So much of what we learned in school applies to interviews – do your homework, be on time, dress right for the occasion and play well with others. Yet as simple as that sounds, it’s not always easy and often overlooked. These common mistakes are guaranteed to blow the interview:
- 1. Inadequate Homework. The biggest mistake candidates make is in not devoting sufficient time to prepare for the interview. Research does not begin and end with reading the job description and the “About Us” page on the website. Sure, candidates need to know about the company’s history, products or services and market, but they also need to become familiar with the competitors, recent press or events, the leadership team, and background of everyone they will be meeting with. Not hard to do with all the information available at our fingertips, but the time it takes to research, digest the information and to prepare your own selling points and questions to ask, should not be underestimated.
Tip: When possible, buy the product, try the service or download the software. The more hands-on you become; the more knowledgeable and thoughtful you are.
2. Rambling. Nerves can get the best of us but it’s no excuse to ramble on or stray off point. Hiring managers want to know that you “get it” and can express yourself in a clear and concise manner. Do your best to anticipate questions that will be asked and polish your responses ahead of time. When asked something unexpected, stay focused on the question and on point with your answer.
A colleague of mine recently had a candidate interview for a software development role for a consumer product. When asked what the person would change about the product, the candidate gave an answer that had to do with the device’s hardware, not software. Not only was it a missed opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of the how the device functioned, and enhancements the candidate would suggest, it telegraphed to the hiring manager that the person was not prepared and the candidate was ruled out.
Tip: Always remember what you are there for and ensure every answer is to the point and about getting the job.
3. Overly Aggressive and Ambitious. You want the job and think you’re the right fit or you would not be there, we all get that. But just like managing your message, you need to manage the way in which you come across. Being overly aggressive – “I would be great at this and really want this job”, or overly ambitious – “What’s my career path and how quickly can I rise”, can be a real turn off.
Tip: Focus on demonstrating your confidence through knowledge and experience, and commitment by what you’ve accomplished.
4. Trash Talk. Easy to engage in and never a good idea. Leave negative opinions about past companies and colleagues at the door. Talking about them – especially those in common, might seem like an ideal way to engage and break the ice, but be careful. It’s often a test of judgment and character when candidates are asked pointed questions about employers and colleagues.
Tip: Remember to keep your comments on the positive aspects of the experience.
5. Sharing too much. I’m constantly amazed at how much personal information people reveal in interviews. We all want to connect with people we meet, but in this situation the connection has to be made on the professional level, not personal. The interview is not the place to talk extensively about hobbies, family, vacations or worse yet, health issues. Save the personal stuff for bonding once you’ve landed the job.
Speaking of personal information, don’t forget to manage your online presence. You can be sure employers will Google you ahead of time and check out all public information on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.
Tip: Know what’s out there about you and remove or edit where necessary.
6. Wrong day, wrong time. It’s common sense, but time and again people mess this up. Make sure you arrive on the correct day and 15 minutes ahead of time. Know where you are going – drive by the day before so you know exactly where the office is located and how difficult parking is in the area. If you can’t drive by, at least look up the address online and take printed directions with you.
You’d be surprised how many candidates don’t allow time to shift gears and show up to an interview distracted and unfocused, which is a sure way to fail.
Tip: Carve out enough time ahead of the interview to clear your head and focus your mind on the task ahead.
7. Bad manners. Probably the easiest and most overlooked thing to get right goes back to what we learned in school – play well with others and always say thank you. I am still amazed by the number of people who are dismissive or rude to support staff. They are the eyes and ears of the organization and more often than not, they are asked for their impression of a candidate.
Finally, always send a thank you note. Rarely does that happen anymore – maybe one in ten, and of those who do, many blow it with a typo or by sending it too late. A thank you note is not a tweet or text message – it is a short, personal note sent within 24 hours of the interview.
Tip: Snail mail stands out in today’s electronic world, so invest in cards and stamps and send a handwritten note whenever possible.