The CMO of a leading HR software company has revealed the most common mistakes made during pandemic era job interviews, such as consuming a takeaway coffee and having an untidy background during virtual interviews, and what is and isn’t acceptable for interviewers to ask. Research found that the United States unemployment rate was at 5.8%* in June 2021 which is nearly half (11.1%) compared to the same time in 2020 (11.1%), so in response to this, the HR company wanted to offer advice to potential job seekers. 

The CMO of a Leading HR and People Operations company, who is also the author of two New York Times People Operations best sellers, has revealed his top interview advice, as well as an interviewee’s rights when it comes to answering certain questions. 

The company, Zenefits, has published the advice in a bid to help job seekers, after research revealed that the employment rate in the United States is at 5.8%* in June, which equates to 19 million Americans who are out of a job.

The most common mistakes made during a job interview according to Zenefits CMO Kevin Marasco:

• Criticising previous employers - whatever the reason for leaving previous employment, criticising a past employer does not give off a good impression. That doesn’t mean job seekers should lie, but changing language to say things such as ‘the company culture wasn’t right for me’, or ‘I believe I would fit in better elsewhere’ is a polite way to address the topic.

• Using buzzwords without meaning - interviewers are time-strapped, and using buzzwords that various candidates before and after have also used isn’t going to make an impactful impression. Words such as ‘motivated’, ‘innovative’ and ‘trustworthy’ are overused. If there’s no examples behind the claims, don’t use those words.

• Consuming food or drink - it might seem natural to turn up with a takeaway coffee to an in-person or virtual interview, but this can look unprofessional. An interviewee doesn’t want to be remembered as the one who spilt coffee down themselves. Additionally, snacking on your lunch or chewing gum does not give a professional first impression.

As well as Kevin’s expertise, Zenefits surveyed  over 1,000 hiring managers to delve further into the problems which occurred over the past year. 

• 44% reported work gaps between the start of the pandemic and current date, that the interviewee could not explain

• 38% reported excessive noises and interruptions during online interviews

• 18% reported discrepancies between LinkedIn profile work history and their digital resumes

• 10% reported their candidate did not show up on time to their Zoom interview or had trouble with the technology

On the other side of the interview process, the interviewer also needs to follow correct rules, etiquette, and even laws. Kevin Marasco explained that it is illegal for interviewers to ask questions regarding age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion or marital status. The list is not exhaustive, but states some of the common topics that interviewees may not realise they don’t have to answer. It is also illegal to ask about previous salary history in some states such as California and Alabama. Kevin suggests that interviewees research the laws and regulations in place in their state prior to an interview, so they are aware of what topics are acceptable. 

Zenefits is a platform committed to streamlining People Operations.  Their mission of helping small and midsize businesses succeed, from hiring to everyday employee management.  Zenefits provides a wide variety of tools – such as streamlined onboarding and benefits management, to org charts and performance reviews.

Kevin Marasco, Editor-in-Chief of Workest at Zenefits, said,

“With the people-first nature of Zenefits, we are always looking for ways we can offer valuable advice to job seekers, employers and employees. We know that job hunting and interviews can be difficult in the best of times, and with remote working thrown in, plus people being out of work for prolonged periods, we wanted to share some advice which will hopefully help people navigate these challenging times!

“Although some of the advice may seem like ‘common sense’, you wouldn’t believe how many people forget these little things. Unfortunately, with job interviews, first impressions really do count, so making sure you are prepared is necessary for success.”