You never forget a first impression. In addition to a resume, that’s what a job interview is in many instances. The days of dropping in and asking to see whoever runs the place are gone. So the last thing you want to do is mess up that first chance to shine...in person or on the phone. We want to make sure you make yourself stand out and get called back for that second impression. Here are five common mistakes candidates make that cause them to lose the opportunity to get to the next step in the interview process.
As an executive search firm, we do everything we can to make sure you’re the most prepared candidate your would-be employer will see. We have so much at our fingertips these days via the Internet, yet people still show up to an interview unprepared.
The second you are approached with a job opportunity, you should be researching. What do they do? What do they expect you to do? What experiences do you offer to complement what they do? These are answers you should have at the ready to share as soon as you sit down.
Likewise, if your potential future employer asks you to bring something, bring it. I know it seems basic, but nothing leaves a taste of unpreparedness like not having your resume with you. Actually, always bring three. Speaking of which, make sure that you know every line of your resume and are prepared to answer questions about the details at any time.
And, as we all know in produce, on time is actually late. Anyone looking to make a strong, well-prepared first impression should be 15 minutes early to an interview, but not too early—that annoys people, too.
A great tip: Show up to the interview location an hour prior and find a quiet spot to review your resume. You can think about how you want to answer the interviewer’s questions, the things and people you know, and the company with whom you’re interviewing. Review their job description and think about their needs and how you can add value.
Not Staying Focused
Organic conversation is an important way to connect and also demonstrate you can fit in with the company culture, but if the employer asks you what you bring to the table and you somehow find yourself talking about the latest episode of Shark Tank, you aren’t answering the question. Worse yet, you’re proving you can’t stay on task.
Yes, it’s normal to get nervous in an interview, but that allowance will only stretch so far. If necessary, repeat the question to not only assure you were listening, but to give you time to construct your response. Don’t forget this interview doesn’t just give you a chance to bring yourself off the page, but to prove that you can focus under pressure—an asset for any company, produce or otherwise.
No Spark or Enthusiasm
If a candidate doesn’t appear that interested and/or lacks positive energy in the interview, how will they feel about it in a few months? This will be the question in the hiring manager’s head as they watch you lay back in your chair like a high schooler in the back of class. Sit up, lean forward, be engaged, and speak to how the job sounds like what you are looking for and how you’d love an opportunity to join the team.
Another great way to communicate enthusiasm is to follow up post-interview, either that evening or the next day, and reaffirm your interest about the position. Not only does this show continued interest and follow-through, but it will keep you in mind after you’ve left. Email is fine, and I still like the handwritten note, too.
“Can I get a word in?”
On the opposite side of lacking enthusiasm is over explaining or not letting the interviewer speak. It’s natural for a lot of people to let the nerves win and ramble, but as a professional consultant for job seekers, I implore you to keep from doing this. You are being interviewed—and asking questions, too—but not conducting the process yourself. It’s a balance. You don’t want the impression you leave to be “that one that wouldn’t shut up.”
Often, interviews carve into a regular work day, and in produce there’s already never enough time. Doubling the window they set aside to interview doesn’t necessarily mean it was a successful session; if you think back and realize you did all the talking, you might want to rethink how you go about your interviewing.
One tactic we recommend, when warranted, is to ask, “How are you doing on time?” You have to use discretion in terms of if and/or when you ask that question. An example scenario of when I might use it: You’ve been told that it’s a one hour-long interview. 40 minutes in, you’re having great conversation, but you also realize that the employer does not know enough about you, your skills, and experience. So, you ask, “How are you on time, Joe? I’m enjoying this conversation, but I don’t want to forget to cover some important aspects of my skills and possible fit within your team.” The last thing you want to have happen is to leave there and feel like they really did not know enough about you professionally.
There is a line between “confident,” and “cocky,” and sometimes it’s a fine one. While you are there to sell yourself, you don’t want to come off as condescending, a bully, or THE expert. Who wants to welcome that into their company culture? Remember, you are here to join as a TEAM MEMBER. So, demonstrate your strength, character, and your ability to be someone who can follow and be a member of the group—perhaps lead, if applicable.
It shouldn’t need to be said, but unfortunately I also have to note that if you refer to people in a way that places you above them, and/or use any of the “no-go” references (race, religion, sex, etc.) to describe anyone during your interview, you are less likely to get a call back.
Even with all these in mind, it all comes down to one piece of final advice I can give you: Be authentic, engage everyone in the room, smile, use eye contact, breathe, and enjoy the process. Thank them for their time. They took the time to see you, and the last note of the first impression can sometimes be the strongest.
Rex Lawrence, Founder and President of Joe Produce, was born & raised in Salinas, CA. His 28 years in the produce industry includes positions in senior sales, marketing & management for some of the industry’s leaders. Rex and his team truly understand that finding the perfect “fit” is about more than matching a skill set with specific job requirements.