By Marcus Leach

The gruelling interview process in The Apprentice final last night, while entertaining, will have had many viewers squirming in their seats. Sadly, the programme is just a snapshot of the many awkward interviews that take place across the UK every day as candidates fail to adequately prepare for interviews.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation's (REC’s) Institute of Recruitment Professionals have highlighted some of the feedback from recruiters which confirms that both candidates and employers are often ill-equipped to get the best out of job interviews. Unfortunately, many candidates are set up to fail before they even set foot in the interview room, as the following anecdotes from recruiters show:

Drunk on the job
• Several recruiters reported candidates turning up for interview drunk with one candidate opening the interview with “Sorry if I smell of booze and am a bit vague, I was up most of the night on the bevvy.”

Phone faux pas
• A candidate asked their interviewer to give him a minute to check his emails and then proceeded to go through his blackberry. Another left his phone on during an interview and when it rang, proceeded to pick it up and have a chat with his friend

Wardrobe malfunctions
• One candidate applying for a senior role chose to ditch the safety of a suit and instead, arrived at his interview wearing a big woolly jumper which was entirely inappropriate for the role in question

Lack of preparation
• Many candidates fall at the first hurdle when asked the obvious interview opener of “tell me what you know about us”. A frequent response is “not a lot” with one candidate going as far as to say “I only had two days to prepare for this interview so I haven’t done any research and don’t know anything at all about your company. ”

Lisa Jarvis, the IRP's South East Regional Director, says:

“These examples paint a worrying picture of jobseeker attitudes towards interviews and the world of work. The feedback from recruiters has identified some classic examples of what not to do in a competitive jobs market, but the message is clear. It’s essential that jobseekers take time to properly prepare so they can nail the opportunity that a formal interview provides.”

Recruiters from the IRP were asked to reveal some of their top tips for interview success based on some of the classic errors made by the hundreds of candidates they deal with each month:

Dress for success:
• Four in five (83 per cent) of recruiters have had feedback from a client about a candidate’s appearance
• Candidates wearing clothing that was “too casual” was the most common complaint followed by poor personal hygiene, revealing clothing and inappropriate footwear.
• The 21-25 age group are the worst offenders followed by 16-20 year olds

Stick to the facts:
Recruiters are agreed that most candidates are prone to some degree of exaggeration during interviews.
• The biggest indication that candidates are lying is that they are unable to communicate knowledge detailed in their CV, according to 45 per cent of recruiters.
• Thirty-four per cent also said that candidates contradicting themselves during the interview was a common mistake

Employer turn-offs:
• Bad chemistry with the candidate is the biggest turn off , according to a third (31 per cent) of recruiters
• 27 per cent said that a client being ill-informed about the company was a big-turn off
• Interestingly, 17 per cent said that rather than talking too much, candidates talking too little was a problem

Susie Ankrett, IRP Regional Director for the West Midlands, added:

“The ‘cringe-factor’ from last night’s show may have provided entertainment but there is still the serious point that both businesses and candidates need to get better at interviews. For employers, ensuring that that those conducting interviews are properly trained and briefed is not only key to identifying the best candidate, it also ensures they know the right procedures and are aware of regulations that cover the recruitment process.”

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