San Diego Union Tribune

Mistakes in Job Interviews: Don’t Appear Disinterested and Uninformed

In a job interview, there are plenty of ways to prove that you’re a great fit for the position, highlighting your career wins and achievements, sharing your insights about the industry, aligning yourself with the company’s values and so on. But what we tend to overlook are the interview mistakes applicants often make.

If you didn’t get called back after the interview, you might have a good idea of where you think the interview went south. However, most of us are left dazed and confused after the experience, thinking the interview went really well and not certain why the callback never came.

Let me start by saying that you were under great scrutiny from moment one. We understand first impressions are important, but what are they seeing that you are not aware of?

Here are some of the common mistakes applicants make, often without being aware:

Appearing disinterested – A positive attitude and bringing energy to the interview are essential. Don’t let yourself zone out or look complacent during an interview. Make sure you are well-rested, alert and prepared. Getting distracted and missing a question looks bad on your part. If you zone out, your potential employer will wonder how you will be able to stay focused during a day on the job, if you can’t even focus during one interview.

Dressing Inappropriately – When you interview for a job, it’s imperative to look professional and polished. Your attire may vary based on the position you’re applying for — wear business casual clothing to a non-professional job or startup and casual garb to an interview at a company you know is very laid back. It’s important to look well-dressed and put together, no matter what the company. But do your best to match their corporate culture so you look like you will fit in.

Appearing arrogant – There is nothing much worse than interviewing someone who goes on and on and on about how good you are. Keep your answers succinct, professional, to-the-point and focused and by all means, don’t ramble.

Talking negatively about current or previous employers – Don’t make the mistake of badmouthing your boss or coworkers. It’s a smaller world than you think and you don’t know who your interviewer might know, including that boss who is “an idiot”. When interviewing for a job, you want your employer to know that you can work well with other people and handle conflicts in a mature and effective way. If you speak negatively about your past jobs the interviewer will assume you will do the same about their company if they hire you.

Answering a cell phone or texting during the interview – We may live in a wired, always-available society, but a ringing cellphone is not appropriate for an interview. Turn it off before you enter the company. Never check your phone during an interview, no matter what communication comes in- it is not only rude and disruptive, but it’s a pretty clear message to your potential employer that getting the job is not your top priority.

Appearing uninformed about the company or role – Don’t let your potential employer stump you with a simple question about the company. I cannot stress enough, the importance of doing your homework and researching the company and position before your sit down for the interview. Background information including company history, locations and a mission statement are available in an “About Us” section on most company websites. Review it ahead of time, then print it out and read it over just before your interview to refresh your memory. Also check the company’s LinkedIn page and Facebook page, if they have one.

Failing to ask questions – Every interview concludes with the interviewer asking if you have questions. The worst thing to say is that you have no questions. Having no questions prepared indicates your interest is lacking. Before each interview, make a list of five questions you will ask. It is quite all right to bring the list into the interview with you.

Phil Blair is co-founder of Manpower San Diego and author of “Job Won.”