So, you are tired of your job, want to make more money, or maybe you desire to relocate. Whatever your reason, it’s time to find a new job. After submitting application after application and cover letter after cover letter, you have finally received an invitation to interview. The worst thing you can do is commit one of the common interview mistakes that executive job seekers make. The good news is, if you are reading this before your first interview, it’s not too late.
1. Poor appearance
It’s sad to say that this interview mistake is even on the list. You would think at the executive level people would know how to dress for an interview. But sadly, that’s not always the case.
Sometimes, senior-level professionals feel a sense of entitlement because they have been in the industry so long. Despite what you might think, conservative business attire is the safest way to dress. I don’t care if the company has a casual dress code. Interviews are considered formal events unique from day to day dress code.
You can feel free to dress casual once you are hired.
2. Interview vs. Interrogation
There is a big difference between an interview and an interrogation. An interrogation is when one individual asks all the questions while the other gives all the answers. This is not how your interview should be conducted.
An interview is a professional business conversation meaning it is a two-way street. It is your responsibility to screen this position and make sure it is a good fit for you, just like your interviewer will be making sure you are a good fit for the position.
Not only is asking questions useful for choosing a quality company, but it shows the interviewer that you have standards and are not desperate.
3. Lack of preparation
Lack of preparation is a huge interview mistake that executive job seekers cannot afford to make.
As an executive, it is your responsibility to show strategic management skills, thought leadership, and a brain that goes above and beyond the average person. Lack of interview preparation displays none of those traits listed above.
It is absolutely crucial to take some time to learn about the company you are interviewing with, the person interviewing you, and the position you are interviewing for.
Research the company
At the very least, you should be going to the company website and Glassdoor. The company website should feature pages such as “about us” and “services” where you can learn more about the company and the product/service that they offer. Find out what they do, what their mission is, how they are organized, where are they located, if they have subsidiaries, etc.
In addition to the website, Glassdoor is a great resource for you to read company reviews from current and past employees. Reading positive reviews about the company culture, management style, and environment is extremely useful for showing a keen interest in the company you are interviewing with. If you want to increase your chances even more, check out company videos on YouTube, read the latest company news, and visit sites such as CrunchBase which allow you to view recent funding, read about the founders, and so much more.
Research the interviewer
Another absolute necessity (when possible) is researching who you will be interviewing with. If you have an interview scheduled, more often than not they will say who you are interviewing with. Look that person up on LinkedIn, send them an invite to connect, and find some common connections on their LinkedIn page. Maybe they have posted an article lately that shows you their interests, or maybe they graduated from the same college as you. Whatever it is, creating a connection with your interviewer is sure to help you become the most memorable candidate.
Research the position
Researching the position is possibly the most important research that you will be doing. A huge interview mistake is thinking that all interviews will be the same. This is almost never the case. You can guarantee that every single skill/responsibility on the original job posting will be mentioned in the interview. Before the interview, you have the opportunity to read over the job description and come up with your pitch.
Go through each responsibility and answer to yourself when/where/how you did each of the tasks. If the job posting says “Manage a team of 16 engineers by creating schedules, reports, and conducting weekly team meetings” you better make sure you have an example where you have done something similar.
If you have never done something on the job description, compare it to a similar task you have done in the past that would involve similar skills.
Being too enthusiastic, surprisingly, is a huge interview mistake. The same can be said for someone who is not enthusiastic enough. So, how do you find that happy middle ground?
It is a fact that if you express and exhibit enthusiasm for the work you do and the company you are interviewing with, you are much more likely to receive an offer. A hiring manager can quickly pass on a candidate simply because they felt they would not be happy in the position. Maybe you were just trying to play it cool and not seem too eager, but that can be a killer. The hiring manager should feel confident when you leave the interview that you are either interested in moving forward and joining the team, or, you aren’t. Don’t play hard to get; this isn’t high school dating.
On the other end, over-enthusiasm is an equally harmful interview mistake. Are you over enthusiastic because this is the first interview you have had in years and you are struggling to land a job? Are you over enthusiastic because they are paying you more than you deserve? Although those might not be the reasons, there is no way for the hiring manager to know that. Don’t come off as desperate, but don’t play hard to get either. If you are interested in moving forward, just say that you think your skills align well with the position, company, and culture, and you are interested in moving forward in the process and being a part of the team.
While it is important to ask questions about your future boss in the interview, it is also important to do it in a professional way. Do not mention how horrible your previous boss was when asking questions about your future boss. Negativity is never the answer, and it is a real buzz kill for the interviewer. It’s very likely that your last boss or company was a handful of bad words, but nobody wants to work with a complainer. To make this simple, don’t spread an ounce of negativity no matter what!
6. Too much information!
I can’t tell you how many interview mistakes I have witnessed where the person interviewing babbled on and on about their past experiences. Talking about your experience is fine if it’s relevant to the new job. Think about what you are saying before you say it. Are you talking about skills and experiences that you feel are exciting but aren’t relevant to the new job?
If so, KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid. I can promise you that if the interviewer wants more information on a certain topic, experience, or skill, he or she will ask for it. It’s better to be short and to the point than to talk too much and say something that can be used against you.
A great tactic is answering their question in a 30 second or shorter answer, and following up by asking an educated question on the topic.
Employer: “Do you have management skills?”
Job seeker: “Yes, I have over 15 years of experience managing large teams, small teams, remote teams, and in-office teams. What kind of management style is XYZ Company looking for?”
7. Bad questions
As you have probably heard a million times, no questions = bad questions. It is important to ask questions throughout the interview (don’t just wait until the end). Again, the interview should be conversational. You should be asking questions almost as frequent as the interviewer is asking questions. However, it’s important not just to ask questions for the sake of asking questions. Your questions should be well thought out, in context, and something that you couldn’t find out in a 30-second Google search before the interview.
Don’t ask about vacations, paid time off, promotions, raises, benefits, etc. At least don’t ask these questions in the first interview. These questions indicate that you are only interested in personal benefits, rather than the actual job.
Do ask questions that came up during the interview, or during your pre-interview research. If the interviewer tells you that they are looking for someone to lead their remote team in the Philippines, you may ask how many team members the team consists of, what software is being used to communicate with them, and what the time difference would be. You can also ask questions like, what is an average day like? What happened to the previous person in this position, etc.? Or, personal questions like, “Can you tell me about your career and what led you to XYZ Company.”
These are all reasonable and appropriate questions which show an understanding and interest in the job you will be performing and the people you will be working with.
8. You did not WOW! them
“Wowing” your interviewer comes down to the little things you do. It could be as simple as having a relaxed conversation that leads to a chuckle or preparing a brag book with your past successes. Interviewers are looking for a certain skill set, but they are also looking for a great culture fit.
You have probably heard this 100+ times, yet you have never actually done anything about it. If you go into an interview like a stiff, you probably aren’t going to get the job. Nobody wants to work with a stiff. Everybody wants to work with someone they could enjoy grabbing a beer with after work. Hiring decisions are hugely made based on the flow of the interview. Don’t be stiff, be a cool cat.
Now, while it is possible to “Wow” your interviewer in a negative way, we want to avoid this. You would be surprised the number of times I have been “Wowed” in a negative way. If someone asks you a question like, “What is your favorite book and why?” and your answer is, “I don’t really like to read,” then congratulations, you just “Wowed” the heck out of me. Go above and beyond the average person’s answer. If your favorite book is Tom Sawyer, don’t just say it. Explain why. Explain how you have always been adventurous, love to travel, etc.
9. Not asking for the close
If you have been in a sales role before, you probably know what this means. Asking for the close is when you conclude an interview by asking for next steps, red flags, etc. Yes, it is perfectly OK for you to flat out ask your interviewer what they thought about you.
“After learning a little bit about me, my background, and experiences, do you see any reason why I would not be a good fit for this position?”
“It was great speaking with you today and learning more about this position. I think my skills are a great fit for what you are looking for and I believe in what your company is doing. What are the next steps that I should expect in the interview process?”
It is important that you not only ask for next steps but reiterate that you are interested in the position and are a great fit.
10. No follow-up
This is a new one for me, but I have recently become a strong believer in it. Following up after an interview is an essential step that helps set you apart. Again, it is the little things when combined that will make you stick out from the rest. Not sending a follow-up is a huge interview mistake, especially for executives.
I used to think this is something you sent a day or two later; I was wrong. You are going to want to send this follow-up/thank you email as soon as you get home from the interview. Do not put this off; it is non-negotiable. If more than one person interviewed you, make sure to make separate (do not use the same content!) emails.
This includes the external recruiter that connected you to the opportunity in the first place. Click here for a sample thank you letter.