Most people admit to being nervous going into a job interview – in fact many would say there is nothing more nerve racking than a job interview. Recruiters don’t usually go out of their way to make candidates feel uncomfortable; however creating a tough interview experience can challenge candidates to perform under pressure. What are the biggest mistakes made, and how can you avoid them?
If your application was a success and you’ve secured an interview – congratulations! That’s a great achievement in today’s competitive job market! If you’re feeling uneasy about the interview, you’re not alone. Make these mistakes and it could cost you the job.
MISTAKE # 1 – Not knowing much about the company – you will most likely be asked what you know about the company and why you want to work there. This should be one of the easiest questions to answer – if you’ve done your research. Review the company website, LinkedIn, Facebook and other Social Media pages before your interview. Get a feel for the company culture and how it matches your values – workplace culture is very important and an area of increasing focus for employers to ensure candidates are a good long term fit. Use or review the company’s products if appropriate. Do a ‘google’ search so you can read recent media articles that are not controlled by the company. This often uncovers issues or situations that may be appropriate to discuss.
MISTAKE # 2 – Not being well prepared – it’s amazing how many people don’t recall what they did in previous roles. It isn’t acceptable to say “it was so long ago, I can’t really recall”. Under pressure, you can’t just ‘wing an interview’. Taking time to prepare by reviewing your job history and creating quick mental or physical lists of areas to discuss is essential. A better option is to prepare mini success stories that demonstrate the value you provided – have these on hand to help you articulate your experiences and accomplishments more clearly.
MISTAKE # 3 – Not dressing appropriately – dress neatly and ensure you are well groomed. The actual attire you wear will vary depending on the role and company but if you research the company first, you can decide what would be expected. If unsure, err on the more conservative side.
MISTAKE # 4 – Arriving late and/or flustered – work out where you’re going and how you’re getting there before you leave. If you’re catching public transport, catch the earlier service. If you’re driving, know where the parking is and allow extra time in case of last minute problems. There is nothing worse than arriving red faced after running to make it on time or, worse still, arriving late. It really does give a lasting negative first impression.
MISTAKE # 5 – Lying or stretching the truth – not knowing your true value could lead to the temptation to stretch the truth. Be prepared to talk about yourself, recent projects, and accomplishments so when you are asked, you have some accurate things to say. Focus on achievements made for current or past employers and demonstrate how you’ve handled different types of scenarios. If you’re asked if you’re good at something that you’re not – be honest, but give it a positive spin if you can. You could say something like “Well I wouldn’t call myself a whiz, but I have been learning more recently, and have been able to solve some fairly complex issues.”
MISTAKE # 6 – Making non-verbal mistakes – body language is one of the most important aspects of an interview with many psychologists believing non-verbal communication can reveal more about what we are thinking than what we actually say. It is therefore essential to pay close attention to your body language – so it supports what you are saying. In summary, pay attention to the following: smile, limit hand gestures while talking, retain good posture, maintain eye contact (but don’t stare), don’t cross your arms, match your facial expression to what you’re saying, and avoid fidgeting. For more information, read our previous article – Body Language – 8 Tips for Interview Success.
MISTAKE # 7 – Bad-mouthing a previous employer – this is never appropriate. All it does is make you look like someone who might be difficult to work with. If you accidentally say something negative about a former employer – simply say “Let me re-phrase that” and move on with a more positive approach.
MISTAKE # 8 – Talking too much about what you want – and not about what you can offer. Ensure your answers are succinct and to the point. Research common interview questions and practice appropriate answers before-hand, so you have an idea of what you might say in response to different questions. Understanding the company, the role, and the needs you meet is key to being able to successfully talk about what you can offer in the role.
MISTAKE # 9 – Failing to differentiate yourself – being able to set yourself apart is essential. Identify your unique skills and qualities and again practice talking about them. You’ve landed an interview and now it’s time to impress. Don’t come across as bored or uninterested – make an effort to show your positive approach and explain why you’re different to others.
MISTAKE # 10 – Not asking for the job – if you’re interested, show it, and say so. You could also follow the recruiter up with a short email to reiterate your keenness.
Securing an interview is tough these days, so being prepared is essential. Recruiters use interviews to test candidates’ performance under pressure because people who think quickly are an asset in business. Concentrate on the interviewer and the questions they are asking. You only get one chance to impress, so make it count.
Would you like some assistance to prepare for a job interview? Are you keen to overcome your nerves, build confidence and increase your success rate? If so, please see our Interview Skills Training service.