Job Interviews

Body Language: When You Ruin Your Interview Without Opening Your Mouth

In an ideal world, interviews would purely be about your skills and accomplishments. An interview would consist of placing your resume in a machine and watching it match you to the perfect position.

But we aren’t just our resumes. We’re people. Each one of us has our own personality, culture, and worldview. Those differences are what make successful teams.

However, your personal quirks are being reviewed in an interview just as much as your resume. An interviewer wants to know who you are as a person and how that fits into their particular team dynamic.

Unfortunately, there are certain habits or body language that can immediately dissuade an interviewer from hiring you. And you’ll never know what they are without someone to tell you. Luckily we’re here to do just that, using information from a CareerBuilder study.

Failure to Make Eye Contact

This was number one on CareerBuilder’s list of the biggest body language mistakes. And it makes sense—failure to make eye contact means three things to interviewers:

  1. You’re not confident in your skills. You might be meek or afraid to take on challenges.
  2. You aren’t a people person. Most jobs require some degree of human interaction, and not being able to handle an interviewer’s gaze doesn’t bode well for interacting with customers or other employees.
  3. You might be easily distracted. Lack of eye contact can sometimes come across as not paying attention.

Here’s how to know if you struggle with eye contact:

  • Go somewhere with someone in authority. It might a meeting with a professor, dinner with the in-lawws, or an appointment with your doctor. Challenge yourself to maintain eye contact with them during an entire interaction. If you can’t, you might have a problem.
  • Hold mock interviews with your friends or family. Have them ask hard questions, and try not to look away too often.
  • It’s important to note here that good eye contact is not constant eye contact. You don’t want to make your interviewer uncomfortable by staring at them constantly.

Failure to Smile

Here we have number two on CareerBuilder’s list. It’s easy to tell why this one is a problem. Your interviewer might think:

  1. You don’t like interacting with others and might be a problem on team projects or in customer service positions.
  2. You don’t really want the job in the first place. (Why are you here?)
  3. You dislike your interviewer.

If you’re a person who doesn’t smile very often, you’re probably aware of it. Friends might bring it up from time to time, saying you need to smile more often. And honestly? It’s ok if you’re not a super smiler. Some of us just aren’t.

But in an interview, you do need to smile. For all of the reasons stated above. Remember, your interviewer doesn’t know who you are as a person. They’re basing their entire approximation of who you are based on a 40 to 60-minute interview. So, you need to do everything you can to show them you’re right for the job.

Playing with Something on the Table/Fidgeting Too Much in His/Her Seat

These came in at third and fourth, respectively, on CareerBuilder’s list. We’re including them in the same section since they’re similar types of behavior.

An interviewer is here to speak with you. They expect to be your main point of focus. You should answer questions promptly and succinctly. If you’re engaging in the behaviors outlined above they might think:

  1. You’re bored and don’t want to be in the interview.
  2. You won’t be able to focus on projects if they hire you.
  3. You won’t be able to handle the pressure of the job in general.

Also, you shouldn’t touch anything on the desk unless prompted by your interviewer.

This is another behavior you might not be aware of. Next time you’re watching TV or talking to someone that outranks you, check how long you can stay completely still. If it’s an issue, take a few moments each day to meditate or sit still.

Not Quite Sure How to Up Your Interview Game?

Express Employment Professionals can help.

We have a video about interviewing in our Job Genius educational program.

And, if you’re looking for a job and more interviews in general, call your local office. Our recruiters will work with you to figure out your interview strengths and weaknesses.

Check out our online office locator to find a location near you and schedule an in-person visit, or apply online.

 

Ask a Recruiter: How Much Should You Share About Your Past Job in an Interview?

Are you telling too much? Or not enough?

You got past the phone interview and now you’re sitting in front of someone who could be your boss in the very near future. Then they ask the dreaded question: “Why did you leave your previous position?”

You have so much to say. Maybe your boss was a control freak who was impossible to work for. Perhaps you wanted a promotion that was never in the cards. It’s even possible you just wanted a change of pace.

But does your interviewer need to hear all that stuff? How much info is too much?

We asked our Express Employment Professionals expert recruiters to find out.

Avoid Negative Emotions

If you left a job because you hated your boss, it can be tempting to say so. But bringing that up in an interview is unprofessional. Keep the discussion to the job and any duties you were responsible for and leave your boss out of it.

“I always advise my candidates to keep anything negative about a previous job unemotional. If it was not a good experience, highlight what experience that you gained and stick to specific job duties. I’m against saying anything negative about previous bosses or coworkers. Most companies take that as you, the interviewee, being hard to please or get along with.”— Carlos DeLaFuente, Portland, OR

Be Honest

Obviously, you don’t want to lie during any stage of the interview process. But when it comes to interviews, being honest means answering questions truthfully but appropriately. For instance, if you’re asked why you left a previous position, don’t say, “The work was boring.” Instead, say something along the lines of, “There was a mismatch between the company’s work culture and my own way of handling job responsibilities.” The truth about the work is still there, but saying it in an impartial way is professional. Plus, you’ll avoid looking like a potential problem employee with a chip on your shoulder.

And if you were let go? Admit it. Just be purposeful with how you say it.

“I think people have to tread a fine line with being honest, but not oversharing the emotional side of it. I find a lot of people trying to skirt the issue or not being honest as to why they are no longer with an employer. I think it is good to be honest with why the employment ended and if they were terminated as to why they believe this happened and what they learned.” —Shannon Jacoby, Bellingham, WA

“Use phrases like ‘parted ways’ instead of quit or fired. Something like ‘the company was going in a different direction from my work goals.’ Most interviewers will understand that wording and realize that you are being professional and ultimately that is what a company is looking for, people that can maintain a professional demeanor during adversity.”— Carlos DeLaFuente, Portland, OR

Embrace Positivity

When it comes to talking about previous jobs, you want to show that you learned something. An interviewer doesn’t want to hire someone who was employed for four years and didn’t come out of the experience with any extra knowledge.

When you’re talking about your previous job, focus on what you learned and how exciting it was to learn those things. Interviewers love to see applicants who are passionate about their work.

“Instead of sharing how much you dislike a position and why it didn’t work out, flip it around and tell the interviewer what you learned while working in your last role and what your greatest accomplishment was during your time there. NEVER trash talk your previous supervisor or company! I have had situations were applicants have cried at my desk or talked negatively about their life or previous job. All that being said, keep it positive and professional!” — Kim Vargas, Howell, NJ

“Showing excitement about what you did is very appealing to an interviewer. Speaking highly of coworkers or ex-bosses is perfectly fine as long as it is kept to work relations. Avoid talking about personal time away from work with coworkers. An interviewer might read this as potentially bringing drama to a team.” — Carlos DeLaFuente, Portland, OR

Any more questions about how much to share about a previous job in an interview? Let us know in the comments section below!

Discussing Skills and Experience in an Interview

Interviews usually start out the same way. You’ll shake hands with your interviewer, sit down, and wait for the first question. They might want a quick introduction, or could just go right into asking about your resume. If you don’t have a resume, they might want you to speak about your applicable experience and skills.

This is where many job seekers stumble. Some have plenty of skills and experience, but aren’t exactly clear on how to articulate it. Others don’t have much experience, and don’t know what to say.

Here’s our list of do’s and don’ts to get everything out there.

Do: Kick Things Off with an Elevator Pitch

Before digging into your skills and work experience, share a bit about who you are as a person. Giving the interviewer a feel for your unique personality, strengths, and what you’re looking for in a job is a great way to stand out from the competition.

All this information is called your elevator pitch, a quick speech outlining who you are, what you want, and what you can do for the company. This is where you can highlight what you want in a position (e.g. family-oriented culture, opportunities for advancement), as well as specific experiences you’re proud of (e.g. increasing ROI, achieving deadlines during a serious time crunch).

Do: Make a List of Your Skills

You have useful skills; the hard part is figuring out how to talk about them. For instance, maybe you were a cashier at a fast food restaurant or sold shoes at the mall. That means you have customer service experience! The same goes for being a recruiter for a school or college club.

Before your interview, write down a list of everything you did at your past jobs. Or, if you haven’t worked before, jot down club or volunteer experience. Then, translate those job responsibilities into skills and pair them with specific experiences. Instead of going on an unfocused ramble about your last job, note that you managed a team, completed projects well-before deadline, or exceeded expected quality levels.

That’s the kind of information interviewers want to hear. Making a list ensures you recognize your skills and can speak directly about them, instead of babbling about jobs in general without a central focus.

Do: Connect Your Skills to the Job You’re Applying For

Every job is different, which means you need to prepare differently for every interview. Take time to read the “required skills” section of the job listing and match those qualities to the ones on your list. Sprinkle a few of those keywords into your interview and expand on them with specific experiences and you’ll stand out as an applicant.

Don’t: Speak Poorly of a Previous Employer

This is something we mention frequently. It seems obvious, right? Nobody is going to want to hire you if you walk into an interview complaining about a previous boss.

But things are a bit more complicated than that. In most interviews, you’ll be asked about why you left your previous job, or what issues you ran into at a previous position. Applicants make mistakes when they’re tempted to say it was because of being fired, hating their boss, or bad leadership.

While you shouldn’t lie in response to these questions, finding a positive spin to show off your skills and experiences is a safe way to answer. Saying anything negative can cause the interviewer to think you might speak negatively of your new employer in the future.

Perhaps there wasn’t a chance to advance into higher positions (this shows your zest for success), or you realized you wanted to use your skills and experience in a whole new way. And if you can’t come up with anything positive? Just say that there was a culture mismatch.

Do: Stop Stressing

The interview process is stressful. You need a job now to pay your bills. But you’ve done everything you can. You’ve made a list and checked it twice, conducted your research, and really gotten to know who you are as an employee. All that’s left now is to ace the interview. So, breathe. Take a few minutes to meditate, let out a primal scream, or do whatever it is you need to do to settle your nerves. Go in there, be yourself, and dazzle them with your experience.

Have any more questions about discussing skills or experience in an interview? Let us know in the comments section below!

Asking Relevant Questions After an Interview

Does your interviewer keep answering your questions before you can ask them? We’ve got you covered.

Last month we asked what parts of the job interview process you need help with. You all agreed that asking relevant questions was your top pick, so that’s what we’re covering today!

During your interview preparation journey, you’ve no doubt come across the tip that you absolutely must ask questions at the end of an interview. This is true. Asking great questions shows your interest in the position and helps you stand out against the competition. However, what do you do if your interviewer already answered the questions you had prepared?

The key lies in your question preparation. You need to come up with multiple insightful questions so you have backups at the end of the interview. However, avoid asking questions just to ask them—everything you prepare should be relevant to the position.

We realize it’s hard to come up with these questions on your own, so we’ve prepared a few of our favorites. Feel free to customize them to suit your unique interview situation.

1. A question asking for more information about the job.

For example: If I were hired for this position, how would my performance be measured?

This question shows that you’re interested in the intricacies of the position beyond the job description. It also shows that you’re goal-oriented and are already thinking about how you can be the best employee possible.

2. Something specific about the company’s culture that wasn’t covered online.

For example: What factors were considered when designing your logo? How did you settle on your current mission statement?

Although this question will change depending on the company, showing an interest in the company’s culture is always a great idea. Such a question displays your passion and interest in the company as something more than a place where your job is.

3. A question specifically tailored for your interviewer.

For example: I saw on LinkedIn that you oversaw [project name]. What was that experience like?

Or: Have you ever had an experience at [company] that really made you think ‘this is what it means to work at [company]? What was that like?

These questions show that you’re curious not only about the company, but about your interviewer as well. A slightly more personal question can get an interviewer to lower their defenses and see you as an individual, not just a job applicant. You can also get great answers from these questions that provide a behind-the-scenes look at the company. Just make sure not to ask about any failed projects or hard financial times.

4. A question regarding the recent history of the company.

For example: I saw that the company recently overcame [problem]. Would it be alright if we discussed how that was achieved?

Be careful with this one. Although showing that you’re interested in how your skills can solve a past company problem, you don’t always know how an interviewer is going to react. Some companies keep these problems close to their vest, while others love to see brave interviewees take on problems before they even get an offer. Research online, get a feel for the culture, and only then decide if you want to take the plunge. Avoid any emotional issues like layoffs or company reorganization.

5. And if it wasn’t covered, always ask:

What will the next steps look like?

This one is more for your benefit than the interviewer’s, but it does show that that you care about what happens next. And you’d be surprised how many interviewers fail to cover it during the interview!

Have any question you’ve had success with in interviews? Let us know in the comments section below.

Is Your Online Activity Costing You the Job?

Your lack of interviews could be due to what you said online years ago.

The internet is a huge and wonderful place. You can search for tips on how to fix your sink, buy a used car, and leave a review for your favorite restaurant. However, it’s important to remember that anything you say online is pretty much permanent. An angry review or a sarcastic comment from years ago could come back to haunt you later.

This is incredibly relevant to the job search. The lack of a face-to-face connection might seem to give you some degree of anonymity, but it doesn’t. Recruiters and interviewers will see what you’ve done and said online and factor that into their consideration of you as a candidate, for better or worse.

According to the HUHS Library Media Center, 45% of all hiring managers use search engines to find information on people who applied for jobs. And, 63% said that something on a job seeker’s social media site caused them to not offer them a job.
And the best way to avoid that situation? Not doing anything bad in the first place. But what exactly is “bad” when it comes to the internet and your job search? We’ve got you covered.

Don’t Complain on Social Media

If you had food poisoning during a recent trip to Sherry’s Crab Emporium, it’s fine and dandy to let them know on social media or a review site. However, avoid ranting or using any rude language. Be concerned and polite. That review might come up when you’re being considered for a great job, and it could be the deciding factor that throws you out as a candidate.

Avoid complaining about a boss or co-worker on any of your pages. Even if you aren’t social media friends with these individuals, it’s still possible they could see your comments through a shared contact. And if you’re applying for a new position, your potential employer could write you off as a temperamental employee.

Don’t Breach the Line Between Business and Personal

Social media can be a great networking tool. However, don’t add interviewers on any social platform. Keep the personal and professional separate. Your online interactions with the company should always be strictly professional.

Avoid contacting companies you’ve applied or interviewed with via social media. A quick question to your interviewer via email is fine, but writing a post to a company’s Facebook page is not. The person in charge of the Facebook page most likely has nothing to do with your interview. And, if you post directly to the company’s Twitter or Facebook feed, you’re letting everybody else see your conversation.

Don’t bother your contacts on social media. Don’t message them just because you can. Avoid doing anything that could be seen as begging for a job. Realize that there is a line between social media for business and social media for personal use.

DO Be the Best Version of Yourself

When you want to impress someone in the real world, you bring your A game. You put on a nice suit, smile, and take care to be as polite as possible.

The internet should be no different. If your name is in any way attached, realize that whatever you say or do is there to stay. Don’t post pictures of yourself partying or say anything overtly political. Keep complaints to yourself, and don’t use any profanity.

To keep your personal life private, it’s important to adjust your privacy settings. Although the method for this will change depending on the platform, you usually can adjust what the general public (non-friends/followers) see on social media through something on the site’s “settings” tab.

Don’t Forget to Log-Out

The internet is a great place, but nothing replaces the power of a true one-on-one, face-to-face interaction. Go the extra mile and deliver your resume and cover letter to a business in person.

If you have questions, pick up the phone. Call the office and schedule an in-person appointment to meet with someone and discuss your concerns politely and succinctly.

Whenever an interview is over, send a handwritten thank you card in the mail. That little bit of extra effort goes a long way.

In all that you do, be quick, polite, and kind. That’s something truly memorable.

Have questions about how to behave online? Let us know in the comments below!

Ask a Recruiter: Interview Blunders

Read on for lessons learned from what NOT to do.

Interviews are hard. You’re being tested not only on your skills, but also on who you are as a person and how your unique personality might work with the company in question. There are so many variables. What will they ask me? What should I ask them? What experience is relevant?

Plenty of prep time and research can eliminate many of these questions. However, regardless of preparation, there are a few basic rules of etiquette to keep in mind. Dress in accordance with what your interviewer asks for. Don’t interrupt your interviewer. Be kind and courteous. Don’t try to hide a barking puppy under your shirt. Wait, what?

That’s right, that happened. Some applicants bring a little extra something to the interview. We asked a few of our top recruiters for stories about the more outrageous interview experiences they have had.

Working Isn’t My Thing

One of our staffing consultants recently dealt with a strange occurrence. An applicant came in with a standard resume. Everything seemed above board. However, the first thing he said was “I get that some people are motivated by hard work, but that’s really not my thing.”

Honesty is great, and you should be truthful when speaking about your experience in an interview. However, most employers aren’t going to hire someone who doesn’t want to work. They have plenty of other candidates, and odds are that most of them didn’t say they don’t like to work. Even if you’re just working for a paycheck, there’s no need to mention that in an interview.

Batman Needs Me

Another staffing consultant recalled an incident that started off normal enough but immediately fell apart. A candidate came in for a 2 o’clock interview 15 minutes early. However, before the interview could get started, he left. He returned 20 minutes past his scheduled interview time and, when asked about the reason for his rapid departure and subsequent return, he said he “had to sell comic books.” Oh, and his mother was now accompanying him; he was not a teenager.

Your interview starts before you’re even in the room. Everything you do in the waiting area can have real consequences. Yelling on the phone, treating the front desk coordinator badly, and, yes, leaving without any notification—these are reasons to write you off as a candidate.

Coming back and expecting to fit into what was already a busy schedule is an even worse idea. If you do have to leave for any reason, notify the receptionist and attempt to re-schedule via email. However, save this for true emergency situations—there’s no guarantee you’ll get a second try.

Chad Truly Felt Chad Had the Skills for the Job

One staffing consultant had an interview that was unsettling, to say the least. A candidate walked in; let’s call him Chad. Chad immediately began explaining his experience to the staffing consultant. However, Chad repeatedly spoke about himself in the third person. Caught off guard, the staffing consultant had to take a few minutes to realize what was going on. When he asked Chad why he was talking about himself in the third person, Chad said he hadn’t even realized that was happening, and attributed it to being nervous.

Although it’s easy to blame Chad for his odd attitude in this scenario, there are plenty of other candidates who fall into similar pitfalls. This is due to a lack of interview training. Many candidates don’t know their strange interview tics because they’ve never been told about them. To avoid this problem, practice interviews with friends or family. That training will come in handy!

Job Genius

Want to make sure you never make any of these mistakes? Looking for a one-stop-shop for all your interview and job search questions? Job Genius is here to help.

Covering everything from the job market forecast to your resume, subsequent interview, and more, Job Genius is the perfect place to start (or kick start) your career.

Have questions about what NOT to do in an interview? Let us know in the comments below!

Make an Impression with Potential Employers

Starting your career in today’s hiring environment can be challenging, including making a positive, memorable impression with people who could be your employer. There are several ways you can be proactive to ensure a potential boss will have a great first and ongoing impression of who you are.

Social Media

Today, your first opportunity to present yourself after applying for a job is not in person; it’s online. Most businesses you contact for potential employment will do a simple Internet search of your name to look at what you or someone else has posted about you online if they are interested in finding out more about you. According to online image company Reppler, 91 percent of recruiters screened prospective employees through social media, and 69 percent said they rejected a candidate based on what they saw on a candidate’s social media profiles. Take the first step and do the same thing; search your name and see what sites pop up that include information about you, then check each social media site you have a profile on and make sure you don’t have any embarrassing or unprofessional postings. You should also make sure your information is up dated and correlates to information you included on your résumé and cover letter.

The Interview

Most likely, the next time you will be in front of an employer is for an interview. There are two important tips to remember when preparing for an interview to make sure you leave knowing it went well. First, remember that the business is obviously interested in you if they are willing to take the time to talk with you for a little while. So be confident in your abilities and what you have to offer. Next, do the proper research on the company you’re interviewing with and be ready to offer a few practical solutions you believe helps improve the company. “Don’t just recite your job description in a generic way that makes you interchangeable with any person in the same position before and, or after you,” said career coach Wendy Doulton. “Know and show what you bring to the table. Own your interview!”

Give Thanks

Finally, follow up your interview with a personalized, handwritten thank you note to the interviewer. With the instant access of email, handwritten letters are less and less common, so sending a simple and grateful thank you note will help you stand out from the crowd of candidates. Make sure to also follow up through an email or phone call in the days after the interview if you don’t hear anything to find out where they are in the process.

If after being fully prepared and leaving an interview excited, you don’t get the job, don’t be discouraged. Consider asking the interviewer for some feedback on what you can do to improve your chances of getting a job. A rejection is not the end of your job search, it’s just another learning opportunity for you to grow as you continue moving forward in pursuit of a great job. A positive reaction to being turned down for a job helps display great character and maturity to other employers, so make sure you react positively when you get the news and if you decide to post the news on your social media sites.