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Common Interview Mistakes!

Author : Dilip Saraf

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In the job-search process getting invited to an interview is a big deal, especially when it entails going in front of interviewers at the target company and exchanging topics that allow you to explore the mutual fit. My own anecdotal data shows that about 50% of the well-targeted rsums (not the shot-gunned ones or the spray-and-pray types) typically get the first screening call. In almost all cases this is from someone in the HR, or occasionally, from the hiring manger, depending on a variety of factors. From that screening only about 10%-20% get invited for a face-to-face interview to decide if the candidate is worth their salt.

So, despite this abysmal statistics (5%-10%) who are invited for an in-person interview I am often surprised how ill prepared many are to deal with the most commonly expected behaviors that can be show-stoppers and that can set you back to square one; such a waste! Im not talking about giving the wrong answer or fumbling a technical question; rather, I am talking about your own behaviors that can scuttle your chances for going ahead to the offer stage with how you manage this stage. In this blog I plan to list some Dos and Donts in interviews when they are face-to-face.

  1. Be aware that as soon as you enter the premises you may be on camera, watched by someone who may report to the decision makers your objectionable behaviors. So, from the guard at the entrance to the parking lot to how you park your car to how you deal with the person in the lobby are places where you must be on your best behavior. Do not ask someone at the reception desk to get you coffee or be rude to them. Many companies ask these employees to report how you impress them as a part of the interview score.
  2. Do not pace up and down or show your impatience at the desk person if your appointment is delayed. People often get stuck in important meetings. So, at the appointed hour ask the desk person to announce you and wait for their response. If they do not get back to youeven when you are sitting across from themdo not pace up and down, impatiently looking at your watch. Remember, the person at the desk has a job to do, so they may be on the phone, while your appointed hour is up. So, do not breathe down their neck as you stand by the desk and keep looking at your watch impatiently as the receptionist is on the phone doing their business. Thank the receptionist for giving you an update on your meeting and give them a smile.
  3. As the interviewer escorts you to the interview room, have a pleasant chat about something that is not controversial: Weather, last nights ball game, or a movie. Do not complain about how hard it was to find parking, or how cold the coffee was.
  4. When you shake hands or as you enter the interview room hand over your rsum (especially if you have updated it since your original submittal) and your business card. This way you can ask for their business card. Having their business card helps you email them a Thank-you message after the interview directly.
  5. During the interview take notes using a notebook and pen, NOT your laptop or a tablet. First, ask if it is OK to take notes during the interview. If they object then write down as soon as you can about the discussion, while it is still fresh. These notes will help you during subsequent rounds. Do NOT use recording devices even if they allow it.

    Recently, one of my clients went for an executive-level interview and cleared three rounds with senior executives. The final round was with the CEO. One of the first questions the CEO asked him was: Whom did you meet and what is your opinion of their views of how we should grow? My client had not taken any notes during the previous rounds, nor did he remember the names of the executives he had met. As you can imagine that interview was over in about 10 mins. (it was scheduled for one hour).

  6. It is virtually impossible to have all the answers to the questions you are asked. The instinctive response is to wing it and hope that you do not get caught. In such cases it is best to be honest and say, I do not know, but here is how Id approach it or here is my best guess of what that might be (based on the context of the discussion). Saying, I dont know does not diminish your ability to impress the interviewer, but certainly does when you get caught in a lie.

    Yet another client during a recent interview faced a question about a particular software application commonly used in the work that was his forte. My client had not used that app, but thought he could get away with a lie. As soon as he said that he had the next question was from the interviewer who wanted to know the biggest flaw in that app. My client fumbled and could not continue that lie. That interview ended abruptly, too!

  7. Do not ask how the interview went. This shows insecurity. If you must know ask what the next steps and their timeline. The way they respond to the question speaks volumes. If their response is: Oh, we have many other candidates and you are the first one we interviewed, then you know you better continue looking. The converse can also happen: The interviewer may ask: How am I doing? In response do not be critical of the interview or of them. In one recent case my client had not interviewed for nearly 10 years, so he blurted out: Oh, it is hard for me to tell how you are doing as Ive not interviewed for 10 years. Bad response!

Most of these tips are common sense, but somehow during interviews commonsense goes out the window for many. So, read through these tips and see how you can improve your chances of clearing the interviews and getting that offer you want.

Good luck!

About Author
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.

After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.

During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.

Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.

Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.

Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.

Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.



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