You are a hard worker and have great skills. You finally got the interview for your next step! Be successful by avoiding these common interview mistakes.
1) Not Preparing: Not being prepared can really kill your chances before you even open your mouth. If you don’t know about the job, understand the basics about the company, etc.
Instead: Do a little research – as a matter of fact most of the mistakes below can be corrected with a little preparation. Read the website, read the job posting (every word) twice. Prepare some questions about the role. Prepare some key qualifications/strengths you want to communicate. Practice! Know how to get there so you don’t get lost. Leave early.
2) Showing Up At The Wrong Time: On-time IS late! 15 minutes early is too early and one minute late – forget it!
Instead: Plan to hit the parking lot and park in the back 15 minutes before your interview. Spend 5 minutes reviewing your resume, key talking points, information about the company, etc. Then plan to approach the receptionist 5-10 minutes before the interview. If you have the cell phone number of the person you are interviewing with – you can even shoot a text letting them know you are in the lobby signing in.
3) Dressing Inappropriately: Don’t wear a suit to start-up video game company. Don’t wear a sleeveless shirt to a professional sales job interview. Don’t wear v-neck with a push-up bra and 5″ stiletto heels. Don’t wear perfume, large flashy jewelry, or heavy make-up.
Instead: Do some recon and find out what people at the level in the company you are interviewing with wear. Then you want to dress a little better than that. If everyone is wearing jeans with knit shirts – wear khakis with a nice blouse with some conservative jewelry.
You can find out by asking a HR person that is scheduling the interview, you can call and ask the receptionist, you can even hang out in the parking lot and see what people are wearing (just don’t get creepy stalkerish).
Good rule of thumb: Professional positions (anything over $65k a year) wear a suit with a nice blouse underneath. Office positions you can wear a nice blouse with a skirt or dress slacks and 1-2″ heels. Neutral colors – or muted colors are best. Skirt should be no more than 1-2″ above the knee (at or just below the knee is a safer bet). People will judge you first by what you look like – look your best!
4) Showing Up Empty Handed: I have seen this a lot of times – a candidate shows up with nothing but a smile and their smart phone. This signals to the employer you aren’t prepared and don’t really care about what they are going to tell you about the job.
Instead: Have 2-3 copies of your resume on good resume stock paper printed, a pad of paper, and a pen or pencil with you. After you make introductions, ask if they would like a copy of your resume. Take out your paper and pencil! Take notes on key things they tell you – what they are looking for, when they are going to fill the role, next steps, etc. Also you can have a few bullet points written on the paper about what you want to make sure you share during the interview.
5) Not Understanding the Job: If you don’t know what someone is looking for, how are you going to know what experiences, knowledge, and skills you should talk about? You only have 20 minutes to get someone to start thinking about how you will fit into the company and if you aren’t talking about relevant qualifications, they will think that you aren’t a fit.
Instead: Find out as much as you can before the interview about why the role is open and what they are seeking in addition to what they have listed in the job posting. You can also ask at the beginning of the interview “I have reviewed the job posting, but I would like your description of what is most important in this role, can you share that with me before we start?”
6) Using Weak Language: Using words like “I think” “I believe” “maybe” or just plain not telling people why you would be awesome in the role – is the biggest mistake women often make during the interview process. If you feel insecure when you say it – you are communicating to the other person that you don’t believe what you are saying
Instead: Be able to in 3-5 sentences tell someone why they should hire you. Practice it with someone supportive but honest – several times out loud. Remove the weak language or the qualifiers.
Turn “Well I think I can learn that – what kind of training do you have on the software?” into “I am a quick learner and can teach myself if you don’t have some sort of formal training. How quickly do I need to pick it up to be successful in the role?”
Be able to in 3-5 sentences tell someone why they should hire you.
7) Bashing an Old Employer or Boss: When you get the question about why you are leaving your current company or about your worst boss – do NOT under any circumstances reply with a dig at your old boss or company.
Instead: Come up with some accurate but politically correct ways of responding. Instead of telling a future employer that your boss is an idiot who always blamed you for their mistakes and took credit for all your work; you want to state something like “I am seeking a company culture that is more aligned with my values of teamwork, accountability, and recognition for achievement.” You will get some follow-up questions around this – so be prepared to refocus on what you are looking for in a new role.
8) Failing to Give Specifics: Answering questions with vague responses about what your duties were, but not telling them what the good outcome was is a big missed opportunity for candidates. Not giving specific examples also implies that you may be exaggerating your role in the situation. Some people just don’t believe things without evidence to back it up!
Instead: Start with answering the question with a little background (like 2-3 sentences; not your life story) , then what you did/the decision you made, and the outcome or the result of the decision. You don’t want your answer to be 5 minutes long – but telling a story of what happened and what you did can make all the difference in whether someone believes you have the experience you say you do.
Example: “Yes I have managed sales teams. When I worked at ABC company from 2009-2012 I was the operations manager which included leading a team of 8 sales people. In my tenure, we grew sales from $2.5 to over $10M while reducing the cost per sale. I did this by doubling the sales team, building lead generation process, and created a targeting strategy for a niche market so the close ratios increased. What specific sales management skills do you think are most important for this role?”
9) Inappropriate Questions/No Questions: Employers ask this question to allow you to interview them to make sure that you want the position and want to work for the company. It is a big missed opportunity if you don’t have questions prepared.
Also don’t ask questions that are all about you. There is a time and a place to find out this information and at the interview isn’t one of them! Here are some you want to avoid:
“What is the pay for this position?”
“What are the benefits?”
“My kids are in daycare, can I leave at 5pm every day?”
“I really need to focus on school, so I don’t have to travel do I?”
Instead: Have 5 questions prepared around the expectations, the company culture, or what they are trying to accomplish. The point is to have you drive the conversation and uncover what they want from someone in the role, so that you can close with why you are the best candidate. Some example questions would be:
“What do you believe is critical for success in this role?”
“Tell me about the culture of the team I will be working with.”
“What are your expectations for someone in this role during the first year?”
“What are some key accomplishments you want to see from a person in this role?”
“Tell me about your expectations for work hours and overnight travel in this role”
10) Not Asking For the Job: So the interview is winding down and you think you did really well. You thank the person for their time and then you frantically wait by the phone for a week wondering why the phone isn’t ringing.
Instead: Ask 1-2 questions at the end of the interview that let’s you know where you stand. If everything is positive ask for the job!
“Do you have any concerns about offering me the role?” This is a great question for any interview – because they may have misunderstood an answer or didn’t hear something they wanted to. If you are dealing with an honest person they will tell you. I have used this one myself and was able to address their concern. It was the difference in me getting the job offer.
“This sounds like a great opportunity and I am excited to get started, what is the next step in the process?” This is a great ending question – because it will allow you to start the dialog of what the next steps are and whether you should hear back from some one with a time frame.
If this is the last interview and you really have all the great signals – just ask for the job! “I really think that this is a great fit for us to work together. I would really like to start working for you in the next month – how can we make that happen?”
Looking for a partner that help you prepare for that big interview, give me a call.
-Stephanie Simmons; Career Coach