The Biggest Mistake Potential Hires Make While Interviewing for a Job

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

If I told a lot of potential hires that sometimes they have as much or more to do with getting a job offer as I do as the interviewer, most of them would not believe me. After all, I am the interviewer and, in many cases, I might also be the owner, manager, supervisor or personnel specialist charged with the responsibility for making an offer.

Having said this, I would also share with you that sometimes the potential hire talks himself or herself into an offer and then right back out. The reason why is they commit the biggest mistake a person could make when interviewing for a job, and this is it:

They are asked a question, they answer the question, and then they feel compelled to explain or justify the answer they have given.

I might ask, “Where are you educationally?”

They might answer, “Well, I thought about going to college but I only completed high school.” Then they will launch into a big explanation of why they could not go to college because of their circumstances at the time. Too often, the reasons given are lame excuses and it becomes pretty clear that they simply did not give education any kind of priority in advancing their lot in life.

Maybe their parents thought education was a waste of time, or that it cost too much, or that they (the parents) would not pay the cost. Or perhaps the potential hire started an academic program but did not finish, or they did not like a professor they had, or needed to work to support their wife and new baby.

I might ask, “Why did you leave your last job?”

They might answer, “I was laid off” or “I quit” or “I was fired.” Then they will explain the circumstances about how the company was downsizing, or they hated their boss, or the company forced them to work overtime, or the company would not allow them to work overtime.

I asked a potential hire a job-related question, and about 30 seconds into his answer, the candidate launched into the story of his sled dog trip in Alaska and droned on for about 10 minutes. Rather than interrupt him, I let him yak on.

The interview was just 10 minutes shorter, I did not get my questions answered, and he did not get an offer. I would have been more interested had I been in the mushing business, delivering goods across the great tundra. Such is life.

Obviously, when allowed to talk too much, the potential hire gives the interviewer all sorts of reasons why they should not receive an offer.

The one thing you absolutely can not afford to do in an interview is to create a seed of doubt about why you should be offered a position. When you do so, the interviewer feels obligated to start checking all kinds of things about you to validate their suspicion and pretty soon, you are eliminated from consideration.

And seriously now, who among us, if put under intense scrutiny, does not have a chink in his or her armor? We all do.

The message of this reality is: keep your answers short and succinct. Interviewing is a business activity, not a social activity. Be businesslike and be professional. Save the small talk for after you are hired and not on the job.

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