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How to suck at your next job interview

Bored business woman.resize

I was in my final year of Bcom Economics at the University of Johannesburg when I interviewed for a job as an assistant at a local data analysis company. All went well; I aced the practical and felt like I was making a good impression with everyone I encountered. That is until the big boss stepped into the interview room. He introduced himself, knew my name and started asking questions straight off the bat. “Tell us about yourself.” Guess what my response was. I said: “I’m fun.” No prizes for guessing who wasn’t hired…

That stands out as my worst job interview ever. I was young, inexperienced and very nervous, but, sometimes, well meant advice should not be taken quite so seriously – “Just relax, be yourself.”

Here is some of the worst interview advice, tips, and answers, that when interpreted wrong, is guaranteed to help someone else get the job you’re gunning for.

Be confident and assert yourself

What it means: Shake hands firmly with everyone you meet, speak clearly and state what you expect to gain from being employed in the available position (experience, growth, etc.)

What it doesn’t mean: Stride into the reception area and flirt with the person that welcomes you. Demand coffee, hot milk and one sugar, and ask him/her to hang up your coat. Start the interview with a conversation about what remuneration you expect and add that your family planned and booked for an overseas holiday so you will need the month off six weeks after you’re due to start. Go on to stop the interviewer mid question to answer your cellphone and loudly discuss your weekend plans.

Answer questions truthfully, try not to be too boastfulBeing too boastful

What it means: When asked about your capabilities, experience, and knowledge, try to be as honest as possible. If you cannot perform a certain task, do not claim that you can. Mention your achievements but do not boast, it can put the interviewer off.

What it doesn’t mean: Avoid making mistakes such as my own I described above – keep your answers professional. I was told an anecdote of an interviewer asking the candidate to describe the animal that he thinks best fits his personality. He responded by saying he thinks it’s a very dumb question. He didn’t get the job.

Make sure that you are comfortable, feel great and you’ll do great!

What it means: Dress in professional attire that fits you well. It must not be so tight, short or revealing that you feel uncomfortable. When in the interview room, sit with both feet grounded and keep your hands folded in your lap so as to avoid fidgeting due to nerves.

What it doesn’t mean: Dress in the clothes that you are most comfortable in, whether it is your tight jeans and short skirt, or muscle t-shirt. A suit or pencil skirt makes you feel slightly uncomfortable? Don’t bother then! Ensure that you are comfortable in the interview by finding the best position to sit in; whether that means putting your feet on the table or folding your legs in under you, as long as you feel good.

Behaviour that will knock you right off the short listDisqualified, not likeable.resize

Here are the top, easily implementable tips that will ensure you don’t get hired:

#1 Put your bad habits and odd mannerisms on display – fidget with your hair or crack your knuckles all through the interview

#2 Take overly long pauses to answer questions or over-use filler words such as ‘”like”, “um” and “you know”

#3 Chew gum during an interview

#4 Make sure your handshake is limp, moist, or too strong and adopt a poor or too casual posture

#5 Instead of trying to build rapport with the interviewer, start an argument

#6 Take your mom with to the interview

Good luck with your next job interview, whatever you do, pick your professional mentors and advisors carefully and you should find the right position.


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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