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Job interviews are stressful. Being peppered with questions about your employment history, the skills you possess and how you'd handle hypothetical work situations is hard enough. You don't want to compound the challenge by making an easily avoidable mistake, like showing up late or failing to bring an extra copy of your résumé.
Over the years, Robert Half International has surveyed hiring managers and workers, asking them to recount the biggest interview gaffes they've either seen or heard about. Following are some of the most unforgettable responses -- and suggestions for avoiding a similar fate.
Don't forget your people skills
--"An individual applied for a customer-service job, and when asked what he might not like about the job, he said, 'Dealing with people.'"
--"The applicant told me if she had realized it was our company, she wouldn't have shown up for the interview."
--"When asked by the hiring manager why she was leaving her current job, the applicant said, 'My manager is a jerk. All managers are jerks.'"
No matter how well you've prepared, you might find that nerves get the best of you in the heat of the moment. You wouldn't be the first person to stick your foot in your mouth, judging by the examples above.
To guard against saying or doing something you might regret, conduct a practice interview with a friend or family member well ahead of the big event. The "interviewer" can alert you to instances when you seem more nervous than usual or become flustered. The practice will also help you feel more at ease during the real interview.
Don't focus on your needs over the employer's
--"The applicant told me he really was not interested in the position, but he liked that we allowed for a lot of time off."
--"One individual said we had nice benefits, which was good because he was going to need to take a lot of leave in the next year."
It goes without saying that the interview is a prime opportunity for you to learn more details about the position. But use common sense when digging for additional information.
Don't ask for the nitty-gritty about future compensation, benefits and perks until the hiring manager has expressed serious interest in offering you the position. Jumping the gun will make it seem like you don't care about the job itself or making a meaningful contribution to the potential employer.
However, it is appropriate to ask about the position itself, even during the early rounds of interviewing. For example, you might inquire about the person who last held the role or about the types of professional development opportunities the company makes available to employees.
--"A person came to the interview in pajamas with slippers."
--"The candidate arrived with a snake around her neck. She took her pet everywhere."
--"One job candidate left his dry cleaner tag on his jacket and said he wanted to show he was a clean individual."
--"An applicant wore the uniform from his former employer."
No matter how casual a potential employer's work environment seems, dress to impress. That means wearing a suit or other similar professional attire.
It's highly unlikely a hiring manager will knock points off if you show up to the interview slightly overdressed. However, coming in casual attire may give the impression that you're not serious about the position or cause the interviewer to question your professionalism.
This is one of those small details that can speak volumes, so don't take any chances.
Don't be dishonest
--"After being complimented on his choice of college and the GPA he achieved, the candidate replied, 'I'm glad that got your attention. I didn't really go there.'"
--"After arriving for an early morning interview, the job seeker asked to use the hiring manager's phone. She proceeded to fake a coughing fit as she called in sick to her boss."
If you've been on the job hunt for a while, it can be tempting to stretch the truth during the interview in order to make yourself seem more qualified. After all, what's one little white lie?
But keep in mind most employers conduct reference or background checks prior to extending an employment offer. And in the age of Google and social media, it's easier than ever to uncover false information. If that happens, you can be guaranteed you won't be offered the position, and your professional reputation can suffer irreparable harm.
Even if your lie isn't uncovered right away, you could be setting yourself up for failure. If you exaggerate your skills or experience, you may not be able to successfully complete the position's duties once hired. It's best to give the hiring manager an accurate depiction of your abilities so both you and the employer can be confident the job is right for you.
The bottom line: It's never OK to lie during the interview, no matter how small the fib might seem. Always stick to the facts and build a case for the position you seek based solely on your actual skills and experience.
Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at www.roberthalf.com/dont-let-this-happen-to-you or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.
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