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THE BELL CURVE - 50 Job Search & Interview Mistakes

Man with briefcase

Searching for a job can be time-consuming: identifying a position, tailoring your resume/cover letter and ultimately applying for the job. Rinse and repeat. Now begins the waiting game. How do you increase the chances you will contacted for an interview? What's the best way to prepare? In this installment of THE BELL CURVE, we'll take a look at some of the do's and don'ts before, during and after your job interview. I was a hiring manager for more than 10 years and have seen applicants make some big mistakes that cost them the job. THE BELL CURVE has 50 tips to help you through the interview process. (Names have been changed to protect the offenders!)


You sent your application to a number of places and still haven't heard back. Remember: your efforts to land the job should not end after clicking "send" on the application. There's still work to do! Do you have contacts at the company? If so, let them know about your interest in the position. Find out if they can help you in any way. If you did your homework, you should already have the hiring manager's contact info. If you do, reach out to him/her via email. Introduce yourself, indicate the job you are inquiring about and express your interest. Highlight your experience and request a time to discuss your candidacy with him/her.


Have you applied to numerous positions at the same company? A word of caution! Resumes are often filtered through the same human resources representative. This means - even though you are applying for different jobs, the same person may be looking at your application over and over again. I once received an application from a man we will call "Desperate Donnie." When I looked at Donnie's name in the hiring system, I could see that he applied for more than 30 positions at my company - all within two years! The numerous applications made him look desperate and unfocused. Would you hire him?


Practice a mock job interview with a friend. Have him/her ask you questions without reviewing them beforehand. Your reaction needs to be natural, just like it would in a job interview. If there are specific questions you feel you may have trouble answering, have him/her ask you those. Your friend should evaluate your responses and body language. Ask him/her to record you, so you can view yourself later.


In certain industries, it's not uncommon to have worked with or know practically everyone in the industry. Therefore, a good reputation is essential. Always be professional. Work hard and make sure you have a good attitude. Chances are a hiring manager will ask their colleagues if they have an opinion of you or your work before asking you in for an interview.


There's no denying we live in a social media world. Many hiring managers research applicants online and view their social media accounts before choosing to bring them in for an interview. Be careful what you post on your social media accounts! It could come back to haunt you.


An updated social media profile is essential. It may help you land a job interview. Companies are increasingly using social media sites to recruit new employees. In fact, I've been contacted several times by recruiters through LinkedIn, even though I was not actively looking for a job. Make sure you have a robust profile. Enter all applicable information on your work and educational history. Upload examples of your work. Ask colleagues to write recommendations or endorse your skills.


I usually take about 30 seconds or less to look at a resume. That's all the time I need to determine if the applicant might be the right fit for the job. Some hiring managers take even less time to look at resumes. So how do you stand out? If you're a nurse, don't describe your day-to-day duties at your job - that's boring and unnecessary. We all know what a nurse does. Prove your value to me. Emphasize your accomplishments. Quantify and measure your contributions. What sets you apart from other applicants?


Your resume should be two pages max - no wacky colors or weird paper. "Unique Ursula" sent me a resume that was printed on parchment paper. It was interesting to look at, but totally unnecessary. If you have an interview scheduled, don't forget to bring an updated copy of your resume. This is especially important if there are changes since you submitted the job application.


Are you trying to separate yourself from the competition? No gimmicks, please! CareerBuilder once highlighted the extreme steps people took to get an interview. One job seeker visited the company every day for several weeks - each time asking to speak to a different company representative. She sat in the reception area for hours, waiting for that person. It came across as creepy and no one ended up meeting with her. Then there was the man who delivered his resume to a construction company in a gorilla costume and balloons! Gorilla Man sang about the qualifications he believed made him perfect for the job. The company's CEO was not amused - he promptly escorted Gorilla Man from the building.


Don't lie on your resume - it can come back to bite you in the you-know-what. I received a resume from "Lying Leon" touting his experience writing business news content. He should have thought twice before sending me his resume. My company had a business relationship with the television station he worked for, so I knew first hand that he didn't have the "experience" he claimed to have. Needless to say, Larry wasn't called in for an interview. There shouldn't be anything on your resume that's false or that you can't speak on confidently.


Congratulations! You have a job interview coming up. Use your connections within the company before and after the interview. See if your contacts are willing to put in a good word for you. Ask them for any insight into the company or the job opening.


The interviewer may ask you for references. Speak the individuals you have selected for references before the interview date. Let them know you have an interview scheduled. This is especially important if you haven't spoken to them in a while. If your references are caught off guard and are not prepared, they may not be ready to speak about you to your potential employer.


Before the interview, take an inventory of your experience, skills, and accomplishments. You will need to highlight them for your interview. Review the job requirements and make note of your positive attributes. Be ready to sell yourself at the interview!


If you know me, you know I'm old school. I prefer men and women to dress up for interviews in suits. While a suit is not a requirement - my advice would be to dress appropriately. Research the company on sites such as Glassdoor to find out what would be suitable to wear. I don't care how rainy, cold or hot it is outside - when in doubt, it's better to show up dressed up rather than dressed down. "Inappropriate Isabelle" came to an interview dressed way too casual. She wore a tank top that showed too much cleavage and a skirt that was way too short. Your clothes can influence your chances of landing a job, so take it seriously!

15) SUIT & TIE:

While I prefer men to wear suits, make sure it fits you properly! "Slimmed-Down Simon" came to the interview with a suit he used to wear before he lost a lot of weight. He began the interview apologizing for the ill-fitting suit and explaining how he lost 50 pounds. He could have easily worn a shirt and a pair of slacks for the interview, instead of the ill-fitting suit. If you are job hunting, make sure your attire is presentable. Not only should the clothing fit you, it should be cleaned and pressed.

16) I'M READY:

Ask the person arranging the interview if there is anything specific you need to bring. Do you have a copy of your work as requested? Are you ready for the competency test? You should always bring at least five extra copies of your resume, just in case. Don't forget a small notepad and at least two pens (in case one dies) to write notes. I don't mind if an applicant takes notes during the interview, but let's not go overboard. "Studious Sally" was so engrossed in taking notes; she barely looked up at me during our discussion.

17) EAT IT:

Eat before your interview. Throughout my meeting with "Hungry Harry," I could hear his stomach growling. It was very distracting. If you're nervous, eat something light before the interview. But make sure you eat something.


Don't go heavy on the cologne or perfume. In fact, it's best if you don't wear any. You don't want to overwhelm your interviewer. "Perfume Patricia" came to the interview wearing a lovely but strong scent. While I didn't mind, another hiring manager may not feel the same.


I hate it when people are late. If you're late for an interview, you've already started out on the wrong foot and it's very tough to recover. Is your interview taking place in a neighborhood you aren't familiar with? Travel to the area ahead of time and make sure you know where it is. Have you arrived early the day of the interview? Go to a local coffee shop, a park or a department store to burn some time. Don't check in very early for your interview! Try telling that to "Early Enid." She arrived for her meeting with me about an hour before the scheduled time. Your interviewer has a specific time set aside to speak to you. Don't inconvenience them by arriving extra early. You should check in no more than 15 to 20 minutes before the scheduled time.


Turn off your phone before you head into the interview. Completely off! Not just on vibrate, because I can hear that too. "Phone Call Patrick" received a call during our interview. He apologized for not turning off his phone. I would have overlooked the situation, except then he started checking emails. Are you for real Patrick?


Make sure you are presentable before you meet the hiring manager. Go to the restroom and look at yourself in the mirror. Fix your hair and clothing. Men: fix your ties. Ladies: touch up your makeup. Everyone - don't forget to pop a breath mint. "Bad Breath Bobby" forgot to freshen his breath before we met. He left an impression - but not the impression I'm sure he wanted to leave.


Some employers know within the first five minutes of an interview whether a candidate is a good or bad fit for the position. So it's important you make a good first impression. Smile when you greet the interviewer. Thank him/her for taking the time to meet with you. Shake his/her hand. Speaking of handshakes...

23) SHAKIN' HANDS: Learn the art of the handshake! Don't shake hands with the tips of your fingers as the interviewer has cooties. A limp handshake also leaves a lot to be desired. A firm handshake is good, but don't shake hands too strongly. "Overzealous Oscar" shook my hand so hard - it was sore for the whole interview. My hand is hurting right now just thinking about it!


Take your cues from the interviewer. Make sure you are listening to him/her for direction on where to go. Wait to sit down until you are offered a seat. Don't sit down on your own.


No matter how much you need a job, don't appear desperate. "Pleading Paul" spent most of the interview telling me about his financial problems and how much he needed the job. While I felt sorry for him, it made me feel very uncomfortable.


While you may be anxious to find how much the job pays, NEVER bring it up yourself. One of the first questions "Debbie Dollars" asked me was how much she would be paid, as if she had already secured the job. Compensation discussions will typically occur when you are presented with an offer. Wow them with your experience and interviewing skills and hopefully you will get to that point. Are you are concerned about focusing your attention on a job that doesn't meet your pay expectations? Glassdoor is a great resource. Research the job before you apply to see if it's even worth the effort.


Be positive and upbeat throughout your interview. It's absolutely important that you smile! "Monotone Michael" did not smile at all during our interview. In fact, he didn't display any emotion at all! He also spoke in a monotone voice, which didn't help things. I'm ready to take a nap right now just thinking about him.


Look your interviewer in the eye when speaking to him/her and focus on every word. "Distracted Donnie" had a problem focusing on me during our interview. He kept looking outside the conference room at the people walking by. Are you being interviewed by more than one person? Make sure you respond to questions by alternating eye contact between the people interviewing you. It's important you keep them both engaged in the conversation.


Body language is just as important as verbal language. Don't speak with your arms crossed, as it may convey a lack of openness and honesty. If you talk with your hands, be conscious of your movements - it could be distracting. When the interviewer is speaking, lean in and express interest at what he/she is saying. Keep what I call, a soft smile on your face at all times. Nod your head in approval when you hear something you agree with or to indicate that you understand.


Mirroring is a technique some people use during interviews. Within the first few minutes, observe the interviewer's body language and apply it to your own. Review their body posture and make adjustments to match them. The idea is that the hiring manager will like you because you are similar to them. Be careful though! You don't want it to seem as if you are mimicking the interviewer or he/she would be offended. Your mirroring must be very subtle.


"Tell me about yourself?" Has an interviewer ever asked you this question? "Talkative Tammy" didn't research the best way to respond. She began her answer with where she grew up as a child, where she went to elementary school, where she went to high school and so on. As you can imagine, it took her a long time to get to the present. Some candidates have a tough time figuring out how to answer this question. Here are some tips: highlight your most important accomplishments and how you can contribute to the company. Focus on the requirements of the position and how that relates to your background. Your most recent job is the best place to start. And keep it brief! You shouldn't recap every single detail of your resume and please don't start from the beginning of your life - to elementary school - to high school and so on. We don't want you rambling on like Tammy.


Everyone has goals. The hiring manager may ask you to share them with him/her. Before you share your lifelong dream of opening your own business, make sure it doesn't conflict with the job you are interviewing for. Would you hire someone that plans to leave in a few years? This could be a red flag to the employer.


Surely you think you're the best person for the job, right? But make sure you don't come across as arrogant. Surveys show appearing arrogant is one of most common mistakes candidates make during interviews. If you are interviewing with other companies, don't brag about. If you think it will make you appear desirable, think again. Unless you are highly desirable, it will immediately make them less interested in you.


I've had my fair share of applicants who would not stop talking during the interview, but "Shy Sam" was the complete opposite. Sam gave very short answers. I had to prod him to get any details. Eventually, he told me why he thought he would be a good choice for the position. By that time I was exhausted. You may also encounter a hiring manager who is not talkative. He/she may only ask questions that require yes or no answers. If he/she does, you should make up for their shortcomings by elaborating on the answer.


You may be asked about a challenging event in your life or one of your negative attributes. You should be ready for this question. "I can't think of any" or "I don't have any weaknesses" are the worst responses you can give! Discuss with the interviewer ways you have improved or overcome a negative quality or a weakness. Don't pick a weakness that is a requirement of the job! That will hurt your chances of being hired. Make sure you keep your answers short!


A job interview is a two-way street. You are interviewing for the position and should be "interviewing" the company as well. Is this job a perfect fit for you? Is this a place you want to work? Near the tail end of the interview, the hiring manager may ask you if you have any questions. Have a few ready before the meeting. Some examples: "How would you describe the culture of the company?" "What are the qualities you are looking for in a candidate?" As the interviewer is responding to your question, you should listen closely to what he/she says and start crafting a follow up to his/her response. The idea is to piggyback off of his/her response and emphasize why you would be a perfect choice for the position. Make sure you ask some questions! If you don't, the hiring manager may think you're not interested in the company or the job.


I can't stress this enough - research the company before the interview. My first year of college, I applied for an internship at Conde Nast. I was so excited when they called me in for an interview! My big mistake? I didn't fully research Conde Nast. I was only interested in working at Vogue .The interviewer picked up on that. She asked me: "What do you think about Bon Appetit?" I was stumped. I knew a lot about Vogue, but not Conde Nast's other magazines. I wasn't adequately prepared and it cost me the internship.


Just because you're thinking it, it doesn't mean you should say it. Why did you apply for the job? While you may have many reasons, you should have strong responses ready for the interviewer. Is it the reputation of the company? The diversity of its staff? I asked "Wrong Answer Wendy" why she wanted to work for my company and why she applied for the job. Wendy's response was priceless. "I want to work here because it's convenient. I live a few blocks away, so it's close by." That's all she had to say. This is an important question you should be prepared for.


Do you know the name of your interviewer? If so, many experts advise applicants to research the person online and bring up details on their background during the interview. I advise you to only bring up things that relate to your discussion. "Creepy Carl" randomly brought up details about my professional background many times during the interview. I found it odd because it had nothing to do with what we were discussing. I think he was trying to impress me with how much he knew about my work history. Instead of impressing me, it creeped me out.


When asked about a previous job, focus on the positive. Was your boss a control freak? Were you fired unfairly? Don't use the interview as an opportunity to berate your previous employer. "Negative Norman" spent the better part of the interview saying how horrible his boss was. He also brought up two people who worked at my company and proceeded to talk badly about them. Norman's negative attitude sealed his fate.

41) FOCUS:

Focus on the interview and don't get distracted by your surroundings! Not only will you be judged by what you say, but what you do. "Freebie Freeda" marveled at all of the snacks in my company's food court. "Is this all free?" she asked. I told her yes. She began putting some snacks in her bag and then started gushing over the peanut butter maker. "I love organic peanut butter!" she said as she helped herself to peanut butter with crackers. Freeda - the snacks are free, but it's not a free for all!


"Qualified Quincy" made all the right moves in his interview. He was friendly and personable. Quincy emphasized his qualifications and how he would perform in the role. He asked thoughtful questions about the company and the position. He had a bubbly personality and smiled throughout the interview. I knew within a few minutes that I wanted to hire him. Your goal is to make a good impression just like Quincy!

43) CALL ME:

Some companies schedule preliminary phone interviews with applicants before meeting in person. Companies use this tactic to weed out bad applicants. Prepare for the phone interview the same way you would prepare for a face-to-face. Make sure you are in a quiet room. If it's a video interview, present yourself as you would in person. And most importantly: speak clearly and don't interrupt the interviewer. "Rude Rhonda" constantly interrupted me throughout our discussion on the phone. Needless to say, I never called her for an in-person interview.


If you think the interview is over after you step out of the conference room, think again! You're being evaluated from the moment you step into the building until the moment you leave. After our interview, I sent "Distracted Diana" to take a writing test. Diana has been in the news business for many years and knew a lot of people at my company. Every time Diana would see someone she knew; she would stop taking the writing test to say hello. Was that the reason Diana didn't finish the writing test in time? I don't know. But Diana was so focused on reconnecting with colleagues, that she left a bad impression.

45) BEAT IT:

Know when it's time to go. If your interviewer is indicating the interview is over, be prepared for your exit. While you should ask questions, let's not go overboard! "Chatty Cathy" would not stop talking during the interview. The questions were coming a mile a minute and I could barely get a word in edgewise. Even when I thanked her for her time - she was still talking. Even when I told her the interview was over - she was still talking. Even when I stood up to escort her out - she was still talking. Even when I shook her hand goodbye - she was still talking. I was so exhausted after interviewing her.


Were you interviewed by multiple people? At the end of the interview ask everyone for business cards. If they don't have business cards, politely ask for their name, title, email address and phone number. Confirm the spelling of their name and write all of the information in your notebook.


Send a thank you letter to everyone who interviewed you. Don't wait any longer than 24 hours. An email is fine, but a handwritten note is a nice touch - who writes letters anymore? Thank the interviewer for his/her time and express your continued interest in the job. Briefly highlight your experience and skills. Keep it short.


Did you flub an answer to a question during the interview? The interviewer may have already made up his/her mind about your candidacy. But all is not lost. Follow up with the interviewer via email or a phone call. Thank them for the interview and clarify your position on the question you flubbed.


Don't expect to hear something about your candidacy right away. Hiring managers will likely be interviewing other applicants and looking through resumes. He/she may also be reviewing the budget for the position - something which takes some time. Periodically reach out to the hiring manager via phone or email. Express your continued interest in the role and hang tight.


You reached out to the hiring manager after the interview and still no word about the job? If some time has passed, it's fine to reach out again to him/her. Unfortunately, it's possible that the position has been filled and they selected a different candidate. Some companies do a good job of letting applicants know when someone else has been hired. Some don't. Don't obsess over this job. Keep your options open and explore other opportunities.


You aced the job interview and finally got the phone call you were waiting for. You just received a job offer! Congratulations! You can thank THE BELL CURVE for getting you to this point!

The School Bell has rung! Class dismissed!

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