A colleague recently referred a candidate to me for a job opening. The candidate was a great fit, had a strong story and was well-dressed for the interview – but he also walked in with a big, sweaty cup of Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee, which dripped all over his tie and made rings on the conference room table, completely turning off the hiring manager and the team.
There are times when candidates completely blow interviews. There are also times when they have fantastic interviews, but just get edged out at the finish line. Too often, however, I hear tales of candidates who sabotage their own interviews through behaviors that aren't even core to the job.
Three such self-sabotaging interview mistakes immediately come to mind:
1. You're Not the Delivery Guy
First would be the key takeaway from my colleague's story: When you show up for an interview, don't be mistaken for the delivery person. Whether it's a sweaty iced coffee or a neon-colored energy drink, toting around a beverage or food item comes across as disrespectful. You shouldn't be holding anything bigger than a small bottle of water, and even that should be avoided if possible.
2. Balance Who You Are With the Professional Image You Need to Present
Interviews aren't the venue for fashion experimentation. They are about your substance, not your style. If dressing up in a suit is completely different from who you really are, it could be like trying to have a serious conversation while wearing a toga. That will certainly throw you off your game.
So, go with the best professional yet authentic version you can be. Like they used to say in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, "This isn't a makeover, it's a make better."
3. Don't Blow the First Impression
Small slip-ups can leave lasting negative marks – for example, not having your ID when you go for the interview.
If you haven't tried to get into a city office building in the last 15 years, you may not realize that security is high and you'll need your ID to get in. Why someone would walk out the door without their ID is beyond me, but I can't tell you how many people have to call up to our office from security with the hope I will vouch for them. Of course, I have security allow them up, but I immediately question the person's attention to detail.
Showing a lack of focus and attention to detail will blow your first impression. You probably create a checklist to pack for vacation – isn't this a little more important? So create a checklist of all the things you could need: ID, wallet, means of transportation, keys, pen, notepad, copies of your resume, etc. The smallest things can make a big difference when it comes to making a first impression in the interview process.
Stu Coleman is partner and senior managing director at WinterWyman.