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3 Interview Mistakes to Avoid

You have been searching for a new job, so you’ve worked on your résumé, applied to a few places and have been offered an interview. Now it’s time to practice your interview skills. To be successful in the interview process and move you from the runner-up to the person who is offered the job, here are some key mistakes to avoid.

Being unprepared. Not being prepared gives the impression that you are not interested in the position or the company. Research the company and be ready to answer basic questions such as: “What do you know about my company?” or “What interests you about this position?” Write down a few questions for the interviewer, and then ask them at the appropriate time. Practice ahead of time how you will answer questions, such as those about your strengths and weaknesses. Role playing with a friend or family member can provide you with the practice you need for a smooth, and slightly less nerve-wrecking interview.

Inappropriate attire. Dressing appropriately is essential for a positive first impression. If you are not sure what to wear, check with the company to determine their dress code.  Then, dress one level above that. For example, if a company’s dress code is casual, wear business casual attire. If you are unable to determine the dress code or are in doubt, wear a suit, because it is always better to overdress than to underdress.

Poor timing. Don’t show up late for an interview; it’s inappropriate and gives the impression that you don’t take the interview seriously or value the company’s time.  Plan ahead, know the route to the location and leave early. If you are unfamiliar with the area, make sure you drive by the day before your interview to ensure you don’t get lost on your way. But, don’t arrive too early. Arriving more than 10-15 minutes early may make it appear that you have too much extra time, making you look desperate. Aim to arrive about 10-15 minutes before the interview, and use the extra time to stop by the restroom to straighten your hair and clothing. If you are going to be late, be courteous to the interviewer, and call them immediately to reschedule.

Preparing and practicing for your interview can help you avoid these common mistakes and can mean the difference between an awful interview and a successful one. You’ll be ready for any interview that comes your way by remembering to plan ahead, dress appropriately and be on time.

Have you made any of these mistakes in an interview? How do you think it effected the outcome of a job offer? What mistakes would you suggest others avoid during an interview?

Age Discrimination – Does This Affect You?

Age discrimination in the workforce is an issue that is not often addressed; however, there are ways to get your foot in the door if you’re a seasoned employee. According to a survey of 168 executives with a median age of 50 conducted by Execunet, a referral network, 74% surveyed are concerned they will be discriminated against because of their age, and 58% believe they have experienced age discrimination in the past. Although age discrimination does exist, it is one of the hardest discriminations to prove, according to research by AARP.

If you find yourself struggling to find a job and think that your age might be a factor, here are a few tips to aide you in your job search.

Start with your résumé. When searching for a job, make sure your résumé offers the most recent and relevant information. Experts advise mature job applicants to reference only the last 10 or 15 years of your job experience. Often times, candidates are overlooked because they have too much experience. Try taking some classes that educate you on the latest technology or trends in your industry, and make sure to list them on your résumé. Also, avoid listing dates such as high school or college graduation, as these can reveal your age.

Update your wardrobe. In an AARP survey, nearly half of the respondents surveyed felt that older workers cannot adapt to change. When you go in for an interview, make sure that not only your résumé reflects your knowledge of current work trends, but your attire reflects current styles as well. This doesn’t mean you have to dress in the latest trends or fashion, but ensuring your wardrobe and hairstyle aren’t aging you unnecessarily is always helpful when searching for a job. This boosts your self confidence, and allows the employer to see that you are up-to-date with what is going on around you.

Sell yourself. Don’t let the age factor get you down. If you show you’re confident and skilled, potential employers will be less likely to consider your age a factor when making hiring decisions. You may feel that younger people are hired to replace older workers, but keep in mind that younger workers feel most jobs are held by people with experience. Instead of focusing on this remember to sell your skills and abilities. Let the interviewer know you are open to training and learning new things. Make sure they know why you’re there and why you’re qualified for the position. Research the company before you interview so you can offer insight on how your past experience can benefit their company. Show enthusiasm and eagerness to learn, but don’t sound desperate.

Network with peers in your industry. You might feel as though you’re too old to network, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Find a local organization that specializes in your desired industry. Get involved within your community and make contacts with individuals that can help you get your foot in the door with companies. By getting your name and face out there with people in your industry, you will not only increase your chances of getting a job, but you will develop valuable and up-to-date information on what is going on in the field.

Age doesn’t have to be a negative factor when searching for a job. It can actually work for you if you follow these tips. Mature workers have confidence and knowledge in a time when we need it the most. With so many workers reaching retirement age, there is a gap in the knowledge between seasoned workers and younger workers just entering the workforce. Utilize your expertise and show how you can be an added value to the company.

Reinvent Yourself – Repackage Yourself

Yesterday, I talked about starting the process of reinventing yourself for a new career, or rejuvenating yourself in your current job. Today, I want to talk about what to do after you have found your new direction – repackaging yourself.

Even after individuals find their true passion, they still sometimes find it difficult to shed the old image and be perceived by others in a new way. By following these tips, you can showcase the new you to employers, as well as to yourself.

Tweak your résumé. Rewrite your résumé to reflect your new image. Regardless of whether you are venturing out on a new direction or just reigniting your passion in your old job, refreshing your résumé will help you stay focused with who you want to be and the direction you want to go. When updating your résumé, use a functional résumé format. This type of résumé focuses on specific skills you possess, instead of the progression of jobs that a chronological résumé format focuses on. Write your résumé with an emphasis on your new career goal. The point is to make sure potential employers can see who you are now, not who you were.

Change inside and out. If you list on your résumé that you’re an outgoing and innovative salesperson, make sure your appearance reflects the attitude. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. If you have an outdated hairstyle or are in need of a new wardrobe, search online, peruse through current magazines or contact an image consultant for what’s in style in your particular field of work and region. Improving your outward appearance will project confidence to employers.

Make the connection. You have pinpointed your new career goal. Your résumé is updated, and your looks reflect the inner you. Now, you’re ready to start making connections with prospective employers to boost your current career track. When searching for jobs in your market, try attending job fairs and networking with friends to find out what jobs are out there. This will help you test the waters and get the inside track on companies without having to make a commitment. Staying in your current position? Try scheduling a one-on-one meeting with your boss. You can use this time to inform your boss that you’d love to try some new projects or learn new skills.

Creating a new image can be a tough process, but by following these tips, you can make the transition a positive experience.

Tomorrow, I’ll offer tips that will help you sustain the new you.

Reinvent Yourself – Take the First Step

We recently received a question from a reader inquiring whether or not she wasted her time working in a specific industry for too long. She wants to get into a new field of work but feels as though future employers look at her past employment history and typecast her in to one role. Many workers seeking new direction face this issue. So what’s a job seeker to do? This series will highlight general strategies for reinventing your career self.

Whether you’re new to the workforce, considering a career change, or just trying to stay ahead of the competition, reinventing yourself just might help you land or keep your dream job. Reinvention is simply the process of re-examining yourself, taking what you’ve learned over time, evaluating who you are as a person and committing to a positive course of action. Over the next few days I’ll offer several tips on reinventing yourself and starting a new career!

Go back to the beginning. Take a moment to re-evaluate yourself and reconnect with what gets you excited. Assess yourself. Look at the things that you loved to do as a child. If you have a hard time figuring out your passions, ask your friends or colleagues what they think you excel at, or what they believe your strengths are.

Unite the old with the new. Once you have figured out your passions, match them to the skills and experience that you have gained throughout the years, whether during school, at work or through a hobby. This process will help you determine what jobs and careers will best utilize your strengths. Matching your skills and experience with your passions will show you what career choices are most suitable for you. Even if you want to stay on your current career track, this exercise will help you re-energize and focus on what you like best about your job.

Research your findings. Look at what you’ve learned so far in the process to discover the career path that complements your strengths. Ask questions of other individuals within that field. For example, ask those in your desired field about what they would change about their jobs, the pros and cons and tasks they perform on a day-to-day basis. Their answers will help you get a better understanding of what might be expected of you if you picked that career path. If you’re trying to rejuvenate yourself in your current job, ask yourself or someone in your field or company the same questions. This will help pinpoint what it is that you truly love about your job.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss tips on how to repackage yourself from updating your résumé to putting yourself in the right position to move into a new career.

Making the Connection in a Job Interview

Interviews are more than a series of questions and answers. To make the most out of your interview, make a connection with the interviewer by initiating small talk. This will allow the interviewer to see a little bit more of your personality, establish rapport and leave them feeling as if they know more about you than just what’s on your résumé.

Effective small talk can help you set yourself apart from the competition. To help you get started, here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind when engaging in small talk.


Do stick to safe topics. Asking the interviewer if they had a nice weekend or commenting on the weather, is a great opener when beginning the interview. This gets the conversation going and helps the interviewer see that you’re comfortable interacting with others under stressful situations.

Don’t overuse flattery. Most interviewers don’t appreciate false praise. While being positive and friendly are great traits, telling the interviewer that you love their suit or wish you had a haircut just like theirs is a little much. So, try not to over do it on the compliments during an interview.

Don’t be negative. If the interviewer asks how your drive in was this morning, avoid negative remarks such as: “The traffic was horrendous, the lights took too long, and there wasn’t a parking spot close to the building.” Instead, focus on positive thoughts – your excitement for the interview, pleasant songs you heard on the radio or how peaceful the drive in was this morning. Overwhelming negativity can end your interview before it even starts. Interviewers want positive people working in their company, not negative individuals who will constantly complain.

Do open up when appropriate. If the interviewer mentions that he enjoys the same hobbies as you or attended the same college, take a moment to comment on the topic. This demonstrates your interest and connects you with the interviewer.

By making a connection with the interviewer, you can increase your odds of getting the job because now you’re more than just a piece of paper – you’re a real person with a story to tell.

Do you have any tips on how to initiate small talk in an interview?

Can’t Walk and Chew Gum

I reviewed my resume this morning. I’m not looking for another job – I was checking to see if I listed multitasking as a skill set that I possess. Thankfully it was not.

Attention everyone, “I stink at multitasking.”

At home I can do laundry, prepare dinner, empty the trash and check e-mail. What usually happens in the middle of this activity is I’ll lock up and forget what I was going to do. I’ll actually stand in the middle of the living room until I remember that I was headed to get a tissue.

Put me in front of the TV and rest of the world ceases to exist. My wife can ask me a question three times and I’ll not hear her. It’s frustrating to her because she multitasks well. She can have a conversation while reading a book and watching TV.

At work, my lack of multitasking ability is beneficial. Concentrating on one task and doing it well is, in my case, a stronger attribute because when I multitask to get everything done sometimes my work suffers.

When I approach a project, I break it down into multiple tasks. Take this blog post for example. I will research, write, edit, proof and post – five steps. That’s not multitasking – it’s accomplishing one task at a time. I have a to-do list each day of three to five significant work projects that need to be tackled one at a time.

I decided to admit my multitasking deficiency when I read an article in the New York Times that challenged “any man to talk on the phone, send a fax, reply to an e-mail, change a diaper, get a toddler a snack, monitor what your school-age children are watching on TV and add to the grocery list – all at the same time.”

I wasn’t up to the challenge. At best, I can listen to music while working, but that’s like counting breathing while walking as multitasking.

Do you think women are more naturally prone to multitasking? Are you a multitasker or a uni-tasker like me?

What Not to Do When You’re Job Hunting

Countless eager job seekers are going to extremes to stand apart from the crowd. But, their efforts, though well-intentioned, can miss the mark. Last year, one video resume from an aspiring job seeker  became a YouTube sensation when it was posted without his consent after he sent it to several Wall Street recruiters. The resume and the buzz it generated subjected its creator to internet ridicule – and didn’t exactly help his job prospects. But in some cases, a video resume has been just the ticket. Another job seeker, featured by Career Journal, actually landed four job offers from his video resume.

Video resumes aren’t the only new trend being used by job seekers to stand apart from the crowd. Recruiting bloggers often post horror stories of job seekers trying too hard to set themselves apart from the pack – from dressing up in costume to sending lavish gifts to hounding recruiters with frequent calls and e-mails. So how can job seekers figure out if these efforts will help or hurt their job search?

The Brand Dame, a professional recruiter, recently posted a list of things not to do in a job hunt – from the perspective of the person picking through resumes. Though it sounds a little harsh, her insights should be taken seriously by job seekers. Recruiters, she says,  “…are looking for reasons to eliminate you.” It’s your job to sell yourself as the right candidate for the job, not eliminate yourself by making a dumb move. And in a competitive job market, it can be hard to find the right balance between not trying and trying too hard. Here are a few top ways you can ensure your resumes gets put in the “no” pile. (Hint: Avoid these at all costs.)

  • Try too hard. Give your job search serious effort, but don’t become a nuisance to the recruiters and hiring managers you are applying with. A unique way to stand out from the crowd isn’t necessarily a wrong move, but whether it’s a right one or not will depend largely on the type of job and industry you’re trying to get into. An off-the-cuff video resume probably won’t appeal to conservative companies or industries, but it might work for creative fields.

  • Oversell yourself. Some people can make themselves sound pretty impressive on paper. Others just make themselves sound self-absorbed and self-important. Present your skills and your abilities for what they are, and keep it at that.

  • Bribe. Recruiters don’t take kindly to being bribed for an interview. Some have legal obligations with the companies they work for to not accept any gifts or outside compensation for their efforts. Don’t go overboard on gestures you send recruiters. Keep your efforts professional, simple and to-the-point.

  • Lie. Don’t say you graduated from Yale, with honors, if it’s not true. It’s the job of recruiters to verify your resume for facts, and these days, a simple Google search or call to a university can quickly uncover the truth and lies behind applicants’ resumes. A recent story on Career Journal highlighted how one woman’s high-powered career fell apart after it was discovered she fudged the truth on her resume when she lied about her credentials.

  • Hassle/harass. Yes, believe it or not, recruiters have been hassled, even harassed or stalked by overly eager job seekers. While a thoughtful gesture can set you apart from the pack, showing up at a recruiter’s front door with a singing telegram and a $100 flower arrangement probably isn’t going to land you a job. Unless you’re applying to be a birthday party clown.

Do you have any stories of job hunting tips gone awry? Share your experiences in the comments below.