How NOT to Blow a Job Interview

I had a job interview at an insurance company once and the lady said ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ and I said ‘Celebrating the fifth year anniversary of you asking me this question.—Mitch Hedberg

 

The US job market is still, for lack of a better description, relatively shitty: as of December 2012, the unemployment rate was 7.8% (the same month 5 years before, it was 5%). Currently, about 118 people apply for every job opening (which is actually an improvement: two years ago, the average was 187). If you graduated college in the last few years, your competition is fierce. With all this in mind, it’s important one gives herself many opportunities to dazzle during the job search process: shine that resumétil it’s blinding (but still accurate, of course: don’t be that person…); write Pulitzer Prize-worthy cover letters and tailor them to each positioni; and networknetwork,NETWORK (effective networking can help you with just about anything in life: e.g. it got me an apartment that I lurve). If your efforts are effective, you will land the coveted interview.

As a corporate rat-racer, I sat on both sides of the table. In spite of having been “formally trained”ii in the art of conducting interviews, I think there really is something about answering perfectly reasonable questions (that probably won’t lead to charges being pressed unless you really freaking deserve it) that can cause temporary brain-death. For example, once while being interviewed I referred to a former employee as a “jerkoff” (which was charitable, in my humble opinion). Later, I graciously informed the interviewer that I, in fact, had the upper hand because I didn’t really need that job: no, I don’t know what I was thinkingiii. Let’s just hope I was drunk!

As an interviewer, I was always confused when people answered “Um…”. Or when they giggled and shrugged their shoulders because I asked a real head-scratcher like “Why do you think you’d be right for this position?” Nothing frustrated me more than “I don’t know” because, bitch, if you don’t know, who does?! Listen peeps, it’s hard out here for a pimp job seeker; why would you (presumably) work your ass off to get that much-coveted face time with a recruiter and then give up? The only real “say” a job applicant has in the hiring process is whatever is said (or not said) during the interview. So, make those words count. Following are a few (hopefully) helpful hints:

__Be on time early. This seems like a no-brainer but apparently is not. Yes, extenuating circumstances occur; however, if you can’t even show up on time the first damn time, what do you expect a hiring manager to think? If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Robin Ryan, noted authority in the field: “Many employers feel that if you’re late for the interview, you may never show up on time for your job. Need I say more?”iv Yes, Robin, you probably do…

 

__Prepare answers to likely questions. This doesn’t mean that you need to sound like a robot (unless that’s the job you’re applying for, which if you’ve ever read this it is NOT), but you should have some general talking points at the ready. Common questions include:

 

** What is your biggest weakness? (hint: do not “pull the strength-to-weakness stunt, [because] you basically tell the recruiting director you…aren’t an independent thinker or capable of being introspective”—neither of which is attractive if the job requires any sort of thinking. Also, don’t say or do “jazz hands”.)

 

**What salary are you hoping for? (This is when you need an answer that’s not an answer. Here are some excellent suggestions)

 

** Why did you leave your last job/are you leaving your current job? (Tread carefully here. Even if you left your last job because they were beating you with red-hot pokers, you would be wise to put some sort of positive spin on it: “While I love being beaten with red-hot pokers as much as anyone else, I felt it was time that I move onto bigger and better things. I’ve really become interested in water torture recently”. You’re welcome)

 

** If you really don’t have any answer prepared, say something like “Hmmm what a great question. Let me take a moment to think about that.” Then actually think about it.Next, answer.

__Dress appropriately. There are no hard and fast rules here because “appropriate” interview attire will be largely dictated by industry. Interested in nude erotic dancing? Leave the powersuit at home. A job in fashion? Skip the sensible shoes. If you’re still stumped, do some recon: “A few days before your interview, position yourself at the front of the building where your interview is going to take place and observe what the employees…are wearing. Choose the best-dressed people you see and model your interview clothes after theirs”. Try not to be creepy about it, though)

 

So now that you know what to do during your interview, let me recommend a few things not to do:

__ Don’t ask the recruiter what job you’re interviewing for. Another seeming no-brainer, except it’s really, really not. If it wasn’t clear before you even applied for the job, there is nothing wrong with calling/emailing IN ADVANCE to make sure everyone is on the same page, dammit.

 

__ Don’t stink. Literally: DO NOT STINK. Take a shower and apply deodorant. Brush your teeth, use mouthwash, bring a few mints. Wear clean clothes. Defunk your shoes well in advance. Sprinkle some powder in a few key areas if you need to. Don’t drown yourself in perfume or cologne (in fact, it’s probably best you skip it entirely to be safe). Try to stay relaxed so you don’t start to sweat like crazy. Most importantly, DON’T FUCKING STINK. I can’t stress this point enough. Don’t stink.

 

__ Even if it’s true, do NOT admit that you’ve been collecting your finger- and toenail clippings in a jar for the last four years. I’m not sure what else really needs to be said about this.

 

Robert Brault says “as a job seeker, remember this: You only lack experience if they want it done the same old way.” Those are certainly some wise words to keep in mind as you head into a job interview. The words of RuPaul, however, are even wiser: good luck and don’t fuck it up!

Seriously: don’t stink.

 

 

 

iThis is an example of how not to write an effective cover letter. I wonder what ever happened to Mark…

iiI was sent to a seminar, which was actually somewhat fun, and given a book.

iiiFull disclosure: I actually got this job in spite of my verbal diarrhea, which should have been a HUGE red flag. That job sucked grandpa’s sweaty balls even though I made a lot of money.

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