One morning about a year ago, I was quietly sipping coffee and watching the news when the phone rang. I looked at caller ID and sighed with relief: I’d been waiting for this call.
“So, how’d it go?” I asked immediately.
There was a sigh on the other end of the line, “Terrible,” came the voice. “I came on way too strong.”
Before I could ask him to elaborate, he continued: “And I got lost on my way over…so I was a little late…”
If I was talking to a girlfriend who’d just had a bad first date, I might have taken the optimistic, I’m sure it wasn’t that bad approach.
However, this wasn’t a girlfriend, and I wasn’t playing wing woman. It was Ryan, a brand new client in my career coaching practice. We’d only had one session, and it was clear that his interview skills were in need of help…the kind of help that only comes from guidance and tough love.
When I start working with new clients, most of them approach job-hunting with a similar attitude: Dread. Exhaustion. Intimidation. All of these emotions end up following them into interviews, where they can translate into cringe-worthy mistakes that could have been avoided.
I empower my clients to take dominion over their careers, and part of this mastery includes polishing the impression they put forth in interviews.
Here are some common slip-ups that should be avoided if you want to master the interview, get more offers and make more money.
1. Calling or showing up way too early. 9 a.m. means 9 a.m., or 8:50 a.m. at the earliest. No one wants to be kept waiting for hours on end, but there is nothing worse than trying to focus on the task in front of you when your next meeting arrived 20 minutes early and you know he’s sitting out there in the lobby waiting for you. We (sadly) live in a scheduled world and that means honoring other people’s lives. Get to the interview location early, but don’t announce your presence until the meeting time. While your job interview is understandably priority numero uno for you, it’s not for them.
2. Trash talking. Did your last job go south because of a dust up with a manager? Was it all her fault? Were you dealt the short end of the stick? If there are skeletons in your employment closet, don’t get defensive or point blame, and whatever you do, do not trash talk your former colleagues. You may think you’re being subtle, but trust me, it’s clear when a prospective hire is holding onto bitterness. Plus, it’s a universal truth that the person talking smack always looks worse than the person who’s being trashed, even when the criticism is deserved. If you have to talk about your previous position, do so with candor and class: Share what you learned, your gratitude for the growth and why you are better for it.
3. The “pick your brain” phenomenon. I put networking at the top of the job-hunt priority list, as reaching out to people in your field of interest is one of the most powerful ways to establish meaningful connections. However, when you’re asking to pick someone’s brain, take a moment to consider whether this is someone who makes a living by having his or her brain picked. Coaches, therapists and consultants are just a few examples.That being said, one of the most meaningful ways to build your success—and the success of others — is through connecting with and supporting others in the field you’re breaking into. Make a point to always offer whatever value you can, because the more you give, the more you get.
4. Being strictly business. It may not be appropriate to ask the interviewer much about their lives in the interview, but it pays to let him or her know a little more about your life than what appears on your resume. Be thoughtful about your “why”: You know you want to change the world, and you know you want to work at Company X to change it, but why? Why do you want to do what you want to do? How does this job align with your life’s purpose? Enthusiasm is contagious, and if you can articulate yours authentically, managers will be motivated to hire you because you have a purpose, a mission and the confidence to share it. If this sounds too touchy-feely for you, let the statistics convince you: 72% of Millennials say they would forgo a higher salary for a personally and professionally fulfilling career. In light of the fact that Millennials are the largest generation in the workplace right now, companies are beginning to appreciate and accommodate these desires for true purpose.Bottom line: Don’t hold back on making yours known.
5. Talking money. Talking money in the first interview is a lot like talking marriage on a first date : It’s pretty much guaranteed that the person sitting across from you is going to take an “emergency call” from Aunt Jean and that’ll be the last you ever hear or see of them. I understand we all want to bring home the bread, but calm down and let this information come from the employer. It’s so important to stay open and resist the urge to inquire about financials during the first interview. If they ask you for your salary requirements, let them know you’re negotiable depending on the range…and then get ready to play hardball when the offer comes in.
6. Asking for favors. I firmly believe that networking is the foundation for a successful job hunt. Many of my clients come to me with outdated ideas about what networking entails: Awkward conversations with strangers that focus exclusively on work, business cards that inevitably disappear into a forgotten desk drawer, fake smiles and stale cheese cubes. Networking should come from an inspired place so that you are focusing more on building authentic relationships than asking for favors. Hence, it’s best to start networking when you don’t need a job. Likeability is a huge motivator for people, so you want to appeal to them as a person before being considered as a job candidate. The easiest way to be liked is to authentically make others feel good about themselves, so start by asking a question about how they got to be so successful. You’ll be amazed at how far authentic flattery will take you.
7. Underselling yourself. One of the trickiest aspects of interviewing is that you have only a few minutes to make a killer impression. Rather than rising to the occasion, most job-hunters cave under the pressure and cede control to the interviewer. The problem is that the interviewer ends up missing out on a lot of the qualities that make you the perfect fit, simply because you’re too modest or intimidated to showcase your attributes. Learn how to talk about your impressive gifts from the individual and the team player perspectives: If you talk about what you’ve done as part of a team, you can also talk about your own talents and how they contributed to larger achievements. Speaking about your successes from a place of gratitude is another way to shine in your interviews without sacrificing your humility. The most successful leaders know how to inspire the listener without coming across as too brash or egotistical. But don’t just take my word for it: A 2011 study found that communicating achievements to prospective employers had the highest positive impact on women’s careers — more so than being proactive, asking for promotions and requesting high-profile assignments.
Most people carry a significant amount of stress into the job hunt, because they’ve been hurt in the past or they’re buying into other people’s projections of scarcity.
As a career coach, I project abundance because I believe that’s a more accurate reflection of reality: The sun shines on us, the earth provides our food, the lakes and oceans give us water. We are so provided for, and my greatest joy comes from guiding other people into that mindset.
In the end, Ryan ended up being a perfect example of this transformation from a life of scarcity into one of results, fulfillment and clarity.
At our last meeting, he was preparing for a big interview. On his way out, he asked if I had any final advice for him. I thought about it and realized he’d truly overcome the insecurities that drove him to make any amateur mistakes. The Ryan standing before me wasn’t the same person who had walked into my office months earlier: He was now the master of the good impression – and the master of his career.
There was nothing left to teach him.
“Just be yourself,” I said.
A week later, he got the job.