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7 things NOT to do in a job interview

They’re nerve-wracking and stressful but an interview could mean you’re one step away from that dream job – or at least a little closer to fulfilling your career ambitions. Student Services Manager (Careers) at The Open University, Lynne Johnson, explains what NOT to do in the interview room…

A handshake. Image credit: Thinkstock1) NEVER offer a limp handshake or slouch

“An excellent first impression is really important and a weak handshake, lack of eye contact, or a slumping your chair won’t help you here. It takes 30 seconds to generate that impression so start on the right foot.

“Make eye contact with all of the panel members, not just the main interviewer. Body language is important so keep it open, don’t slump, and remember to smile.

“By the time you’ve sat down they’ll probably already have an opinion of you and a bad first impression will result in your spending the rest of your interview proving them wrong..”

2) “Don’t tell the panel about your favourite childhood hobby or your dog called Oscar”

“Open questions like ‘tell me about yourself’ can catch you off guard – this isn’t an opportunity to tell your life history, but to put across the key points you want the interview panel to remember about you. This is when you should be highlighting your professional experience and skills in a more personal way.

“This is something you can easily prepare beforehand, and should be relevant to the organisation and you are being interviewed at. Don’t tell them about your favourite childhood hobby or your dog called Oscar. Keep it relevant.

“Think of your three best selling points and get them across in these open questions. Communicate your achievements, experience in, and strengths to demonstrate why you’re ideal for the role.”

Red business suit. Image credit: Thinkstock3) That bright red jacket with the wide collar? Leave it at home

“This is all part of making a good impression. You don’t always have to wear a suit or office skirt; it depends on the organisation and I’d recommend conservative formal over less formal.

“Loud clothing, low cut tops, or excessive jewellery all distract the interviewer from what you’re saying and you want to make an impression with your words rather than your clothes.

“You want to walk into an interview looking like you belong there. If unsure, you can call the organisation beforehand for its dress code.”

4) NEVER ask when you’ll get a pay rise

“In fact, in your interview, you shouldn’t ask about salaries at all. It’s not a good idea to jump straight in and ask about holidays, pensions, and pay rises at the end of your interview and it doesn’t leave much room for negotiation if you’re successful.

“Wait until they offer you the job, then ask about salary, and as you’ll be in a better position to negotiate a good package. If you need to know approximate salary, call and ask before you apply to save the hassle of a wasted application.

“Ask about opportunities for mentoring and training; expectations in your first week; and who you’ll be working with.”

Sleeping zzzz icon. Image credit: Thinkstock5) Don’t be a bore. Zzz

“Interviews can be nerve-wracking and it’s easy to let anxiety get in the way. A sense of humour is allowed in an interview and it’s fine to say no to a glass of water because you’re so nervous you might drop it.

“The panel will already have a good idea of your experience, qualifications, and skills before you attend an interview. At this point, they’re checking  to see if they like you and think they could work with you. You should be selling your personality, and be both enthusiastic and excited about the job you’re applying for.”

6) Avoid chattering on. And on. And on …

Sometimes interview questions can be complicated and it’s easy to lose your thread; focus on the question you’ve been asked, and be confident enough to take notes during the interview so you can write the question down and answer in two parts if it’s complicated.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to ask the panel member to repeat the question or ask for a minute to think; this is perfectly acceptable. “If you’ve come to a natural conclusion and the panel members aren’t saying anything, don’t chatter on. As them if they want clarification on anything or would like you to provide an alternative example. Don’t be tempted to keep filling the silences.”

7) Actions speak louder than words

“When asked to give examples of your work, remember the interview panel is looking for your action – what you did, how you handled it – and not the level of project you were working on at the time. When asked to explain a difficult decision you had to make, they want to know how you handled the scenario, not what the actual scenario was.

“People panic and think ‘have I got a good enough example?’ However, you just need the confidence to communicate what you did. People make decisions all the time in their work and if you’re really good at it, it might not seem that difficult. Forget the word ‘difficult’ and focus on decisions you probably make regularly.”

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About Author

Robyn has worked in the Communications Unit at The Open University for eight years. Formerly a newspaper journalist, she is an experienced comms professional working on a broad range of content for multiple channels, and is part-way through an MA in Online Journalism with Birmingham City University. Robyn likes playing netball, walking her cocker spaniel Ralphie, and crime novels.

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