By Wise Bread

U.S.News & World Report LP

Wed, Feb 1, 2012

First impressions still count when it comes to nailing the interview for that new position, but there are several other things you need to think about as you settle into the hot seat. It only takes a few minutes for a prospective employer to size you up and decide whether you'll be a good fit for the position. A single quip, remark, or even a facial expression could send the wrong message and knock you out of line for the job. Polishing your interviewing skills can help you communicate better and ensure the interview is smooth sailing.

Here are seven things that will turn off any prospective employer during the interview process:

1. Trashing your former company. Too many people fall into the trap of complaining, whining, or downright trashing their former boss or company. Remember that your prospective employer is still trying to find out what you could bring to the company and is looking for professionalism. Talking negatively about your former boss, coworkers, the work environment, or anything related to the company only spells trouble in the eyes of the prospective employer.

2. Demonstrating a lack of direction. Being flexible, open-minded, and eager to learn is one thing, but claiming that you really don't have any specific goals or idea of where your career is headed is quite another. If you can't articulate what you expect to bring to the company or position, how this position is a good match for your career path, or how you intend to excel in your industry, the prospective employer can simply write you off as lacking any direction. Most hiring managers are looking for focused and driven self-starters. Make sure you're demonstrating these traits so that you increase your chances of getting hired.

3. Being too desperate. Obviously, you want the job and probably need the job--that's why you're interviewing for the position. Just don't let any signs of desperation leak into your voice during the interview, or act desperately after the interview. Follow up with the hiring manager with a simple thank-you note and then wait for the response. Too many follow-up calls, letters, or emails can turn off the employer and leave them wondering why you aren't a "wanted' candidate by anybody else.

4. Arriving too early. Arriving earlier than 10 to 15 minutes for the interview could make you seem desperate (see #3) or simply overeager. It could also disrupt the manager's schedule. Arriving late communicates the message, "I couldn't get it together for this meeting" and doesn't win you any points. Plan your schedule around the big interview so you don't arrive too early or too late. Being punctual is a way to show respect and will earn some extra points.

5. Having the money talk. Most interviewers won't even bring up salary ranges and benefits until the job offer is extended. Don't jump the gun by asking the hiring manager what the pay scale is for the position. Your first interview should focus solely on what you can bring to the position and cover any questions you have about the nature of the position. Put yourself in the employer's shoes and think about what makes you hirable--without the money in the picture. At this stage, this is your chance to prove you are the best candidate for the job, regardless of salary and benefits.

6. Anxious behavior. Looking at your watch, tapping your feet, looking away from the interviewer, and acting impatient are a few signs of nervousness and anxiety. Make sure you're mentally prepared for this interview so that you don't come across as scared, timid, or passive. For example, you can gain confidence by studying the most common interview questions to get a sense of what you can expect. Confidence is always an attractive quality and you need to prove to the hiring manager that you truly are the best fit for this position. A great way to gain confidence is to study.

7. Dwelling on accomplishments and successes. Even if you were the company rock star at your former job, don't let that be the focus of your interview. If you're getting ready to start a new job and career with this company, you need to show the hiring manager what value you can bring to them in the future. While your accomplishments and successes are a valuable addition to the resume, your interview needs to focus on what you plan to do in the future and how you plan on helping this company be successful. Unless the interviewer asks for a rundown specifically, don't make this interview about your success story. Shift the focus to key skills and talents you have that will help your new team and company instead.