Interview buzzkills are common. Avoiding them is easy

Don’t let interview buzzkills ruin your chances for getting the job

3 min read

November 2019

Three people conducting interview while sitting in armchairs in front of office building windows

After nearly 10 years of conducting phone interviews, I still get genuinely excited after speaking with a great candidate, knowing I’ll be moving them on to an in-person interview with a hiring manager. Occasionally, though, I’m left disappointed—and surprised—when my excitement isn’t shared by the hiring manager. What I’ve learned over the years is that there are some common behaviors that seem to show up during in-person interviews that candidates can easily avoid with a little planning and practice. Here are five buzzkills to avoid in your interview:

1. Arriving late

Arriving late puts you at a disadvantage before you even begin the interview. Don’t get me wrong, interviewers understand emergencies happen (and no, running into traffic isn’t an emergency…it’s poor planning). Avoid this buzzkill by planning to arrive at least 20-30 minutes early. A half hour may seem excessive, but it gives you time to collect your thoughts, calm your nerves, and even get in some last-minute interview prep.

2. Trash talking

Let’s be honest, when you’re looking for another job, there’s often something you’re not happy about at your current employer. We get it, no job is perfect. But don’t bring the drama into your interview. You run the risk of making an interviewer think you’re not a team player. My mother always told me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Unfortunately, that’s not always possible when trying to explain what you don’t like about your job or the reason you’re looking to leave your current work situation. Avoid this buzzkill by positioning negatives as good growth or learning experiences. At the very least, do your best to neutralize the pessimism.

3. Coming off as too casual

A major turn off I hear about regularly from hiring managers is that a candidate was too casual throughout an interview. You should be yourself and feel comfortable in the interview, but mind your body language and don’t use slang or curse words. From what I’ve seen, there’s a fine line between being personable and casual. When you’re personable, you’re often seen as relaxed and likable. When you’re too casual, you can be viewed disinterested in the job. Avoid this buzzkill by remembering that you’re not chatting with a friend, you’re interviewing for a job you want.

4. Underdressing

Ever heard the old adage “dress for success?” It is not a thing of the past. Keep this in mind when interviewing with any organization, no matter how casual you know their dress code to be for current employees. Progressive is a causal organization—and in most locations employees can wear what they’re comfortable in, within reason. But during an interview, you’re still competing to become part of that employee group. Don’t let the way you dress overshadow your skills. Even if you don’t own a suit, avoid this buzzkill by following these guidelines:

  • No wrinkles
  • Tuck in your shirt
  • No low-cut tops or short skirts
  • No blue jeans

5. Prepping poorly

Research, research, research. It is critical to know about both the role and the company that you’re applying for. Review the job description again ahead of the interview and prepare examples of how your previous work history aligns with what the company is looking for. That makes it easier for the interviewer to see how your experiences are applicable to the role. And prepare some of your own questions for the interviewer. This is just as much an opportunity for you to interview them to ensure this role is right for you. When you come with thoughtful questions you sound motivated and enthusiastic about becoming an asset to the organization. Remember, an interview is your one opportunity to showcase you’re the best person for the job. It all comes down to preparation. You only have one shot to make a first impression, make sure you put forth your best effort.

Before moving into her role as a Human Resources Consultant, Sarah Timms was a recruiter in Progressive’s Talent Acquisition Group where she applied her more than 13 years of recruiting experience to build business partnerships and help talented individuals find careers they love.

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