You can’t land your dream job without nailing the interview. This in-person opportunity gives you the chance to showcase your professional value and prove why you would be a great hire. But even the most seasoned careerists can have trouble interviewing. So instead of focusing on what you should do, here are some common interview mistakes to avoid at all costs.
Excess Baggage – arriving at your interview with too much stuff is problematic. Pare down your luggage, handbag, even your wallet (avoid the wallet bulge) so you follow the less is more rule. Carting your overnight suitcase into the callback because you are catching a flight after the interview is your problem not your future employer’s. Ask if you can store your overcoat, umbrella, luggage, etc. somewhere in the office while you are interviewing so you move about easily with a slim portfolio or folder to carry your extra resumes, references and pad and pen.
Drinks – just because there is a coffee shop on every corner does not give you permission to enter your interview with a decaf latte or a bottle of water. Don’t carry a beverage into the interview but if they offer you something during your meeting, always take the water. You may not be thirsty at that moment but you will appreciate it later. If you spill your drink, water dries clear while soda, coffee and other drinks will stain. Go with the water.
Perfectionism Red Flag – nothing makes an interviewer’s hackles rise more than when a candidate talks about being a perfectionist. The HR translation for perfectionist is that you are difficult to work with and will never let go of a project. That can be a deal breaker and cost you the job. In most cases, the candidate is simply trying to showcase their detail orientation so stick with that description and cut the “P word” from your interview vocabulary.
Lack of Research – some discerning interviewers start the conversation by asking candidates: “Tell me what you know about this company.” This will send you into a panic if you haven’t done your research so be sure to go beyond the company website and speak with people who also know the organization to learn what you need to in order to be interview ready.
Wardrobe Malfunctions – your interview suit looks fabulous cleaned, pressed and ready to go in the dry cleaning plastic but what if it doesn’t fit anymore. Clothing that is too small or too large sends a signal that you don’t care and that you are not prepared. Try your interview outfit on in advance of the interview so you don’t risk pulling a Janet Jackson during this important professional encounter.
Technology Fumbles – your smart device ring tone is set with the Rolling Stones classic – I Can’t Get No Satisfaction and it just went off during your interview. Game over. Seriously, if it beeps, lights, buzzes or vibrates, leave it at home or make sure it’s really powered off.
Run-ons and Rambling – practice makes perfect so while you are polishing your interview answers make sure you keep them efficient and to the point. Nothing kills a candidate faster than tangential, unfocused answers that go on and on without an end in sight. Engage in active listening as a candidate and listen to yourself while also sensing the body language of those listening to you. If they are fidgeting, texting and multi-tasking, chances are you lost their attention with irrelevant rambling.
Defensive Interviewing – all interviewers are not created equal and some are not trained to ask the candidate compelling questions. Others will ask illegal or inappropriate questions and some will try and see if they can make you squirm. While this sounds like professional torture, your goal is to remain unflappable, upbeat, and professional at all times. If you get defensive it shows how you might react under stress in your work environment so breathe deeply and remain calm.
Thank You All – the art of the handwritten thank you note is still very much appreciated after an interview and can set you apart as a candidate. If you met with multiple people – addressing one note to “Dear All” will be the kiss of Human Resources death. Be sure to write individual notes to all those with whom you had a substantive interaction. It’s time consuming but well worth the effort in the long run.
With over a decade of career and professional development coaching experience, Caroline Dowd-Higgins has a desire to empower and energize people to achieve their personal goals. Her training style is engaging, high energy, and positive with a focus on unlocking the self-advocate within each of us. Read more from Caroline at carolinedowdhiggins.com.