As an employee, there are many bad moves you can make that will kill your chances of advancement and success, but what about before you get a job? What are mistakes that can cost you that dream job in the first place?
We’ve spent some talking with hiring managers and recruiters and they’ve told us that they tend to see the same mistakes over and over again. Some of these are easy fixes, but for others, career coaching services can be the best way to solve these issues and help you present your best self during the interview process.
Whether you are about to get started hunting for a job, or you’ve been looking for a while and aren’t seeing any success, take a minute to ask yourself if you’ve been making one of the following critical errors.
1. Less Than Polite = Less Than Zero
Several of our “career killers” apply for those that are interviewing for work as well as for those who already have a good job, and this is one of them. We’ve spoken with hiring managers and well as work supervisors and they all tell us that discourtesy is a big mistake that many people make.
Most of you are probably thinking, “well, I’d never be rude to a boss or hiring manager,” so it might seem like a moot point. However, what if you are rude to the receptionist on the way into the interview? What if you are rude to others in the waiting room? Don’t think for a moment that this attitude won’t be factor in the hiring process.
You might have a fantastic interview, but if the hiring manager walks out and starts chatting with the reception staff or another person to whom you were rude, these people are sure to mention your terrible attitude. No one wants to hire someone who tends towards rudeness and condescension, so it’s crucial that you treat everyone with courtesy and consideration.
To be perfectly frank, this is a great lesson for life in general. You’ve probably heard the saying, “you catch more bees with honey,” and it’s absolutely true. When you treat everyone you meet with respect, you will find that most people will return that respect.
One story we’ve heard sticks out in our minds. It’s the old tale about a line at a coffee shop. The person ordering was rude and abusive to the coffee shop staff. They took their coffee and left, not realizing that the person standing behind them in line was the hiring manager they were about to meet with in 20 minutes.
Of course, when this person met with hiring manager, he was completely polite and positive, but the impression already had been formed back at the coffee shop. A bad attitude and rude behavior shouldn’t just be shelved during a job interview; it ought to be shelved permanently.
2. Don’t Be Late
Life can conspire against us on many occasions. A flat tire, a dead battery or a traffic jam can wreak havoc with your well-planned schedule. On any given day, these inconveniences might not be a big issue, it happens to everyone, but on job interview day they can cost you a great new job.
The best cure for lateness is an ounce of prevention. Do some research about how long it will take to get to the job interview and then simply leave far earlier than you need to for the job interview. If it takes 30 minutes, leave an hour early to accommodate any accidents that might pop up.
If you are leaving 30 minutes earlier than you need to (or more), you won’t have to worry about car issues either, if your car breaks down, you can simply call an Uber or Lyft, and because you’ve built time into your schedule, you are likely to still arrive on time.
In general, it’s wise to show up for interviews about five minutes ahead of schedule. If you are too early, just wait in a nearby coffee shop or park your car nearby and wait until it gets closer to the interview time.
Showing up just two or three minutes late not only sends a bad signal to a potential employer, it also makes you feel flustered and unprepared. It’s very hard to switch gears from frazzled to fabulous in just a few seconds, so do everything you can to ensure a timely arrival, including:
- Set multiple alarms to ensure that you wake up on time.
- Have two outfits pressed and ready to go the night before.
- Pack your briefcase or professional bag the night before (include pencils, pens, copies of your resume, business cards and a pad of paper to jot down notes).
- Map out the route to the interview (including the estimated time needed for transportation).
- Leave early, it’s better to waste time in a shop around the corner than show up late.
Once you’ve scored that dream job, don’t forget that punctuality is still an issue. We all have those days when something happens and we end up being late to work. But, if “those days” occur once or more per week, this isn’t just an occasional issue, it’s a chronic issue.
You need to be on-time to work, and you need to monitor the time of your breaks, as well. If you have a 30-minute lunch break and you routinely take 35 or 40 minutes, this sends a bad message to your boss. Basically, it shows that you either don’t care about the job or you are lazy or perhaps both.
Fortunately, with a bit of commitment, this is an easy problem to fix. You just have to care enough about your career to make some changes. Set alarms and plan out your lunch break so that you don’t end up too far away from the office.
When you are in the final stages of the hiring process, be sure to ask about arrival, departure and break times and what is expected. During the first months on a new job, strictly adhere to these rules, and if you have a doctor’s visit or a special appointment schedule, be sure to talk to your supervisor and inform them as soon as possible.
3. Casual Dress
Keeping it super casual might be great at a backyard barbecue or at a Jack Johnson concert, but there are some places when flip flops and yoga pants just aren’t a match. For instance, you wouldn’t wear torn jeans and a Metallica t-shirt to the opera (we hope) nor would you rock neon pink leg warmers and a My Little Pony sweatshirt to a formal wedding.
We aren’t going to judge you for that My Little Pony attire, in general, but there’s a time and place. While it’s true that we’ve haven’t heard any tales of anyone actually going into an interview wearing gear decorated with images of iconic 1980s children’s toys, we have heard about the torn jeans and overly casual attire.
Even if the job for which you are applying tends to feature a fairly casual office setting, you will be expected to arrive at the interview in proper business attire. It’s wise to invest in several business-acceptable outfits, so that you won’t have to wear the same outfit if you return for a second interview or spill something on one of the outfits.
We also highly recommend wearing business-appropriate clothing during your first few weeks on the job, even if your co-workers are bit a more casual. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, perhaps, but a nice dress shirt or a skirt and blouse are good options to consider, especially when people are just getting to know you.
Of course, it’s not just about what you wear, your hair and general look are important as well. Walk in with unkempt hair and dirt-encrusted fingernails and the hiring manager probably isn’t going to be too impressed, even if you’re sporting a suit and tie. Likewise, if your clothes are wrinkled or stained, this also doesn’t make a great impression.
Impressing the hiring manager isn’t the only reason to wear appropriate clothing and to keep your look fairly businesslike. This not only shows that you take yourself and the interview process seriously, it also helps you feel more professional. When you feel like a professional, it’s easier to answer interview questions and boosts your confidence.
4. Nobody Likes A Whiner
If you hate your current boss and co-workers, a job interview really isn’t the place to share this. A hiring manager doesn’t want to hear about your difficult boss and horrible co-workers or all the ways people abuse you in your current job.
Of course, in some cases, the reason why you are searching for a new job is because you do have terrible co-workers or a horrible boss. Rather than complain about this person or people, you’ll need to express this situation in such a way that it doesn’t simply seem like whining or complaining.
For instance, if your boss constantly berates or yells at employees, and a hiring manager asks why you are searching for a new job, you might state, “unfortunately, our work environment can be toxic at times, and while I’ve learned how to better handle difficult situations because of this experience, I am hoping to find a more positive work experience.”
Keep in mind; if you are constantly changing jobs because the work environment is “toxic,” it might be time to take a look at your own behavior. Sometimes, the way we present ourselves to others and the way we treat others is the problem. If every boss you have seems to be an “idiot,” and all of your co-workers are “losers,” then it’s likely that you either are magnet for bad work environments or you are actually the person that’s toxic.
Toxic people can spoil any work environment. If you are surrounded by toxic people, find a new job as soon as possible. If you’re the toxic person, you need to start taking concrete steps to improve your personality. It’s not just about work either, toxic people ruin their personal relationships, too, and your life will be better if you start working on your issues and start transforming yourself into a more complete individual.
5. Lying Liars & The Lies They Tell
Lying is never a good idea, especially to an employer or a potential employer. You should never lie on a resume or tell lies during an interview. These will almost always come back to haunt you. Additionally, if you are caught in a lie, this can be a cause for termination, so it’s simply not worth the price you may end up paying.
Through the years, as a resume writing company, we’ve seen an assortment of interesting lies and we’ve heard a few interesting stories from hiring managers. Some of the most common lies are claiming to possess college degrees you didn’t earn or possessing skills you don’t actually have.
With the skills, it’s going to be pretty obvious, pretty quickly that you don’t have the skills needed for a job. So, if you lack certain necessary skills, be honest about it and, even better, get some training and learn what you need to learn for the job.
People also sometimes omit work experiences that didn’t go well, or add in work experiences that never actually occurred. People lie about volunteering for organizations where they’ve never work, and earning awards that they’ve never won, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
These days, it’s just too easy for a hiring manger to check up on your education. I mean, hello, the internet? You can Google just about anything, and hiring managers also tend to have large networks and can simply call up someone they know to confirm or deny information about you.
Of course, it’s tempting to lie or omit information, especially if it’s bad. If you were fired, rather than lying about it, practice answering the question of why you were fired in the most positive way possible.
A career coach can help you answer the firing questions as well as dealing with other awkward issues, such as employment gaps or stints in prison. Whether you took time off to care for children, decided to travel or a year or broke a few laws and landed in jail, a career coach can help you navigate these rough waters during an interview. There’s usually always a way to put a positive spin on any experience, and it all starts with a bit of honesty.
6. Stop Bragging, But Sell Yourself
This is a tricky one, and definitely an instance where career coaching can come in handy. We are always told to go into an interview with confidence, but there’s a fine line between confident and cocky.
For instance, there are many common interview questions you’ll encounter. Here’s a typical question and a few typical responses.
Hiring Manager: What are your greatest professional strengths?
The Cocky Answer: Basically, I can handle any task you throw at me. In my previous jobs, I was able to come up with solutions that my bosses never even considered. My co-workers were constantly astounded by my ability to find creative solutions for any problem.
The Confident Answer: I love the challenge of taking a problem and finding a solution. For instance, my previous employer was looking for ways to generate more clients, so I studied our promotional materials, suggested some changes and ended up spearheading a redesign project that helped us woo several important new clients. It was fun, and I loved the opportunity to help the company grow.
The Blah Answer: Well, I am always punctual and I am always busy, I’m never just looking at the clock. I also have a lot of enthusiasm for any task, no matter how small or large. I would say that I am someone people can depend on.
The cocky answer makes the interviewee look like a braggart who believes the sun revolves around them, while the confident answer showcases an important skill without sounding like they are the greatest gift an employer could ever hope to possess. The blah answer isn’t really wrong, but it doesn’t play up any interesting strengths that might set you apart from the competition.
Both the “Cocky” answer and the “Blah” answers also shared another similar problem. Neither individual provided a concrete example of how their work has helped an employer. Showing up on time and working hard is great, but hiring manager love to hear an example of actual work you did and how that benefited your employer.
If you are having trouble toning down the bragging or, on the flip side, showing confidence and selling yourself, definitely consider career coaching. A career coach can identify your trouble areas and provide with some solid tips to help make it easier for you to showcase your skills to a hiring manger.
7. No Interview Skills
Everyone gets nervous during the interview process. Even people with many years of experience can feel a flutter or two of stress before an interview begins. However, if you head into an interview prepared and you’ve really given some thought as to how you will answer questions, this process doesn’t have to be scary.
Many people have the skills to do a job, but they lack the skills to interview for that job. Learning how to sit up, look people in the eye, answer questions and listen to the interviewer are crucial. But you also need to spend some time researching the company before heading to the interview.
The more you know about the job position and the company goals, the more thoughtful your answers will be and you will feel more comfortable and secure heading into the interview.
The good news about interview skills is that you can practice and become better at answering questions and selling yourself during the interview. There are many questions that hiring manager’s tend to ask, including the following:
- Can you tell me a little about yourself?
- What is your greatest strength?
- What is your greatest weakness? (Please resist stating that you work too hard, actually pick something thoughtful and describe steps you’ve taken to improve this weakness)
- Why are you leaving your current work situation? (Resist the urge to complain about your boss and co-workers)
- Why do you want to work at our company?
- What is your greatest personal achievement? (This might be work-related or perhaps you climbed Mt. Everest or ran a marathon)
Keep in mind, that there also will questions asked that relate to the job posting and how you would handle tasks related to that job, so be sure to think about various work scenarios that might occur and how you would handle them. It might sound like a lot of work, but if you practice, practice and practice some more, you will feel much more comfortable during the interview process.
8. No Follow Up
At the close of an interview, you obviously want to thank the hiring manager for the opportunity to come in and interview for a job. However, you need to follow that up with a personalized thank you note, either handwritten or emailed as soon as possible.
Obviously, you will want to thank the hiring manager for their time, but also try to include something personal about the interview. For instance, if you were introduced to the company dog, be sure to mention that you enjoyed meeting the hiring manager as well as Fido. If the hiring manager told an interesting story about their work experience, mention that you enjoyed hearing about that.
Many people never bother to send a thank-you note, and it really can make a great impression so don’t bypass this step. Additionally, if there were multiple members of a hiring team, thank each one individually for their time.
9. Failing To Ask For Guidance
If you’ve been submitting resumes, and rarely been invited to come in for interviews or you’ve had dozens of job interviews, but no offers, it’s obvious that there is some sort of problem that needs to be addressed.
Career coaching can be one of the easiest and best ways to identify what’s truly been holding you back during your job search. A professional career coach can assess your skills and speak with you to talk about resume issues, interview issues or other issues that seem to be keeping hiring managers from taking a serious interest in you.
In some cases, you might be applying for the wrong jobs. Too often, people send out resumes to hundreds of companies, without really researching the companies or the job postings. It pays to be picky and select companies where you will be a great fit rather than just trying to get a job from anyone out there willing to call you in for an interview.
In addition to our resume writing services, we also can provide you with career coaching. If you’ve been having trouble getting hired, we highly recommend that you consider using this service, as it might turn the tables in your favor and help you find a great job opportunity.
Be The Person People Want To Hire!
If there could be a recipe for a great employee, the two main ingredients would be the employee’s ability to lead and the employee’s ability to work with others. If you can show both of these skills on a resume, you are doing well, and expert resume writers can ensure that your resume features clear examples of both.
What Characteristics Do The Best Employees Possess?
- A great employee shows up on time & works hard
- A great employee has a positive attitude
- A great employee finds solutions for problems
- A great employee works well with team members
- A great employee can take the lead when necessary
If, during an interview, you can express that you possess these characteristics, they can be more important that your hard skills. You might be slightly less qualified than someone else, but your attitude and work ethic might entice the hiring manager to take a chance on you over someone a bit more qualified but less personable and enthusiastic.
If you need career coaching, we can help. We offer two career coaching packages. Our basic package includes a one-on-one coaching session via telephone where you can spend at least 30 minutes with a trained career coach. Our pro package includes the telephone coaching session as well as some helpful materials to help you maximize your potential.
Of course, in addition to career coaching, we can provide you with a top-notch resume, as well as cover letters, thank-you notes and even LinkedIn profiles. Our goal is provide you with all the materials we can to help you score an amazing new job.