The worst mistake any candidate can make in an interview setting; be it casual, phone or face-to-face. Simply put it is going negative.

As we often tell our clients, always focus on the simple fact that all contacts are interviews and all Interviews are Auditions. No matter how innocent that “contact” appears, it is and will always be an interview. Be careful of what, why, and most importantly “how” you say what you do. Everyone likes commiseration, but in this current intense world of transition, negativity has no place. Transition today is a zero tolerance arena. No pun intended, never let your “guard” down.

The surest way to guarantee the failure of any interview is to allow yourself to go negative “at any point” during that interview. It is irrelevant, how bad or miserable the job situation, product, people, compensation, or market place is or was; during an interview you must keep it positive.

Search for something positive to say. Practice what you will say again and again, until you are comfortable. Keep it short.

If you cannot find something positive to discuss during an interview, then have a minimal story about the past, and move on. Talk about your accomplishments, not disappointments. If the past story is so bad and you can not find anything good or positive to say. Say nothing! This also applies either to small talk, before, during or after the interview. This suggestion applies especially, to “casual conversation” such as at coffee, lunch, or snack, dinner or in the parking lot of a building. As I said above, it does not matter how horrible the “situation,” negativity has no place in any interview situation.

Do not fall into the trap, sometimes purposely laid, of conversation vs. presentation, or “sales call” vs. a social visit. Your job during any interview setting is that of a sales person. If you fail to close, secure, “ask the client to be engaged,” or whatever euphemism you use for “ask for the order,” you will not be treated to a return visit.  All the preparation in the world cannot cover for that first negative statement or innuendo. Your intent must be to be asked back, not to get or feel sympathy or empathy; you must be an opportunity for the hiring authority. (Remember, Broadway here we come!)

I have always advised my candidates to be aware that All Contacts Are Interviews. Below, is an example taken directly from my book or website that illustrates best what I have been saying:

I thought this email from a candidate would be interesting to my readers. It was sent to me after a group discussion that I had explaining that every contact regardless of how incidental, or innocuous it may seem, IS AN INTERVIEW. The next week this respondent had an interview and wrote the following.


I wanted to relate an incident to you that occurred on my recent out-of-town interview. Proves your point that you can never be too careful about who you talk to during the process.

I had received an e-mail from the interviewing company that they had arranged for me to be picked up at the airport by a first line manager. During the 30-minute trip from airport to the company location I had a very pleasant conversation with this gentleman, Bob, who explained that this was his “third career”, that he was happy with the firm and that they were doing well. He volunteered no additional information.

It wasn’t until later in the day, when one of the execs in the interview process asked about my trip in, that I learned Bob’s real identity. It turns out that Bob, in addition to being the company’s Purchasing Manager, is also the father-in-law of the company CEO and lives next door to his son-in-law.

I’m not sure this was a deliberate set-up, but I’m certainly glad I was on guard during the conversation.


Horatio Candidate

Going negative may or will cost you an offer, or even the opportunity for a second interview. Many interviewers are looking for you to go negative. They may indeed try to get you to go “there.”  They encourage it and seem so understanding when you do. However, once you do, you are eliminated from consideration. The Hiring Authority is testing you to see if “after” you come on board whether you will be negative or disruptive influence at work.

The best way to protect yourself is to commit your “story” to writing. Practice it, refine it, make it positive, then practice it again until, you feel comfortable. Have a third party, preferable one who is impartial, listen to it. An interview is possibly the most important sales call you will ever make. Do not interview until you are ready! Inner anger even for good reasons begets rejection.

Some of the key words for success in an interview are:  “individual responsibility”, “team” , “planning”

Some of the deadliest words, attitudes, or phrases in an interview are: “blame”, “fault”, “not my responsibility”

Every interview is your audition for the road company to the client’s play. It is your demonstration of how you will act when you are by yourself in the field or on the job. Regardless of the position you applying for, it is a window into the future of you as a future possible representative for the hiring authority dealing with “his/her” clients. Not only is your future job on the line so is the hiring authority’ current job. As I have said before, the Hiring Authority’s job is more important to him/her than offering you a job. There are all three tenses going on in an interview: past, your present and the Hiring Authority’s future.

Since all interviews are always a combination of a “sales call and an audition.” A poor performance may not get you either applause or hired, but a “negative” interview, although you may feel better and that you are being treated well, will not get you hired.

The “glass” can be either half full or half empty, it is up to you! An interview is always more perception than fact. It is always an attempt by both parties to get to know one another. It is a give and take; but the interviewee is not ever in the same position as the interviewer. Our system helps equalize the interview situation, but remember it is not a conversation. Watch the “code” words above, you are being judged in many ways, verbal, nonverbal, and statistical, but especially by PMA.

Watch your answers in a mirror, before you give them on stage.

If you have found these concepts useful and want more in depth Information; please check out our book, CD’s and website at

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