Many people misunderstand what job interviews really are.

The interviewer is not just listening to your answers. They are examining behaviors and comparing them to their vision of the “ideal candidate.” From your handshake to your closing comments to your follow-up — all of it matters.

They are watching to see if the skills you exhibit in the interview are close to what they need in the day-to-day job. If you are not prepared for the interview, then you might not be prepared for a critical meeting. If you are late with some excuse like, “There was an accident on the highway,” then you might be late for work. If you don’t make eye contact, then you probably won’t make eye contact with peers and customers.

So it’s important to know what to do every step of the way. The following 5 tricks are important because they will prevent you from making the Top 5 errors in interviews.

  1. Be super early for everything.This includes phone meetings, informational meetings, or the first interview of the day. Rule: if you are not ready by the phone or in the waiting room 30 minutes prior to the start time, then you are late. When you are late, the interviewer perceives that you are not committed, do not have good time-management skills, and you would be late to meetings once hired.
  2. Be amazingly over-prepared.Two areas are key: First, prepare for the questions you’ll get and bring good questions to ask, and second, bring the right things to the meeting. Rule: Always bring printed copies of your résumé and cover letter, plus the job description. Bring paper and two pens (back-up). When you are unprepared, the perception created is that you did not take the time to research the company or the job, that you have no insightful questions, and that you might be unprepared for key events once hired.
  3. Bring your upbeat attitude.Job searching is frustrating, hard, and downright depressing. Leave any negative thoughts you have about your prior company, a bad boss, or how unconfident you feel at home. Rule: Hiring managers and interviewers want to hire happy people. Remember, they are watching to see if you would be a fit for their existing team and culture. Never go “off the record” or “between you and me,” as those comments are often controversial or negative. Smile, talk positively about everything and everybody, and tell them how excited you are to work for them.
  4. Be concise and pause.You’re nervous, unsure if you are saying the “right” answer, and, well, desperate. Under these circumstances, virtually all candidates blabber on and on. Be different. Use my “Interview Law of 3s”: say three short answers then stop. Repeat: three things then shut up! Smile, pause and know that the interviewer will ask for more if they want more. This trick accomplishes two things. First, it will make you calmer and appear more confident. Even if you are making up the answer on the fly, you know you only have to think of two or three points — then stop. Inhale, exhale. Second, it helps the interviewer take notes, digest your thoughts, and ask the next question. Phone interviewers particularly appreciate your brevity.
  5. Take phone interviews very seriously!I often hear, “Oh, it’s just a phone screen,” or “Once I get through the phone interview, I’ll do more research.” The global hiring process is moving very quickly toward phone interviews as the primary interview mechanism. You won’t get the face-to-face interview if you don’t do well on the phone. And it’s not easy! Regardless, whether it is a recruiter or HR person on the other end of the line, you need to perform just as strongly as you would in a face-to-face interview.

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