10 biggest job interview blunders

In this lousy market, don't be your own worst enemy. Here are the most common mistakes candidates are making -- and how to fix them.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
 
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Anne Fisher, contributor

interview.03.jpg
Quiz
Are you a good networker?
1. If you only know someone through a social networking site like LinkedIn or Facebook, it's inappropriate to ask him or her for an in-person meeting.
True
False
Stressful jobs that pay badly
High stress and a meager paycheck are just another day at the office. Here are 15 of the most overworked and underpaid professions out there.
Millions of job openings!

(NEW YORK) Fortune -- Dear Annie: A few months ago I lost a middle-management job at a company where I worked for 14 years. I received four promotions during that time, but it had been quite a while since I actually interviewed for a new job.

I've gone on several interviews in the past few weeks, which I know I was lucky to get, but they've all been dead-ends. A friend suggests that I hire a coach to help me polish my interviewing skills and figure out what I'm doing wrong. Your thoughts? -Rusty

Dear Rusty: You aren't necessarily doing anything wrong. With unemployment now at 10.2% nationally, and much higher in some states, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that there are 6.3 job hunters for every available job. That's three times the average that prevails in a healthy economy, the BLS notes, so the numbers may simply be working against you.

That you've gotten several interviews in the past few weeks is a good sign. And it's certainly true that a competent coach could help you improve your interviewing technique. (For tips on locating one, see "How to Find the Right Career Coach.")

But before you invest in a coach, see if you're making an easily avoidable mistake you could clear up on your own.

"The competition is tough enough without giving potential employers reasons not to hire you," says Tim Schoonover, chairman of outplacement and leadership-development firm OI Partners.

Here are the most common errors career coaches at OI Partners see -- and how to fix them:

10. Over-explaining why you lost your last job. It's okay to mention that your last position was eliminated, but then move on to what you can do for this employer.

9. Conveying that you're not over it. "During interviews, some people are acting wounded, angry or sad," Schoonover says. These are normal emotions after a layoff but they don't belong in a job interview -- or you may "seem unstable and communicate that you don't grasp the business reasons for layoffs," he adds.

What's the worst blunder you've made in a job interview? Leave your comments at the bottom of this story.

8. Lacking humor, warmth, or personality. Many anxious job candidates are "one-dimensional during interviews, and are too focused on getting their talking points across," notes Schoonover. "Don't forget to show qualities that can be a real plus in the decision-making process, including humor in good taste, warmth, and understanding." One thing interviewers want to know, of course, is how pleasant you would be to have around the place every day.

7. Not showing enough interest or enthusiasm. After all, "companies are looking for people who are excited about working with them," Schoonover says.

6. Inadequate research about a potential employer. It's essential to be up on the latest news, so be sure to Google the company before the interview. Be prepared with well-informed, thoughtful questions about its products or services and its future plans. Many applicants aren't bothering, Schoonover says, and it shows.

5. Concentrating too much on what you want. Focus more on what the interviewer is saying. Listening carefully is crucial in steering the conversation toward how you would fit in and what you have to offer.

4. Trying to be all things to all people. "Devote most of your effort to talking about what you know you do well, and don't try to stretch your actual qualifications too far," Schoonover advises. A good rule of thumb: Don't apply for any job unless you have at least 75% of the stated qualifications.

3. "Winging" the interview. Schoonover hears from many hiring managers that candidates often aren't ready to answer difficult questions. So rehearse. "Prepare and practice a 90-second verbal resume, and some answers to possible questions, so that you come across as succinct," he suggests.

2. Failing to set yourself apart from other candidates. "You have to make the strongest possible case for why you are the best person for the job," Schoonover says. "Specifically address what impact you can have on sales, profits, costs, or productivity within the next three to six months. Use quantifiable achievements from past positions to back up your performance promise."

And the No. 1 mistake OI Partners' coaches see job hunters make:

1. Failing to ask for the job. "You have a much better chance of getting the job if you ask for it," says Schoonover. "Close the interview by summing up what you can bring to the job, and ask for the opportunity to deliver those results."

Talkback: Have you ever made a blunder in a job interview? If you're a hiring manager, what are the worst moves you've seen interviewees make? Is there any way to win an employer over after making such a mistake? Tell us on Facebook, below.  To top of page

Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 97.58 2.86 3.02%
Microsoft Corp 45.05 0.22 0.49%
Facebook Inc 70.78 1.51 2.18%
Bank of America Corp... 15.54 0.02 0.13%
Juniper Networks Inc... 22.48 -2.34 -9.41%
Data as of 2:05pm ET
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,094.75 -18.79 -0.11%
Nasdaq 4,473.95 17.93 0.40%
S&P 500 1,987.71 4.18 0.21%
Treasuries 2.46 -0.01 -0.32%
Data as of 2:20pm ET
More Galleries
Best-loved cars in America These cars and trucks topped J.D. Power's APEAL survey, which measures how much owners like their new vehicles. More
America's most powerful cars A new 'horsepower war' has erupted among U.S. automakers and these are the most potent weapons in their arsenals. More
A sampling of beers being made with traditional Latin flavors A small but growing number of craft breweries are including passion fruit, Mexican cinnamon and other traditional Latin flavors. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.