“I Blew It”: Biggest Interview Errors

Your résumé has opened the door. But recruiters point to the traps that candidates fall into, and offer tips for making a better impression.

There are ways to depict even bad situations in a professional manner. Hack says candidates should stick to the facts, stressing that “an interview is not a therapy session.” Don’t talk about the poor performance of former managers or internal squabbles, for example. Instead point out that your termination was part of a 300 percent turnover rate that the company had experienced over two years.

Similarly, if a newly hired CEO cleaned house and you were one executive replaced, acknowledge the leadership change and unapologetically point out that you were disappointed by the decision but realize that this is sometimes how Corporate America works. Never launch into the history of management changes, says Hack. Instead “be clear, cohesive, and succinct, and don’t dance around the subject.”

If practicable, turn the query into a discussion rather than a question-and-answer period. “Interviewers don’t want to be talked at,” says Hack. If more than one person is interviewing you, make eye contact will all of them, regardless of whom posed the question. Get everyone involved.

Talking Money

Recruiters at retained search firms usually pass along current salary requirements of a candidate to the hiring company. It’s a mistake not to be ready to discuss compensation in an interview if asked; specifically, what it will cost to get them to move to a new job.

Hack suggests putting together a compensation spreadsheet that calculates salary, potential bonus targets, and payouts; vested and unvested stock; stock options; and company perks such as car allowance, club memberships, and company-paid financial-planning services. That way you’ll be able to tell an interviewer quickly what you would be leaving on the table should you accept a new job. “It may seem silly, but in this age of direct deposit,” notes Hack, “sometimes even CFOs don’t know what their paycheck says.” They should.

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