Are You Blowing the Interview Before It Even Starts?

Finally, it's happened--an invitation to interview for a job.

Have you already blown your chance before you put one hand on their office's door? You may be surprised to learn that the way you respond to the initial inquiry sets the tone and influences employers' impressions before you've even met. Are you sabotaging your interview before you start? If any of these points sound familiar, you may now know why you didn't get the job:

You didn't follow instructions. You receive an email or a phone call inviting you to interview for a job, along with a series of steps to take to schedule an interview. Are you sure you always read and follow those directions? If the employer asks you to respond with several dates and times, and you send a quick note with one date you're free, it's likely you've already told the employer you can't follow instructions and you're not attentive to details, no matter what you claim on your resume. Don't think they didn't notice.

You're slow to respond. If you include an email address on your resume, employers assume it is a good way to reach you. (Most, if not all, will expect to be able to contact you electronically.) If you don't typically monitor your email inbox, and you wind up responding to an invitation to interview a week after you received it, the employer probably figured you were not interested and moved on to other candidates. Maybe email is not a part of your typical daily routine, but when you're in job search mode, it's up to you to keep an eye on your messages at least once a day.

You don't seem flexible. An employer calls on the phone to schedule a time to meet, and your response to every suggestion is "no." Even though the organization may not cancel your chances entirely at this point (it may be required by law to follow through with an interview), you will have a difficult reputation to overcome when you meet in person. Employers are afraid to bring people on their teams who seem difficult. If you prove that you're not flexible during the interview-scheduling phase, you've given just enough information to convince many employers that you're not a fit.

You use bad judgment about when to answer your phone. We all have mobile phones, but that doesn't mean we need to answer them every time they ring. If an unfamiliar number pops up on your phone when you're struggling with traffic or in a loud environment, don't answer it. If it's an employer trying to ask you some questions or an assistant calling to schedule an interview, you won't be able to respond professionally. It's better to let it go to voice mail and respond at the earliest opportunity you have to be in a quiet place where you can take out your calendar and jot down some key notes.

You over share. You've been waiting forever to hear from this employer, and you're so nervous when they ask to schedule an interview, you can't stop talking. It may be charming if you express excitement about the opportunity to interview, but you'll start to lose points quickly if you transition into a complaint about how long it took them to get back to you. If you want the job, keep it professional and don't offer any opinions about the process.

You miss key details. Just because you live in Boston and the job is in Miami, don't assume the interview will be over the phone. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to not assume anything when an employer contacts you. This is especially important if you're in a different city than the job. You may be surprised to learn that the employer expects you to handle your own expenses to travel for the interview. You don't want to find out after-the-fact that you're footing the bill.

Don't schedule anything before you consult your calendar. If you're currently working, make a point to review your work and coverage schedule to be sure you aren't getting yourself into a bind in your job. You don't want to endanger your position for the chance to interview for another job, and you don't want to call a potential employer back to try to reschedule because you made a mistake.

First impressions last--make sure your target employer's first impressions of you are positive so you won't have any ground to make up when you actually interview for the job and you'll give yourself the best chance possible to win the position.

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success.

Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.

More From US News & World Report