While one can never predict the outcome of an interview, there are some surefire ways to shoot yourself in the foot and earn yourself a rejection. These 5 behaviors will send off red flags to hiring managers and likely prevent you from landing your dream job!
1. Not providing concrete answers to interview questions
Hiring managers and recruiters will often reject candidates because they didn't get clear responses to their questions. If you want to avoid sounding “wishy-washy”, focus on articulating yourself with answers and examples that elude to your past and potential future success.
Try this: While you can’t predict every question that might come up, you can certainly predict a handful of them. Try preparing for these questions using the S.T.A.R. method, and provide answers that focus on the Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This helps you tell a succinct and linear story while giving the hiring manager clear insights and evidence into how you have handled situations in the past.
2. Not managing emotions
We all have scars that can leave us feeling emotional, whether they be from previous employers, or past life experiences. However, if you can’t keep those feelings under wraps during an interview, you’ll quickly find yourself written off from an opportunity. Keep topics like wrongful termination, horrible bosses, financial struggles, and personal sob stories out of the interview room. You need to articulate how, and why, you are the best-suited candidate for this role, not why the hiring manager should have empathy for you. Remember, never speak poorly about a past employer, no matter how horrible your experience.
Try this: Focus on your success stories rather than your sad stories! If you’re unable to put your emotions aside when meeting with a hiring manager, consider taking a break from interviewing to regroup. Similar to dating, you likely wouldn’t want to jump back into the pool after a bad break up without taking some needed healing time!
3. Can’t articulate why you’re leaving a job
One question you can certainly count on coming up is “Why are you looking to leave your job?”. If you’re unable to provide a reasonable answer, the hiring manager might be suspicious and assume the worst. Additionally, stating that you're leaving because you want more money, or stating something negative about your team/company will also raise red flags.
Try this: Before heading into an interview, prepare an answer for this question that is both neutral and non-critical. For example, you can say something like this:
- You’re looking for new kinds of experiences (if you say this, be ready to talk about what kind of experiences these are, and why you’re not getting them at your current job!)
- You’re looking to switch industries ( again, be prepared to say why)
- You’re looking to be stretched in new ways
- You’ve learned everything you will from the role and you’re looking towards the next steps
4. Can’t explain movements throughout your career
Movement in one’s career is healthy. In fact, “Workers who stay with a company longer than two years are said to get paid 50% less, and job hoppers are believed to have a higher learning curve, be higher performers, and even to be more loyal, because they care about making a good impression in the short amount of time they know they’ll stay with each employer.”, says Vivian Giang. While this may be true, the movements need to make sense. If you’ve made several moves across roles and industries, you need to connect the dots for the hiring manager, otherwise, they will assume you can’t commit or might be flakey.
Try this: Write down all your experiences, and think through the skills you’ve gained. Can you explain how each step and skill has helped you move forward? Tell a cohesive story about your career, and how each experience has inspired and contributed to your long-term goals.
5. Mistaking arrogance for confidence
Displaying arrogance is almost guaranteed to make recruiters perceive you in a negative light. While it is paramount to sell yourself with confidence, you don’t want to come across as cocky, or a “know it all”.
Try this: Actively listen when the hiring manager speaks. Show gratitude for the opportunity, and demonstrate (with humility) how you can add value to the team and organization. Ask questions that express your willingness to learn, be a team player, and contribute without an ego.
One final tip to decreases the likelihood of rejection is to really understand what the company does and show your enthusiasm for their mission statement and company objective. With proper preparation and self-awareness, we can all better equip ourselves with the right tools and information we need to show up well and make a lasting first impression!
Stacy Pollack is a Learning Specialist with an MA in educational technology. She is passionate about building leadership programs that engage and contribute to the success of her organization. She loves to share her perspective on job hunting, career building, and networking for success. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.