10 Common Mistakes
An interview is your opportunity to strut your stuff and also to learn about the company and their people. The most important ingredients to a successful interview are proper preparation and good listening skills. Here are 10 things to avoid while preparing for your interview.
1. Lack of Preparation
Once the interview is scheduled, do your best to get ready for it. Find out as much as you can about the interviewer(s): read up on the company, their business, and the position for which you’re interviewing. Prepare for the questions they’re likely to ask you, as well as the questions you would like to ask them. Formulate an objective, e.g., getting a job offer and learning enough about the company and their people to enable you to decide whether you want to work there.
2. Arriving Late
On the day of the interview, leave enough margin of error to avoid any possibility of being late. No one will remember your excuse for being late, only that you were late! If you are unavoidably late, offer a sincere apology just once, and then let it drop.
3. Improper Appearance
Every large company has its culture. This is likely to include a dress and grooming code and standards. The appropriate attire and grooming (e.g., length of hair, and use of cosmetics and jewellery) is generally what you see around you. If you’re in doubt as to what to wear on your interview, pay an anonymous visit to their facility during lunchtime and take a look.
If you expect the interview to last several hours, plan to wear clothing that will look neat all day. Bring a comb and whatever other “equipment” you may need to maintain a neat and tidy appearance. If it’s raining, protect your outfit with reliable rain gear. Do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to appear dishevelled.
4. Lack of Confidence
Are you confident of your ability to meet responsibilities entrusted to you? Would you hire someone like you? If not, then you need to learn to appear as competent and confident as you would like to be (and want others to believe you are). Of course, feeling confident doesn’t automatically make you competent, but it does create an atmosphere that is conducive to success.
5. Poor Attitude
The best way to approach an interview is with enthusiasm and an open mind. Treat everyone you meet with courtesy. If you decide during the interview that you don’t want the job, or that you may not be sufficiently experienced or qualified to receive the offer, chalk it up to experience.
Continue to present yourself in an upbeat and professional manner. If they’re giving you the courtesy of their time and consideration, the least you can do is to respond in kind. Practice manifesting a positive attitude – it’s a good habit to develop and maintain.
6. The Wrong Pitch
There are different kinds of interviewers, with different purposes. The personnel/human resources professional typically is there to screen people out to keep from wasting the decision-maker’s time. You don’t need to “impress” them, and you certainly can’t show them. They just want to ensure that you have truly and accurately representing yourself in your job application and resume.
When you’re interviewed by a screener, answer their questions as clearly and accurately as possible, but do not volunteer any additional information. They don’t need to like you, only to decide that you’re worth passing along to the decision-maker. Chances are you’ll never see them again even if you get the job.
The decision-maker, on the other hand, wants to feel comfortable with you and certain that you can do the job. This is where you may opt to turn on the charm, discuss more personal interests, and talk shop. They probably don’t have a lot of experience conducting interviews, and you may be able to get them to do most of the talking.
Professional interviewers are quick to notice inconsistencies, hesitations, and uncertainties. They may challenge something you say just to see how you respond. If you back off, change, justify, qualify, over-explain, or retract what you said earlier, they may suspect that you’ve been exaggerating or lying to them, and they’re likely to probe deeper. When someone responds to your statement with a sceptical look, a pause, or a comment, like “Really?” you’ve got to hold the fort. Just smile politely, nod, and wait for them to continue. If you become uncomfortable, you can always ask, “Have I answered the question to your satisfaction?” or “Was there anything else you wanted me to talk about?”.
8. Failing to Listen
The successful interviewee reads the interviewer’s tone and gestures and responds accordingly. This means paying attention, and knowing when to continue, change direction, or stop talking. Avoid potentially controversial and overly personal issues.
When you see their attention lagging, change the topic or, better yet, ask a question. Don’t get carried away with the sound of your own voice. Pay attention to the interviewer’s questions and line of conversation. Bear in mind that what they want to hear is more important than what you may want to say.
9. Losing Your Cool
If you are being interviewed for a high-level or high-pressure position, you may be subjected to a pressure interview. This can take the form of making you wait, having the interview interrupted (once or several times), inappropriate conversation or questions, and even rudeness or hostility. Most likely, you will never be subjected to such tactics, although some unpleasant situations (especially being kept waiting) can arise without intent.
The trick is to know yourself, your tolerance, and what you’re willing to put up with. If you react, do so with control and resolve, so that you won’t regret your behaviour afterward. It’s a matter of personal temperament and values…and perhaps how badly you want the job.
10. Blowing the Negotiation
If you get the offer, at some point you will have to negotiate your compensation package and any other benefits. Make sure that the terms of your employment, including responsibilities, reviews, and related conditions are defined and that you have a clear idea of what is expected of you. Don’t commit yourself to a salary or conditions that will make you unhappy.