Beware of Hidden Interview Pitfalls

Job Interview

Suit. Check
Two hours of company research. Check
Three hours practicing answers to interview questions. Check
Extra copies of resume. Check
Fancy leather folder thingy to hold extra copies of resume. Check
Limp, wet handshake. Huh?

All the expert interview advice and all the practice in the world still might not prepare you for hidden traps that can trip you up and foil your job interview.

Weak Handshake
Science backs up what the etiquette books have been saying all along, that a firm handshake helps make a good first impression for both males and females. A University of Alabama study found there is a substantial relationship between the features that characterize a firm handshake (strength, vigor, duration, eye contact and completeness of grip) and a favorable first impression.

The proper handshake should be firm, with an energy that communicates sincerity, strength and professionalism, says Dianne M. Daniels, a certified image coach and author of Polish and Presence: 31 Days to a New Image. Extend your arm with your hand outstretched with thumb straight up. Slide your hand into the other person’s until your webs touch and give a firm, not squeezing, pump.

Not Asking Questions
Not asking an interview questions sends a signal that you don’t know enough about the business to ask an intelligent question, or it shows that you don’t see yourself within the environment of the company. At best, it shows a lack of creativity. Your questions do more than show your interest; they can also provide valuable information you can use in assessing the job.

If you are a good listener, you should be able to follow up on something the interviewer said during your visit. Ask him or her to expand on what was said. This shows you were attentive and also shows where your interests lie.

Most career counselors advise applicants to have a number of questions rehearsed and ready to go. Many of the prepared topics will be discussed during the course of the interview, but there should be some left over at the end. Have several ready so you can return the serve.

Employment Background Check
Statistics show that the number of companies conducting background checks is growing. For some jobs, screening is required by federal or state law. For others, it’s a way for employers to learn more about each candidate and ensure the hiring decisions they make are good ones.

Some employers will use your credit history to gauge your level of responsibility. Whether a valid assumption or not, employers who run credit checks are likely to believe that if you are not reliable in paying your bills, then you will not be a reliable employee. Unfortunately, a bad credit report can work against you in your search for employment.

So you won’t be surprised, you can do your own check and make sure the information is correct. Order a copy of your credit report, check court and DMV records and ask to see a copy of your personnel file from your old job. One option offers is SureCheck, which enables job seekers to increase their marketability by pre-screening their own personal histories and credentials for potential employers.

Brainteaser Questions
Tell me about yourself. Why does this job interest you? How many quarters would you have to stack to reach the top of the Empire State Building? Designed to measure candidates’ intelligence, creativity and analytical skills, brainteasers and logic questions often involve obscure subjects.

Recruiters aren’t that concerned with whether a candidate comes up with the precise answer, but rather insight into their thought process and whether they work thorough problems in a logical manner.

These types of questions are meant to make you think on your feet; the trick is to start big and take it one step at a time. The only sure-fire way to fail at these questions is to be stumped. Offer up your ideas even if they seem bizarre.


Tips for job seekers: How to accessorize for the workplace

Tips for job seekers: How to accessorize for the workplace

We’re talking to Alaina Kaczmarski of about how men & women can use accessories to enhance their wardrobe at work year-round.

Check out this article from Banana Republic for more fashion tips:

How To Follow Up After A Job Interview

How To Follow Up After A Job Interview

Susan Adams


Send a strong e-mail to the hiring manger–even if you flubbed the interview.

Sarah Stamboulie, a New York career consultant, had a young Japanese client whose work visa was due to expire in just six weeks. The man was determined to find work at a hedge fund that would allow him to stay in the U.S., but he spoke with a strong accent, his written English was poor, and he had made a weak impression at job interviews. Stamboulie, who has worked in human resources departments for both corporations and nonprofits, encouraged him to follow up with an interviewer at a Japan-based fund who had already turned him down. Impressed by the young man’s persistence, the hiring manager recommended him to another Japanese fund that had an opening. Stamboulie’s client got the job. “It was like a semi-hostile referral, but it worked,” she recalls.

In Pictures: How To Follow Up After a Job Interview

Lesson learned: Following up on a job interview is crucial. Even if you blow the interview, it pays to get in touch after the fact.

Ideally your interviews always go smoothly, and after each one you craft an effective note thanking the interviewer for the time, expressing enthusiasm and making it clear you listened closely to the hirer’s requirements. “The follow-up letter is almost like a proposal letter,” Stamboulie says. You should tailor it to the company and suggest specific ways you can address the needs you discussed when you met.

Roy Cohen, author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide: Success Secrets of a Career Coach, agrees that a follow-up note should always focus on what the hiring manager’s looking for. “You should say, ‘I listened, I understand your needs and your challenges, and here’s how I can help you address those,'” he says. Concisely remind the interviewer of what you’ve accomplished in the past, and make a couple of concrete suggestions for how you can help the company.

Do send the follow-up note as soon as possible. “If you don’t, someone else may send a message more quickly,” Cohen advises. If you don’t have time to craft a longer note, consider sending a short thank-you immediately, mentioning that you want to give further thought to the challenges you discussed and promising to send a more in-depth message soon.

Do send e-mails rather than handwritten notes, Stamboulie and Cohen agree. “People say that snail mail stands out, but it stands out for the wrong reason,” Cohen says. “It will make you look like a dinosaur.”

If you’ve met with more than one person in the interview process, think about what will make for an appropriate note to each, Cohen advises. For instance, if you interviewed with someone who would be reporting to you if you get the job, you can say something like, “It sounds like you’re working on some interesting projects. It would be great to have you as a colleague.”

David Couper, a career coach in Los Angeles and author ofOutsiders on the Inside: How to Create a Winning Career Even When You Don’t Fit In, recommends a different tack if you’re following up on a meeting with human resources staff, as opposed to a hiring manager. HR professionals tend to struggle with overloaded calendars. He says it’s always a good idea to send a follow-up e-mail, but if the interview was at a large company, “don’t be surprised if you don’t hear back.” He recommends asking the HR person during the interview how he or she would like you to stay in touch.

Couper also suggests leapfrogging over HR if you get no response to your follow-up note. A client of Couper’s who was interviewing for a vice president-level job at an entertainment company did just that recently. It took several phone calls, but he eventually got the hiring manager to put pressure on the overworked HR team to hire him. He got the job.

Last but not least, see also my recent column “When They Don’t Call To Offer You The Job.”

In Pictures: How To Follow Up After a Job Interview