6 Common Interview Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

6 Common Interview Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

An interview is all about giving a potential employer the opportunity to evaluate you.

And judge you they do! You're going to be held to a very high standard of performance by your interviewers. Here are some common interview mistakes - and how to avoid them.

1. Lateness

If you arrive after your appointed time, it's pretty likely that you won't get the job - even if the interviewers still agree to meet with you. If you're late, the interview team will elevate their expectations of you that much higher. They will expect you to "wow" them; anything less will be a failure because you'll already have a major demerit in your column to overcome.

Solution: Leave early for the interview, allowing plenty of time for traffic snarl-ups, road closures, or other delays. Don't believe Waze, even if it tells you you're going to get there in plenty of time – the unexpected happens; it's better to allow extra time to sit in your car listening to Nickelback on the radio before heading up to the interview rather than cutting it close.

2. Dressing inappropriately 

In doing your research about the company culture, you find out that everybody there wears jeans to work every day. You show up to the interview in your dungarees and a polo shirt. When you arrive in the lobby, you spot some other job seekers wearing their finest suits. Whoops.

Solution: Always, always, always wear a suit to the interview. Don't assume that because it's a casual work environment that the interviewers will judge you any less harshly for your unprofessional attire. If you get there and the interviewer tells you to take off your jacket and tie, then, of course, feel free to shed them. But unless the person setting up your interview specifically tells you not to wear a suit to the interview, dress to impress.

For a more in-depth look check out Preparing For A Job Interview – What To Bring, What To Wear, & More.

3. Not acknowledging interviewers

You'll likely meet several people during the interview. Directing your attention toward one interviewer and ignoring another could inadvertently send the message that you're playing favorites, and might tick off an interviewer who feels neglected.

Solution: Treat everybody who interviews you (or greets you, for that matter) with the utmost attention and respect. If it's a panel interview (they're all around the table evaluating you), make sure you make eye contact with and speak to everybody. And when you're sending out "thank you" notes afterward, make sure everybody gets one. Even the receptionist.

4. Answering questions poorly 

Perhaps you don't understand the context of the question, and you give a wrong answer. Or you fail to give enough detail in your response. Or you just don't know what to say, so you wing it. The interviewer is, suffice to say, unimpressed.

Solution: Be prepared; bring a page of notes of topics to discuss. If you don't understand the question, ask for clarification. If you're caught off guard, ask the interviewer for a moment (literally, a few seconds) to gather your thoughts - they'll usually comply and think no less of you. Most importantly, know how to tell a story; interviewers ask behavioral interview questions (which usually start with, "Tell me about a time...") about your past experiences to see how you'll handle similar situations in the future.

Be prepared to walk the interviewer through your story using the STAR Interview Model (it's an acronym): Explain the SITUATION you encountered, then the TASK you had to address, the ACTIONS undertook to deal with the situation, and the RESULT of your actions. It's best to give stories that have a happy ending, and if it's not a happy ending, add a LEARNING from the negative situation. And do your research on the company; this is when it'll come in handy.

5. Rambling or ranting

You answer the interview question. Then you keep yapping. The interviewer's eyes glaze over. Then he looks at the clock. And then his watch. Trust me, he's grasping for something to say that will end the conversation.

Solution: Be aware of the length of your answers - if you're spending more than a few minutes answering a complex question, check your interviewer's body language to see if he is actively engaged in the information you're presenting, or looks like he's trying to politely hide his frustration or boredom. As a rule of thumb, if you're presenting a detailed story such as in a behavioral question, 3 to 5 minutes should be plenty for you to get the story out and leave time for follow-up questions.

6. Not asking questions

This is a deal killer. Not asking questions during or at the end of an interview tells the interviewer you either don't care or weren't paying attention. I've seen candidates ace an interview, only to lose the interviewers' interest when they say they've got no questions ready.

Solution: Make sure to get a few questions in. They don't even need to be brilliant. Try, "What does success in this role look like?" or "What are the biggest challenges the company faces in the next year?" Leverage your research on the company to ask a pithy question about their business.

For more on asking questions check out, Do You Have Any Questions For Me?

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