Six Surefire Ways to Kill a Job Opportunity

With a touch of humor, I have mapped out common mistakes to avoid during your job search.

1. Dress inappropriately for the interview

True story #1: A few years ago, when recruiting candidates for a high six-figure sales position, a candidate showed up wearing shorts, flip flops, a Hawaiian shirt, and his sunglasses perched backwards atop his head. He flopped into the chair across from my desk and with a grin pronounced, “This isn’t how I dress for the real interview.” After we established that this was a real interview, I showed him the door and moved on to better candidates.

2. Show up unprepared

Don’t think ahead about the questions you will likely be asked, and don’t show up with your own questions. Turn the job interview into a fact-finding mission instead of doing interview preparation by researching the company’s products, competition, management team, challenges, and opportunities.

3. Be late

Don’t plan your route and parking ahead, and don’t make a great first impression by arriving a few minutes early.

4. Forget your professional demeanor

Don’t make eye contact, don’t smile, and for goodness sake don’t look interested in the job. Be sure to interrupt, and be sure to be rude to the receptionist. Focus on what’s in it for you in the interview, instead of focusing on how you can help.

5. Let HR know their interview is merely a formality

True Story #2: In spite of our careful coaching with an experienced national sales manager candidate, he killed the opportunity. One interview involved meeting with the VP of Human Resources, a key member of the executive team. The sales executive casually informed the HR executive that he had already passed the rest of the interviews and this one was “just a formality.” End of interview; end of opportunity.

6. Lick the butter knife

True Story #3: The final interview for a high six-figure position was with the CEO and his wife, and was held over dinner in a fine restaurant. You guessed it; the candidate unthinkingly licked his butter knife. End of opportunity, again.

You are probably rolling your eyes at some of these obvious goofs. I can laugh at these stories—now. However, I can tell you that smart people sometimes make silly mistakes. As a career coach, I use true examples to bring a smile to your face, and to underscore important steps that keep the doors of opportunity open.

The moral of the story: prepare thoughtfully for each opportunity and show up like you mean it.