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Seven Deadly Sins of Interviewing - Candidate

June 29, 2009

Pride: An excessive love of self

You have years of experience, you’ve earned respect and accolades in your field, but any arrogance will come back to bite you.  Remember that seemingly insignificant person you barked at this morning for snagging that prime parking space? Yep, that’s the boss’ assistant.  Getting the brush off after what seemed to be a great interview?  Right. It’s that assistant again, this time with payback.

Once you’re within a mile of an interview, treat every person you come in contact with as though someday, they’ll be your boss, or you’ll be theirs. Take time to warmly greet the receptionist, thank the assistant for that glass of water, and put your best foot forward to anybody who conceivably could weigh in on your candidacy.

Sloth: Laziness, idleness and wastefulness

Winging it is never good, particularly in an interview.  Be able to show knowledge of your potential employer, awareness of the industry, and the company’s business strategy. The level of detail in your questions should match your experience. If you’re an old industry hand, questions about how last year’s reorganization is affecting the European subsidiary will seem smart and informed. If you’re a newcomer, no need to over-prepare, but do have in mind intelligent questions that show you’ve thought about the industry – “who are your best / worst customers and why?” or “How does this trend impact your business?”

Greed: An excessive quest for money and power

You’re interviewing because you want a higher salary, a company car, or three weeks of vacation.  But don’t start off by asking about a new set of wheels or taking next August off.  Set aside those questions for later… much later. 

Remember, first you have to get the offer.  Then, you can negotiate the terms.  In the first interview rounds, you’re being judged on your experience and abilities. If you make it clear you’re mainly focused on money and perks, the interviewer’s perception of your priorities will suffer.

After you get the offer, you’ll have a better idea of where you stand, and more power to negotiate since you already know the job is yours.

Gluttony: The desire to consume more than you need

Scarfing down that onion bagel before your interview is a bad idea, but gluttony doesn’t always center on food.  A good interview depends on the rapport you build with the employer.  The interviewer is trying to learn about your skills, talents, experiences, and most of all, your ability to succeed in the job.  She’s not trying to learn your whole life story.

Spare her the details of the great Peterson account win of ’95.  Take a reasonable amount of time to answer questions.  Be thoughtful and complete, but don’t go on and on; or else your job search may do the same.

Wrath: Feelings of hatred, revenge or denial

Sure, your old boss was a disorganized, credit-hogging, incompetent jerk.  That said, the person sitting across from you – who could be your next boss – identifies more with your past bosses than she does with you. She wants to see how you’ll handle yourself in her organization.  If you shoot down your old colleagues, won’t she fear being the next person in your crosshairs?

Instead of criticizing people from your past work experiences, find common ground with the interviewer by addressing issues common to all companies, like poor communication or ineffective meetings.  Let her know how you’ve attacked these problems in the past, and what you can do to help now. 

Lust: The desire to do what you want, not do what you should

We’re talking dress code here. Obviously, provocative clothing is out, and showing too much skin is a terrible idea; but there’s more to it than that.  Don’t dress for your comfort, dress for the situation.

Always wear a suit to an interview, even if the dress code is business casual.  You might stick out like a sore thumb while you’re in the lobby, but you’ll never lose points for being dressed professionally.

Envy: The desire for what you don’t have now

Maybe you secretly wish to chuck it all and cruise around the Caymans, or take your ZZ Top cover band on the road.  Now’s not the time to bring it up.  Although discussing your personal interests or passions may humanize you, expressing too much enthusiasm for your outside interests could dash your chances.

When a potential employer asks where you see yourself in five years, mention a loftier position in the industry.  If it’s clear you really want to do something else, it’s tough for an interviewer to believe that you’ll bring all your capabilities and focus to the demands of this job.