Four Sure-Fire Ways to Screw Up Your Interview

Recently, I’ve been talking a lot with one of our QA guys. When I pass off a developed feature to him for final verification, I’ve usually taken the “happy path” to verification: Does this thing do what it’s supposed to do? With him though, it’s always negative testing this and negative testing that. This sadist actually wants stuff to fail. This got me thinking about the job search process. Let’s talk a little about how you can bomb an interview.

Four Sure-Fire Ways to Screw Up Your InterviewApplication Phase: Ready, Fire, Aim!

When you find a job that, based on your skimming of the description, more or less matches your skills, fire off a resume. Don’t bother to look at things in detail, or to craft your resume and cover letter to the job and company. Heck, don’t even send a cover letter at all. And if your resume isn’t easy to read or there are a few mistakes in spelling or grammar, don’t worry about it.

Contact: Cat and Mouse

When the hiring manager calls or e-mails you, play hard to get. Let them send a couple of e-mails or leave a few voicemails before you get back to them. When you do get in touch, no need to be too prepared. Just wing it. And if you do manage to get beyond the screen to an onsite interview, make sure your schedule has priority over theirs. Maybe an interview isn’t good for you this week, but how about next week, or even the following? Make them work for it.

Show Them Who You Really Are

Once you’ve secured an in-person interview, do as little prep work as possible. Don’t research the
company, or try to find out how you could fit into its business, or what value you could bring to the table.

If you know the city well enough, you probably can just wing that too. Printing out directions is for weenies. Also, give yourself just enough time to get there. If anything impedes you, whatever your excuse for being late, I’m sure they’ll be cool with it.

If you’re handed an application to fill out, even though you’ve already sent your resume, allow yourself to get upset and off balance.

There’s no need to turn off your cell phone before the interview. If you get a call or text, they’ll probably be impressed that you’re so in demand. Even more so if you actually respond. That shows that you can multitask.

Also, it’s okay to cut off the interviewer and answer when you think you know where the line of questioning is going. When talking about past employers, remember this is your chance to trash them and make yourself look like a hero who, at the time, worked among idiots.

After the Interview, Kiss them Off

Don’t bother to send a thank you e-mail, and only a real numbskull would snail mail a hand written note. What is this, 1955?

By following these few gems during your quest to secure employment, you’ll be sure to fail spectacularly. If you’re more of a “happy path” type, perhaps you’ll want to do the opposite.

Chad Broadus is a tech professional and writer living in the Pacific Northwest.

11 Responses to “Four Sure-Fire Ways to Screw Up Your Interview”

  1. Reality Check

    Talk about a grossly biased piece; once again we have an article where it is all the workers’ faulty and business is god-like and needs to be worshipped.

    No – do not write specialized cover letters and resumes for each job. Most are never read, but only scanned for key-words. Most “jobs” are fake. They are collecting salary and availability information. Companies run ads demanding your “best rate”, then a month later you find the exact same ad running. They are looking to see if people are desperate enough to lower their expectations from a fair rate to any crumbs they can get.

    Cat & Mouse? I can’t count how often HR folks call my home phone during the work day and “demand” I call back immediately. Hey stupid !! I’m at work. Why not read the instructions I provided that say to call after 5PM or e-mail me. No, I am NOT calling from work. I’m being paid to work and not make personal calls. Would you like it if all of your employees took time off during the day to make personal calls to find other jobs?

    Research the company? Please !! If I am supposed to be working on an accounting system, it doesn’t matter (or shouldn’t if they follow standards) whether you make widgets or cheese puffs. Inventory control should be consist between industries. Besides, how often do people walk in for an interview, and HR hasn’t bother to look at your resume to prepare. Do you want to know what degrees I have and from where – look at the resume that you’ve had for 3 weeks.

    Sorry – but if a company shows no interest or respect to me, then I’ll go elsewhere. If HR is too lazy (as they always are) to follow simple instructions and to know to whom they are speaking; then why should I want to work for you?

  2. @Reality Check: This is the kind of stuff no one wants to read, but is true. I’ve been a hiring manager myself, and I sure don’t feel god-like. But I do know that people who send me customized resumes get my attention ¿ because the resumes that make it to me certainly ARE read. So, YES, customize your approach.

    And YES research the company. How else are you going to KNOW whether it’s a widget or cheese puff company? How are you going to know what kind of shape it’s in? How else can you get an indication of what the culture’s like. You might be the best person around for what you do, but if the manager doesn’t think you’re going to fit into his team, he’s not going to hire you. If you can walk in and talk about the dynamics of the widget industry, you’ll get his attention.

    If you can pick and choose your employers based on whether you like their approach to hiring, then you’re in a great position. But a lot of people aren’t so lucky. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, it’s still a market where companies more than job applicants can set up the dynamics of the process.

    @Ugh: I wouldn’t say only numbskulls send thank you notes by mail. Doing it does no harm, and can set you apart from all the other candidates. It shows you took extra time to demonstrate your interest in the job.

  3. Tim Brown

    Are you serious?!? Doesn’t appear to me that you have had to look for work. Whenever I have a one on one conversation with anyone whether interview or work related it is common courtesy to put your cell phone on silent anything else is just rude.The advice you have given appears to me that you have a job and searching for better one. If you are unemployed and need a new carreer this is the most bogus advice I’ve heard.

  4. Connie Bond

    I totally agree with the handwritten thank-you note! I have been offered 2 different job opportunites because they were so impressed with an actual handwritten note. It means you took the extra effort and it was important to you. Anybody can write an email in a minute, very little effort involved.

  5. Reality Check is Right

    Reality Check is spot-on.

    Besides the extremely irritating sarcasm, Mr. Brodus¿ article is just another unenlightening piece with little merit beyond making life easier for recruiters. At its best, it merely re-hashes the obvious.

    Application Phase: most job descriptions are boiler plate, reveal little about the actual work, or simply omit any description of the job (or omit the requirements). Most of the time the location is so vague as to be virtually meaningless. ¿Chicago¿ is a big place ¿ ever been there? How can a sincere job seek be expected to ¿look at things in detail¿ when no details are provided? A good, long term employment situation BEGINS with excellent communication by both parties. Starting off with an inexcusably incomplete jd and expecting candidates to snap at the bait is a job disaster in the making. I¿ll pass, thank you.

    Contact: HM¿s almost never make contact, HR staffers get this pleasure. Ref scheduling, candidates are humans with lives (and yes, sometimes, jobs). We are not American Idol contestants foaming at the mouth for the chance to put the right cover sheets on someone¿s TPS reports. Reality Check is right ¿ it is rude, bone-headed, and absurd for recruiters to expect candidates to be on call and lying down before them, ready to call or to take a call under all circumstances. This is especially absurd when the recruiter expects the phone call without having (or being able to provide) a half-decent job description to discuss (see Reality Check¿s take on fake jobs)! Let¿s get real on this subject for a moment ¿ the main purpose of this call is not to discuss the job or anyone¿s background, but to try to get a $$ figure by which the candidate can be screened. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Is this company staffed by persons of such insanely poor business sense that they¿d bid on a job without understanding what they are bidding on? Evidently, yes. Wonder why the economy is in a shambles and won¿t get better for a long time? I¿ll give you a hint ¿ it¿s not my fault. We don¿t need HR out there channeling Simon Cowell.

    Show them¿: There¿s virtually nothing available, short of insider information, to help a candidate figure out how to fit in, exactly what is needed at the table, etc. 10-K¿s are boiler-plate trash and will tell you virtually nothing about what challenges an analyst/programmer will take on. One might get lucky with an article somewhere, but that¿s so remote as to be hardly worth looking for. Yes, yes, yes, one could go bonkers for every job and approach industrial spy levels of investigation, but it¿s hardly worth it to do.

    Those applications (online and on paper) are also an absurdity that exclaims the inability of HR to process simple information. Besides being the waste of time that they are, the real affront is that they are encoded so that anyone without a grey flannel suit can¿t possibly complete them completely or correctly, yet one is required to attest by signature that they are complete and correct and to pre-agree to termination on grounds of having “lied” on one¿s application.

    We don¿t need another crummy article like this coaching us how to make life straightforward for HR.

    C’mon, HR people and HM’s, step up to the plate and issue decently written jd’s for real jobs! If you’re specific, half-sincere, candidates won’t swamp you with inappropriate backgrounds. Even if they do, the onus is on you to review them as carefully as possible for the benefit of your firm. If you can’t handle this, you need to hire more people to review resumes or find a different way of doing business. Please don’t cry “we’re not capable of doing our jobs with this kind of workload” to candidates and beg for dumbing-down the process. Have a little self-respect.

    Ooooooh, keeeeeywoooords! (Homer Simpson, Talent Acquisition Professional)

  6. Bob Ienuso

    One thought everyone applying for a position needs to keep in mind is that there are dozens of others applying for it as well.

    How do you make yourself stand out? Show interest and show your ability to put more than two words back to back in a sentence.

    Step One: present a clear, concise resume that shows you meet the hiring manager’s needs. With that include a cover letter highligthing your the right person for the position.

    Step Two: when you get the interview, show your interest in the company (if you have no interest what are you appying for?)

    Step Three: listen attentively and ask questions that show your paying attention.

    Step Four: always be honest and ready to discuss your strengths AND weaknesses.

    Bottom line: BE READY!

  7. Gary Dillard

    I believe in the perfect cover letter that defines me and is my standard not customized to opportunities. I have worked on this letter and improve it every time I read it. I feel this expands the perfect resume.
    Your resume grows with your career and once you reach the 15+ year experience level; the resume becomes bigger. The cover letter allows you to expand further. Today, The email content ( a letter ) allows you talk with a brief yet direct and customized approach and your credentials are referenced as attachments. Being prepared even if you have a job is always the best practice for all.

  8. Deborah Patton

    As a contract employee, we are a group who probably search & apply for new employment more frequently than most. So how have I always managed to have a new contract lined up before my current contract ends? I always ask for the vendor to ‘send me the requisition’ that the client has sent to them. From that document, I always tailor my resume to address the skills and experience the client has specifically requested. But, ONLY if I do in fact have the skills and experience they are requesting! I never fudge my skills…that only sets one up for failure! Plus, vendors will drop you from their contact list in a hot minute if they discover you are being less than honest on your resume! And, I ‘relax’ during the interview! This reflects self confidence and personal control.

  9. Stacie Bishops

    I agree with most of these comments. We are instructed to jump through hoops and reveal everything yet we’re not given sufficient information about the available position. And even when you DO follow all the supposed guidelines, we are not extended the same courtesy. “We’ll let you know within a week” and you don’t hear from them for four weeks. Many of the offered jobs don’t even say who the hiring company is, so how can we research it? Talk about holding your cards close to your vest! I am also a contract employee and I hate it, I would love to be an actual “employee”, but more and more companies are going the contract route because it’s easier and more cost-efficient for them, yet they never consider that underpaying the contractor and otherwise screwing them, while expecting the world in performance and loyalty, is not likely to get them what they want. I do excellent work, have been in my field for 12 years, have a wealth of experience, and I go the extra mile in my job just because that’s who I am, but I would like to be treated well in return; I can’t even afford to go to a doctor and get stitches like most normal humans. (And I’d like to know how to get those “client requisition” forms!)

    It’s not all on us — the old saying “you get what you pay for” is still true. It’s no wonder the workforce in general is disgruntled and angry. Good set of posts here! I feel better having been able to vent.