Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant

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Five Things Not to Do in a Job Interview

Countering negativity is a winning pursuit.

You haven't had a job in months, money is tight, and you're losing patience in your search. Then you get "the call!" You secure a job interview and think, "Did this hiring manager misdial? "Did I just hit the lottery?" You leave your home for the appointment, but your downbeat persona follows you. If you're finding that during interviews, your posture, expression and responses show you're not on top of your game—stop the presses! It's time to hit "reset" if you really want to land a great job.

It's very easy to become jaded after countless failed job search efforts, but you can make a concerted effort to change your attitude to the positive. If it's any easier, consider it a challenge to try a new mindset. Even if you won the Nobel Peace Prize—twice—a negative tone would offset that lofty achievement! Most everyone can afford to take their level of enthusiasm up a notch during job interviews—and they will likely increase their odds of success significantly.

Although you might have regretted an interview response or two in the past, as most mortals have, you can avoid some faux pas by knowing some of the more common pitfalls in advance. The following are five DON'Ts and Do's to help you shine in your next job interview:

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• DON'T - Use "Dry Wit" in your Humor. There's nothing wrong with a little levity—but dry wit that's "too dry" can appear sarcastic and become risky. Tension may tempt you to use borderline-appropriate humor, for example. And in your zeal to be appear engaging, don't be tempted to speak informally as you would with a close friend. This it not the place to try out "new material," or you might be left with one small consolation: getting home early enough to beat rush hour traffic.

• Do - Remain Conservative in Your Presentation. It's wise to smile with confidence and be friendly, but err on the side of professionalism and calm. Even if the interviewer is overly friendly or the opposite: frazzled, and grills you, this is a good test of your ability to remain even-keeled. Show that you can withstand stress and remain cool. For example, no one was ever dismissed from being hired because they were too polite.

• DON'T - Let Your Nerves Make You Unfocused. If you're a Social Media Junkie who thrives mainly on the "Social," you may have trouble focusing on your required advance homework: the prospective employer. While social media can be the key to finding your next job, it can also become just a digital water cooler.

• Do - Try to Uncover the Lesser Known Facts. Make sure you allocate enough Internet hours beforehand to learn not just the basics about the company and its industry, but some information that is known mainly to industry insiders. This can often be found through trade journal articles online, for example. Your interviewer will be impressed that you went the extra mile.

• DON'T - Make Negative Comments. Refrain from making disapproving comments about your former boss, company, co-workers or type of work done. When the interviewer asks you why you left your last job, don't say, "I left my last job because my boss was ["insert negative phrase here."]

• Do - Find Something Positive to Say. Try to turn negative questions into positive answers. After all, there is a bright side to what you now have to offer. "It was a good job while it lasted," is probably true to some extent. Your desire to apply your background to greater growth avenues, specialized work, management experience, or other goals, convey a more positive, future oriented tone.

• DON'T - Come Up Empty When Asked, "Do You Have Any Questions?" When asked this question, do not give the "deer in the headlights" look, shrug your shoulders, or "just say ‘no.'" To do any of the above is a lost opportunity to find out more about the job and make a positive, lasting impression. After your question, you can also create an opportunity to state a selling point you didn't mention earlier. If you don't ask any questions, it may appear as if you're uninterested.

• Do - Ask Insightful Questions About the Organization. When you're researching the firm, jot down three or four relevant questions that showcase your up-to-date knowledge and interest.

• DON'T - Leave On An Off-Key Note. There are many ways to end an interview, and some can really mean "the end." A weak handshake, an over-the-top, aggressive promise (or threat) to follow up the next day, or hanging around just a little too long are minor infractions, but they won't help your cause.

• Do - Ask About the Next Step. Shake hands firmly and ask if there is anything else you can provide, such as references, etc., to take things to the next step. Let the interviewer know you're interested in the job. Then follow-up by phone or e-mail within a week or so, depending on the interest level and comments made.

It's easy to let the job interview blues bring you down, but if you're up for the challenge of infusing some new life into such a tough process—imagine what you can achieve once you land the job!

Lynn Taylor is a workplace expert specializing in boss and employee dynamics; she is the author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant

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