How Dress Rehearsals Can Prevent Interview Mistakes

One time when warming up to start an interview, I asked a job candidate, who went by her middle name, what the initial M for her first name stood for. She began her interview with a 30-second rant about how she hated that name: Martha.

That's my mother's name.

She noticed how I reacted and stopped short. "Oh, no," she blurted. "That's your wife's name, isn't it? Or your mother's."

She turned red, but we laughed and she recovered.

Interviews, the key moment in any job search, is the time when we are most likely to make mistakes, according to a recent survey by Accountemps, a specialized temporary staffing company.

The survey found that 32 percent of chief financial officers polled said "candidates are more likely to slip up during the interview than at any other time in the application process. Another 28 percent of executives felt job applicants make the most mistakes when writing their resumes."

How can this be? We do all the work to land an interview and then we walk in and flub it.

Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps, said in a release about the survey that it all comes down to a lack of preparation. That includes not being armed with knowledge about the company and the position.

Prepare for an interview by arranging a dress rehearsal. Actors do it. Musicians do it. Military personnel do it. Prepare for the interview by having one or more friends pose as interviewers and ask you real questions that might come up.

Ask them to grill you -- really grill you -- on your knowledge of the company, your ambitions and your experiences. Practice your elevator speech, the short anecdotes that convey your skills and even the opening so that you don't wind up in a situation where you have to back-pedal from insulting the interviewer's mother.

Questions about interviewing? E-mail Joe for an answer.

Coming Monday: Do job interviews and tattoos mix?

  • Joe Grimm

    Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website.


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