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The Four Best Ways to Tank a Job Interview

March 9th, 2012

When we head out the door on the way to a job interview, most of us know that we’re about to step into a stressful situation. We’re ready to control the things we can and let go of the things we can’t. We’re wearing strong deodorant, we have plenty of copies of our resume in hand, our timepieces are accurate, and the tanks of our cars (bought from used car for sale) are full.

But unfortunately, even the best preparation can’t protect some candidates from silly, preventable, interview-killing mistakes. Don’t become one of these candidates. If you’ve landed a promising job interview, congratulations! Now just avoid these simple blunders that often take place before applicants have a chance to close the deal.

Brain-Mouth Disengagement

A well-qualified, promising applicant can tank his chances entirely with one witless remark during an interview. If you tend to blurt things out when you get nervous, recognize this tendency and plan ahead. Try this tip: Pause for two full seconds (two Mississippis) before responding to any question, even a pleasant inquiry about the weather or your drive to the venue. A two second pause is short enough not to seem odd to your interviewer, but it’s long enough for you to take a full breath and assemble your thoughts before your mouth opens.


While you’re pausing and counting out two full seconds, make sure that what you’re about to say is honest. Positive spin is one thing, but exaggeration and outright lies are another. If you’re asked about your experience, feel free to focus on accomplishments that are relevant to the position, even if you have to pick and choose among the things you’ve done. But don’t stretch the truth.

This also applies to anything you commit to writing in the form of an application or resume. It should go without saying, but never claim schools, degrees, positions or affiliations that aren’t real. And never “adjust” your dates of previous employment. These are easy lies for your employer to uncover, and the resulting humiliation isn’t worth the risk.

Underestimating the Value of Appearances

If you aren’t sure what to wear, opt for a simple grey suit in an updated style. Suits with either pants or skirts are almost always appropriate, no matter the position. If the workplace and venue are more relaxed, feel free to wear a simple, conservative shirt and tie with pressed trousers, or a neat blouse and skirt ensemble. In any case, err on the side of formality. And check carefully for loose threads and tiny stains before you leave the house. Neatness and attention to detail will show respect for both your interviewer and yourself.

Emphasizing Your Own Needs

Try not to focus on your own needs until you have an offer in hand. It’s true that an interview is a two- way street, and you’ll need to evaluate your potential employer just as she evaluates you. But don’t quiz her about salary, bonuses, parking, or perks until later. For now, make sure you emphasize all the contributions you’re ready to make to the business, rather than the benefits you intend to take away.

Contact a personnel staffing agency at Merritt Staffing for specific questions about interview protocol and help with the job search process.

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