Boiled down to its essence, a job interview is simply a test of professionalism. An interview assesses not only your professional skills, but your ability to act professionally. It's a two-way street, though; unprofessionalism can come from the interviewee and the interviewer alike. No matter which side of the table you're on, it helps to know the red flags and how to avoid raising them.
What Not to Do
On the interviewee side, you could dedicate a novella to unprofessional behavior, but some no-no's are particularly offensive – starting with arriving late. In the modern era, hiring managers often cite an interviewee answering a call or texting during the interview as a deal breaker. Dressing inappropriately -- whether you're sporting flip-flops or a wrinkled tee -- follows closely behind on the list of interviewer complaints. Other things that set off the unprofessionalism alarm include lying; getting too personal; focusing too much on leave policies, pay and perks; swearing; and bad-mouthing former employers.
On the flip side, there are some things you can do during an interview that build a case for professionalism. In addition to showing up on time, turning off your cell and dressing smartly, do your research; show a little investment in the company and know your facts up and down. Show your interest by staying positive and enthusiastic and asking intelligent, specific questions about the job. Always follow up with a thank you letter or brief phone call a day after the interview.
The Employer Side
As an employer, you're not immune to unprofessionalism. Some things that reflect poorly on the interviewee look just as bad for the interviewer, including being late, fiddling with your phone or otherwise showing a lack of interest. Smoking and eating during an interview or propping your feet up on the desk are out of the question. As a rule of thumb, be as professional as you expect each of your interviewees to be.
How to Deal
If you find yourself subject to an unprofessional interviewer, counter it with professionalism; the best thing you can do is maintain your bearings. Never let a distracted interviewer interrupt your focus; keep trucking as though the interviewer is held rapt. If the interviewer harasses you or makes you feel uncomfortable, keep your dignity intact by politely – but firmly – ending the session and leaving.
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