What not to do in a job interview

Once your CV catches the eye of a recruiter, all you are really left with is to test that there is mutual compatibility. The problem with interviews, aside from being an inherently flawed way of selecting talent, is that it’s easy to get nervous, and it’s even easier to turn it into a complete social disaster. So in 10 easy steps, this is what not to do in an interview.

  • Do your homework, know the organisation’s name at the very least! Going for an interview at RSM and explaining how you would fit in at RMS for an hour is nails down a chalkboard for interviewers!
  • “Tell me a bit about yourself?” Candidate, “Mimi is a hardworking and energetic person. Mimi loves a challenge…” And the interviewer immediately thinks about their biggest challenge for today is listening to a candidate speak about themselves in the third person. It is so weird. Rule of thumb on this, don’t say your own name in an interview after the introductions.
  • Boss bashing is a no-no. Don’t speak badly of your ex-employer or boss, even if it is tempting and you think they really deserve it.
  • Don’t be smelly. If you are nervous about an interview, and if it’s a job you really want then you probably will be, you will sweat more than usual. Please put some deodorant on. However, in the same theme, don’t go overboard on the perfume or cologne.
  • Don’t. Be. Late.
  • While your CV might be your professional fashion statement, generally a job interview isn’t the time to rock a couture outfit that needs taming to fit into a chair or standard size door frame. If there is a need for double sided tape to stop a wardrobe malfunction, it’s not the right top for a job interview. It’s important to look like you are going to fit into the business and be presentable in that environment.
  • Don’t lie about academics or duties and responsibilities in a previous role. If it’s not immediately obvious in the interview, it will become obvious soon after you start working.
  • Put your phone on silent and don’t look at it. A candidate’s phone vibrating across the table the entire way through an interview is a quick way to irritate the interviewer. Basic manners and etiquette is a simple way to make sure you’re not in the nope zone before you’re even out the door.
  • Know your CV. Nothing like asking a candidate about something they put on their CV and they stare at you as if you’ve asked them to explain the concept of certain uncertainty.
  • What are your hobbies? Horse riding maybe, or mountain biking? The answer is neither if you have only ridden one horse and you don’t actually own a bicycle. Interviewers like to ask this kind of question as it opens up the conversation and puts the candidate at ease, most of the time asking about hobbies is just something we want candidates to talk about to give them an opportunity to relax and show us a bit of their interests outside of works. Please don’t be the person that says “I play the French Horn” and you don’t, in fact you’ve never seen one but you watched a movie once where someone spoke of it. Also, while on the topic, watching TV and reading, are not usually notable hobbies. We all watch TV and read.

Going to an interview is like a first date, candidates often forget that it is an opportunity to explore mutual compatibility and the interview shouldn’t be one sided. Make sure the culture of the organisation is suitable to you and the job is what you assume it to be. It’s awful to be unhappy in your work environment and often this could be avoided by getting the information before you commit and making an informed decision as to whether you want to be there at all. After all, most people spend more time at work than with their dog, so it’s best to be excited about where you spend your day.

Candice Eaton-Gaul

Head of HR, Johannesburg

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