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Interviews: Fail Them or Nail Them

By: Kemper Trull, ITAC Nashville Market Leader

As an employer or hiring manager, do you ever receive a great-looking resume and look forward to meeting the person behind this magical background?  Let’s see if we can check all the boxes here: I see progression; I see stability; I see some reputable companies with a proven track-record of hiring good people.  Wow, this is too good to be true!  I can’t wait to meet this person – I might just offer him/her the job on the spot!

And then, this “unicorn” shows up and… “wait, who is this?!”  Glass. Shattered. Throughout the course of the interview, the high hopes you had for this savior have dwindled away by every interview faux-pas imaginable.

As a job seeker, maybe you’ve been the reason for this interview letdown… If so, these tips could change your interview success forever!  Do some honest review of the interviews you’ve had, and see if you’ve made any of these mistakes:

How to fail an Interview:

  • Not dressed the part: Sure, just throw on some baggy pants and a t-shirt. Or wad your dress shirt into the smallest ball you possibly can, and then unravel it just for the interview!  Maybe even lock yourself in a car and smoke for an hour leading up to the interview.  There’s at least SOME chance the interviewer won’t be allergic to you…
  • Bad body language: Oh, you don’t want to be here either?  Great!  I can’t wait to see how excited you are once you’ve been working in the same job here for 10 years.  If you slouch in your seat, you look way cooler.  And if you keep a poker face the whole time, they will assume you are a shrewd negotiator.
  • Bad-mouthing your ex-employers: THEY were all a mess, right? THEY were all terrible environments.  THEY all had bad management.  THEY all had attendance issues… well, that one doesn’t make as much sense… but whatever.
  • Interview for the next job: Who wants this job anyway? I am going places.  Big places.  I’m going to be YOUR boss someday.  What is the growth like here?  Because I’m really looking at which corner office I’m going to pick out in 1.5 years when I’ve been promoted 7 times.
  • Don’t prepare for the interview: Just wing it! Show up whenever you want (they’re interviewing YOU, right?!). “So, what do you guys do here?” They should be honored you are giving them the time of day.

These may seem obviously terrible to you, and yet people are doing this stuff every day. If these look totally normal to you, I’d suggest completely revamping how you approach interviews and read this next part carefully.

How to nail an Interview:

  • Dress for success! While it’s becoming less common that you need to totally suit-up for an interview, you at least need to look like you care. Press your shirt and pants; maybe wear a jacket (depending on your profession); make sure your clothes fit well.  I realize that not everyone has the luxury of buying new clothes for interviews, so consider borrowing a friend’s dress clothes.  Honestly, the effort is what matters here.  I’m not judging anyone by the name brand on their clothes; just that they put forth the effort to impress and showed the common sense that you should put your best foot forward for an interview.
  • Good body language: This one starts with the opening handshake and enthusiasm but continues into the seated portion of the interview. Come in strong with a reasonable handshake (you don’t have to break hands, but please don’t give me the dead fish handshake…), and then sit up straight and maintain good eye contact throughout the interview.  Talk with your hands a bit, liven up the conversation.  Smile, for goodness sake.  These people need to walk out of a meeting with you feeling like they could actually tolerate showing up to work with you every day.  A positive attitude goes a long way in conveying interest in the role, company and people in front of you.
  • Treat former jobs as learning experiences: You can learn something from every experience. As bad as a former job may have been, surely you grew in some way during your time there.  Focus on that.  Had a bad manager?  Maybe you learned how to effectively communicate with all types of people.  Maybe you learned something about working independently or being resourceful and problem-solving on your own.  Chances are, the person you are interviewing with knows all about the reputation of your former employers, so they may already know how your experience was there.  Bare minimum, you need to illustrate how you are able to turn lemons into lemonade and continue to focus on self-growth.
  • Focus on the job at-hand: It’s great to be ambitious, and it’s great to want to grow. In fact, most interviewers want to know that you want to continue to challenge yourself and get better.  But, remember that you are interviewing for THIS job.  Show the interviewer that you are willing to roll-up your sleeves and prove yourself in any capacity, even if it’s not where you want to be 5 years from now.  Mention what excites you about this role.
  • Do your homework: Research the company, interviewers and on the role. Know what the company does and how the job you will be interviewing for fits into the bigger picture.  If that isn’t evident, ask!  Have some good questions prepared about the impact of this role on the organization, and about people who have been wildly successful in this role previously.  Maybe go the extra mile and ask some macro-level questions about news articles you have researched or about industry trends you’ve been reading about.  Wow, you even impress yourself sometimes!

If you are struggling with interviews, reflect on your previous interactions and see if any of this resonates with you.  Interviewing can feel unnatural, but you can frame your mindset in such a way that you can present any way you’d like.  Practice your skills often and CHOOSE to have a great interview!

Kemper Trull is Nashville Market Leader for ITAC Solutions, a full-service staffing / recruitment firm based in Birmingham, AL. He has spent 10+ years in the staffing industry, and he attributes “the high of helping someone change their life for the better” as the fuel that keeps him fulfilled in his role.