Many people don’t feel confident walking into an interview. Let’s face it; it’s not something that we do every day and so it can feel like very unfamiliar territory.
Like any other important life skill, the ability to interview well is something that must be cultivated by learning and practicing proven techniques.
Unfortunately, way too many people walk into interviews without taking the time to prepare, and this approach can be very costly as they end up making mistakes that could have otherwise been avoided.
So with that in mind, we have compiled a list of 8 common mistakes that many interviewees are not even aware that they are making.
Consider this your personal interview audit, are you
making any of these mistakes right now?
1. Too focused on what you want, not what you can do
I see this more than I want to - candidates go into an interview with one question in mind, what can this company do for me? If this comes across to the interviewer it can be quite detrimental.
Remember, the interviewer also has an agenda; they want to know whether or not the person they are interviewing can help solve their problems. As candidates, our job is to demonstrate that we are up to the task, that we can make a difference.
Keep the interviewer’s agenda firmly in mind. Throughout the interview, aim to continuously reassure the interviewer that you are there to solve their problems and add value.
As part of your preparation, try to understand what challenges the company may be facing, or what market opportunities are available to them, and focus on convincing them that you can help overcome their challenges and exploit new opportunities. Listen in on earnings calls, check out their company YouTube videos, etc.
2. Not doing your homework
Effective and thorough preparation is absolutely key to interview success. An unprepared candidate can be spotted a mile off and their lack of preparation will reveal a lack of interest in the role. Candidates that are unprepared always get caught out and sometimes even called out on their lack of interest. This can be very embarrassing.
To prepare well for an interview you should work on the following:
Research the organization. Don’t just read their website, every candidate will do that, rather do some creative, out-of-the-box research. Read recent press releases and news articles about them or their competitors, watch videos on YouTube that might feature their CEO or top executives. Your aim should be to understand the challenges that the company is facing, then you can demonstrate in the interview how you can help them solve the problems that they are facing.
Research your interviewers. You should have been given their full names which will allow you to look them up on LinkedIn. Today, people’s social media accounts tell their story, they reveal a lot about an individual. LinkedIn is no different. Some deep-dive research will allow you to understand their priorities, passions, interests and will reveal any common ground that you have.
3. Displaying low energy
Interviewers pick up on this immediately (remote or in-person) and it can be very difficult to recover from. A low-energy candidate sends the message, “I don’t really want this job, but I'm here just because".
This is why we work so heavily on knowing your personality and the personality of others! While energy levels can be relative, a low-energy candidate will typically have a weak handshake, bad posture, will fail to maintain good eye contact, not speak clearly, will be slow to respond and give weak, un-engaging answers.
While you should, of course, be yourself in your interviews, you also need to remember that this is a performance, you are on stage. This is your chance to convince your interviewers that you are the person for the role.
4. Delivering unstructured answers
This really comes down to effective communication. Many candidates have a lot to say, they just don’t know how to say it in an effective manner. And they end up, what I call, verbally vomiting all over the interviewer.
When you are asked a question in an interview, it is imperative that you answer in a way that leaves the interviewer crystal clear about what you are trying to say.
In order to achieve this, it helps to follow a set pattern when answering questions, especially those that require detailed examples. I always encourage candidates to use the STAR technique which is particularly useful in competency-based interview situations.
- Situation – what was the context?
- Task – what was I asked to do?
- Actions – what were the specific actions that I personally took?
- Results – what were the results of these actions?
Answers that are not thought through and not articulated in a structured manner are ineffective and often call into question your communication skills and whether you even know what you are doing.
5. Forgetting about results
Many interviewees are great at explaining what they did in certain situations using the STAR technique but forget arguably the most important element – the results!
It doesn’t matter how you went about trying to improve your team’s performance, reduce a budget deficit or bring a new product to market if you fail to mention the results. The results of your efforts are how they will be judged to have been successful or not.
Always remember to be very specific regarding the results of your actions, this will require you to know your numbers and prepare some specific examples. It can be helpful to write out your examples using STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) before the interview so that the details will be easier to recall to mind when needed. (Pro Tip: if doing a remote interview, have a Google doc up and ready on your computer to look at OR use sticky notes placed all around the camera area of your computer!).
6. Simply failing to answer the question
This one does not get talked about enough, however, it is more common than people realize. I have heard many candidates provide good answers but simply to the wrong question.
It is all too easy to get caught up in the moment and assume that we understand what the interviewer is asking us.
Whenever I coach anyone for interview success, I always stress the importance of actually listening to the question. It is essential that we answer the question that we are actually being asked and not a different question.
Before you dive into an answer, take a deep break and ask yourself, “what have I just been asked?” If you are unsure, ALWAYS ask the interviewer to repeat or to clarify the question.
KEY: the next time you are talking, ask yourself this; “am I answering the question that I have been asked, or, am I just speaking about what I’m interested in?”.
7. Failing to ask (good) questions
Typically, at the close of an interview, a candidate will be asked if they have any questions. This is a fantastic opportunity, one that is sadly missed by so many people who either choose to ask no questions or who ask the wrong questions.
A candidate who asks no questions comes across as uninterested, disengaged and unconfident.
An interviewer will often give the opportunity for questions simply to gauge a candidate’s interest and the depth of research that they have completed.
Conversely, a candidate who asks the wrong questions can unwittingly reveal they are more interested in what the company can do for them and not how they can make a difference.
Some examples of bad questions
- What training do you offer?
- How many vacation days do you give?
- Do you give annual pay rises?
All of these questions are about ME ME ME, my priorities. A great candidate will want to know how they can help solve the company’s problems and make a positive impact.
Some examples of great questions:
- What are your biggest challenges right now?
- What does success look like 12 months from now?
- In my research I noticed that…is this a priority for you?
Great questions demonstrate that you are imagining yourself in the role, that you are interested in their agenda and that you have done your research.
8. Failing to end on a positive note
The conclusion of an interview is your chance to redeem a poor performance or solidify a strong one. It’s also an opportunity that many candidates miss and give too little thought to.
People remember how you end the interview more than how you began; this is where you leave a lasting impression.
Many candidates neglect to end the interview on a positive note, they forget to thank the interviewers and they do not set themselves up for the next stage in the process.
End on a positive note by:
- Thanking the interviewers for their time, tell them that you enjoyed meeting them.
- Ask about the next steps, if they give you a commitment for follow-up, they are much more likely to follow-through. Ask “When can I expect to hear from you?” Or “What are the next stages in the process?”
- Another great question to ask is, “Is there anything that you would like to ask me that has not come up in today’s interview?” this is a great opportunity for an interviewer to clarify something that may be concerning them, and your opportunity to make sure that you do not leave any loose ends or grey areas.
- If you feel that the interview has gone well, a great question to ask is, “How do you feel the interview went today?” If you put the interviewer in a position where they need to positively reenforce your performance, they are much more likely to follow-up with you and take you to the next stage.
An interview should NOT be left to chance, it’s all too easy to make small but serious errors that ruin our chances of being offered a great career opportunity.
Candidates who invest in themselves and work on their interview performance are many times more likely to succeed.
Interviewing is an essential life skill that should not be neglected.
If you have been fortunate enough to be selected for an interview, you will not want to leave the outcome to chance.
Effective interview preparation can be the difference between being forgotten the minute you walk out the door and being offered your dream job!Like what you read? Please comment and share!