MONDAY BYTES — July 25, 2016
As a follow up to last week’s Interview “Bomb” story, here’s my checklist of favorite interview mistakes to avoid.
At one time or another, I’ve made all these mistakes, learning my lessons the hard way so you don’t have to!
The mistakes I’ve listed are in 3 groupings: specific mistakes in interview preparation, mistakes made in what you say during the interview, and mistakes in nonverbal communication.
Check these out and see if there are any others you would add—I’d love to get your input!
Mistakes In interview preparation . . .
√ Giving “canned” responses that sound over-rehearsed and inauthentic. Practicing answers to anticipated questions is good. Memorizing these so that you sound like a robot is not so good. Even worse is memorizing “right” answers or phrases that you find on line or elsewhere. Don’t do it.
√ Failure to research the organization / company and the interviewer(s) you’ll be meeting with. The easy antidote is to read up as much as you can on the web and social platforms so you’re prepared to discuss how you’ll fit with the culture and meet the needs of the institution.
√ Not having concise and compelling examples that effectively illustrate your relevant experience. You need 2 or 3 of these ready so you can “show don’t tell” how you work, what’s distinctive about your work, and what you value in doing the work.
√ Not having questions ready for the interviewees that demonstrate a knowledge of and interest in the field and in the organization. By doing your research in advance, and reading and reflecting on it, you can identify good questions to ask.
√ Having discrepancies between your CV/resume and your in-person account of your background and experience. This can happen if the candidate has “padded” her/his CV or hasn’t clarified which details to emphasize in the CV and in the interview.
During the interview, the mistakes you want to avoid . . .
√ Not actually answering the questions you are asked. Some of us think out loud, circling our answers with vague, roundabout blather when directness is called for. When you’re asked a question, pause and take a breath before answering. In that brief moment make sure you really heard the question, repeat it in your mind and take a moment to organize your key points—no more that 2 or 3 that best address the question. By pausing you will come across as thoughtful and your well-organized concise answers will impress!
√ Treating the interview as an interrogation. It’s not an inquisition: it’s a two-way street. You have something to offer of interest, otherwise you wouldn’t be there. The interview is a chance for you and the employer to check each other out and see if it’s a mutually beneficial fit.
√ Giving over-long answers to questions and not picking up on the fact that you’ve lost the interviewer’s attention. This is an aspect of “emotional intelligence.” Don’t be so set on saying the “right” things that you fail to notice the fidgety body language, wandering eye contact, and traces of discomfort in the interviewer’s facial expressions.
√ Bad mouthing a former employer, job, or co-worker. Keep your remarks positive. Find the silver lining. If there was a personality conflict that resulted in your leaving a position, you need to find a version of the truth that avoids the negative. “It wasn’t the best fit. And I found I wanted to cultivate new skills and take on the next challenge.” Don’t let any part of the interview get negative. Ever.
√ Coming across as desperate. Don’t be trying to please the interviewer. No one likes desperation. It’s a turn-off in any relationship, personal or professional. Even if you feel desperate to get the job, you need to practice coming across as confident, skilled, and aware of your value. Not arrogant, just balanced. Aim for coming across as professional and personable.
√ Not establishing a rapport with the interviewer(s). You need to come across as a human being, not simply a worker-bee. Show some personality: your interviewers are trying to get a sense of how you would fit in their workplace culture—and what you might be like as a colleague. Personality yes, but please no politics, religion, or risqué humor.
√ Bringing up the subject of pay or time off in a first interview. If you do this, you may be signaling to the employer that you aren’t enthusiastic about doing the work itself, only concerned about the compensation and fitting it around your other passion projects. The rule of thumb is to let the employer bring up compensation and benefits first.
√ Having a negative outlook. Nobody wants to hire a Debbie Downer! Do you come across as an optimistic and positive person? Bringing your A game to an interview includes your best outlook on life.
But it’s not just WHAT you say that can go wrong, there’s also . . .
√ Dressing inappropriately. This can seem superficial—after all it’s just clothing—but what’s NOT superficial is how clothing can make you feel. If you stand, sit, and walk more confidently because you are wearing professional and flattering attire, then it’s important to do so. For me, I absolutely feel more substantial and “put together” if I’m wearing a jacket or blazer.
√ Having a subpar handshake. You don’t want a wimpy or bone crushing, or perfunctory handshake. I never would have known to improve mine if my advisor hadn’t been direct and honest with me in the mock interview we did.
√ Using minimal eye contact. People can easily read whether or not you are comfortable in communicating with others. Eye contact is a key indicator.
√ Not showing enthusiasm for the opportunity. Do you convey energy and a genuine interest in doing the work? Does it show in your voice and facial expression? This is one more reason to do mock interviews with a trusted professional.
All this said, it’s been my experience that the people who don’t do well in interviews are rarely the ones who work on getting better at them.
All too often after a failed interview, candidates say “the employer just didn’t like me,” or “I did everything right—I’m just not lucky,” or “someone else must have had connections—it’s so unfair!”
If you’ve had multiple interviews and have not been offered positions, that’s a clue that could improve the impression you are making in interviews.
What to do about it?
For help improving your interview and networking skills, or to discuss your job search and career plans, I’m easy to reach at angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com.
Specifics about coaching with me are HERE.
As always, I love getting your input and comments: thanks!
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well