Over the years, I have had an opportunity to observe many people during their job searches. Most people are pretty careful about how they present themselves, but there are some glaring errors that have been deal breakers for even the most talented candidates I have worked with. The owner of a small engineering firm in Auburn called me, after posting a position on the web, to say that he had selected the candidates that he would be interviewing. He was astounded that he had received a number of cover letters that were so poorly written that he will not even consider interviewing the candidates who sent them.
Having errors in your cover letter or on your resume will instantly turn the employer off. The resume and cover letter review is the first screening that an employer does of the potential candidate. Why should they waste any time on someone who cannot get it together on paper? I worked with one job seeker who came to me wondering why he was not having any luck getting an interview. After looking at his resume for about five seconds I noticed he had Microsoft spelled wrong... NEVER SEND ANYTHING WITHOUT PROOFING IT or having someone else proof your work. Often times, we miss our own errors because we see what we expect to see, so solicit the help of someone who writes well.
Stumbling into an interview late is just plain rude and is not going to win you a job. Always plan for unexpected delays and build plenty of time into your schedule. Plan to arrive at your interview thirty minutes to an hour early. Even if there was a traffic jam, it is a lame excuse to present to an employer you have kept waiting. And if the employer is interviewing multiple people on a tight schedule, your interview will be cut short.
Arriving for an interview unprepared is a major mistake. It shows a distinct lack of interest in the job and a basic disrespect for the person interviewing you. Average preparation time for a successful interview is about six hours. Figure you are studying for the ultimate final, the one that makes all of that education pay off. What is involved? Well you need to know yourself thoroughly: list your goals, your greatest strengths, your interests, your related work experience. Do an inventory of who you are. Then do some research on the company. Figure out what technical information you need to study. Study old notes from past training and classes, and find current articles on the company and the industry. Then, put it all together. Why are you qualified for the position and what do you need to share about yourself in the interview to get the job? Assemble a portfolio of your work to share with the interviewer. Hewlett Packard, or example, expects to see samples of your work from your senior project or other significant projects you have worked on.
Rambling on in the interview about irrelevant information is a waste of the interviewer's time. I once worked with a candidate who had just finished his MS in EEE. He was getting interviews but he was not getting any job offers at a time when everyone else was landing the jobs they wanted. I had him come to my office prepared to be interviewed. He came in dressed in his suit, with his resume and his portfolio, and a list of questions he was being asked. I proceeded to interview him. I started our mock interview with "Tell me about yourself." He responded that he had grown up on a farm in Patterson, and his performance went down hill from there. He spoke about his farm and his dog. That is not what the employer wants to hear. The employer wants you to tell him/her who you are relative to the job you are interviewing for. He started again and told me that he had built his first computer in a 4H club and that this experience had propelled him toward his engineering degree and a focus on electronic engineering and computer architecture.
Failure to maintain good grooming and personal appearance. A sloppy appearance in an interview indicates to the employer that you are careless and unprofessional. It is absolutely required that you have a professional looking interview outfit and that you maintain it by having it dry cleaned regularly.
Failure to maintain a positive attitude. This is perhaps the hardest one to remember after you have been rejected by multiple employers. It takes three to six months minimum to find a job. Looking for a job is a full time job! You will have to devote all of your efforts to the goal of getting a job if you expect to get results. You will have to be utterly positive for the entire search. If you walk into an interview with a dejected look, you have blown the interview before you even open your mouth. You must truly believe that you do not qualify to be permanently unemployed and that the perfect job will come along. It will help if you burn off stress with some serious exercise plan that you execute each and every day. And each and every time you walk into an interview, you must say to yourself: "If this job doesn't come through, something better will." And you must believe it!
Sweat the details and get help if you need it!