you forget and it rings, apologize and turn it off. Do not answer the phone. The most important thing at this moment is your future and your potential employer sitting in front of you.
3. Inappropriate appearance. This includes both dressing appropriately and grooming. A job interview is not the time to show your fashion bent, particularly in the conservative security cleared government contractor realm. Looking your best shows the employer that you take the interview seriously. If you're transitioning military and used to wearing a uniform, here is some guidance on Veterans Dressing for Civilian Interview Success.
4. Bringing up pay or benefits before the employer does. For security cleared job seekers pay is often discussed much earlier than in other industries due to contract requirements. But let the employer bring up the subject first. You don't want to present the impression that your salary and vacation are the only things you're really interested in. Review Preparing Your Job Search Salary Strategy.
5. Throwing your previous or current employer under the bus. Take the high road. Never speak poorly of employers or co-workers. When discussing difficult situations you've encountered choose your words carefully. Don't finger point, and don't blame. You're a team player focused on finding solutions and problem solving. Check out Difficult Interview Questions to help you prepare.
6. Not asking questions. This could either show that you're not interested in the position or bored (see #7). Even if you think all the bases have been covered, you need to ask the interviewer something. Unsure what to ask? Check out Interviewing What to Ask.
7. Not paying attention or appearing to be bored. Think of your future, and focus. Focus on the interviewer and listen attentively. Look the interviewer in the eye when you speak, and when the interviewer speaks. Smile when appropriate. Appearing bored or disinterested is not a skill set that employers are seeking for any position.
8. Talking too much or too little. A job interview is a two-way street. Both sides need to gather information from the other to make informed decisions. Strive for a balanced conversation.
9. Bad attitude. A positive attitude is critically important. In general, companies are looking for team players with positive, can-do attitudes. Having said that, you need to be genuine and authentic as well.
Keep these things in mind for any interaction you have with an employer, whether it's an initial phone interview, a conversation at a Cleared Job Fair, or in a face-to-face interview.