What are the common job interview mistakes most jobseekers are making?
Learning how to pass an interview is crucial if you are serious about getting a job.
While there are tons of mistakes that I see job seeker make, I decided to take a back door seat and hear from other practicing HR in the industry.
I reached out to some HR professional and asked them this single question
“What are some common job interview mistakes most jobseekers are making “
And they were gracious to share errors they see job seeker mistake.
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Name: Sam Samarasekera
Website: Jefferson Frank
It may sound like a simple piece of advice, but it’s vital that you approach it with a professional mindset. The most common mistake I see is people just not taking it seriously enough. Ultimately, a job interview is one of the most professional situations you can be in—it’s a meeting that will dictate whether or not someone will employ you, so it deserves to be treated with a good degree of respect. Arriving late, not dressing appropriately or failing to do any basic research beforehand are huge no-nos.
I recently interviewed someone who couldn’t tell me a single thing about our company. That’s an incredible level of disinterest at a time when you should be most keen to make a good impression. If you can’t make that base level investment of your time, it leaves a huge question mark over how reliable you’ll be as an employee, regardless of your ability on paper.
“Although some of the interview will be about assessing whether you have the skills and experience to be an asset to the organization, a big part of the process is gauging your cultural fit. Making a bad first impression leaves an interviewer with reservations that are really difficult to shake off when it comes to deciding whether to hire you.”
Name: Timothy Wiedman
Interview Tip #1: Proper Attire: Dress for the job you're seeking
These days in many organizations, wearing "casual Friday" clothes has become the standard "dress code" all week long. So in that sort of setting, what would be the expected attire during an interview for a management position? While "business casual" might be acceptable, could an applicant ever know that for sure?
The point is, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Given the competition these days, it can be very difficult to get an interview at an "employer of choice" in the first place. So why would anybody want to risk "under-dressing" for an important interview? Dressing up makes most people feel more confident about themselves, and that confidence will positively impact their tone of voice and general demeanor during the interview process. Further, confidence is a trait that most employers value, and it can set one candidate apart from the others. So smart candidates (regardless of whether they are male or female) will dress conservatively and wear their best suits to an interview for a management job -- even if it's a (so-called) entry-level position. If some of the interview sessions turn out to be informal, an applicant can always ask, "Do you mind if I take off my jacket?" Ultimately, by using this approach, each potential boss or colleague that a candidate meets during the interview process will see him or her dressed for success. And positive first impressions make a job offer much more likely!
Interview Tip #2: When asked, "Why should we hire you for this position?"
Employers are generally looking for the best "fit" that they can find after considering the characteristics of the candidate, the position to be filled, the culture of the work team, and the organization's overall mission and philosophy. In essence, they are trying to complete an organizational jigsaw puzzle, and there's a missing piece that has to be found. However, only certain pieces will fit properly.
So when asked, "Why should we hire you?," you need to tell a potential employer what YOU can deliver (in terms of education, experience, skills, abilities, talents, interests, or aptitudes) that might uniquely match the requirements of the position in question. And even if you don't actually have full-time managerial experience in the business world, you may have high school or college experiences that could be of interest to a potential employer. Some possible examples might be:
Some common threads among these positions? They provide an indication of persistence in pursuit of a goal and/or leadership abilities. And those traits may well be of interest to recruiters who seek new-hires with management potential.
Name: Armida Markaraova
There are two mistakes that stand out the most with job applicants during the interview process:
Name: Tom Dofli
The interview is the most delicate part of the job-hunting process. If you are called for an interview your CV looks interesting and the employer wants to find out more. The mistakes job seekers commonly make at this stage are caused by a widespread underlying issue - failing to see the bigger picture. Candidates look at interviews from their own perspective and forget that the interviewer is there to answer three questions:
- Does the candidate show to possess the skills, knowledge and experience required for the role (and stated on the CV)?
- Will the candidate be a good fit for the company culture and the role?
- Is the candidate easy to work with?
Miss one point and the opportunity is lost. The most skilled candidate won't make it through if it's a difficult person to work with or misaligned with the company culture.
Nail all three and you will stand out immediately. Whenever you hear the advice "you need to stand out at interviews", you do it by showing the interviewer that you are a "yes" to all his questions.
The common mistakes revolve around these questions and fall into the following categories:
1. Not performing due diligence.
Sounds trivial but the number of candidates that show up to interviews without proper preparation is surprising. This is the step you can't skip because it will help you avoid all the other mistakes. You need to know all the crucial information about the company and the role you are applying for - if you can't take the time to prepare or, even worse, think it's not important, what does it tell the interviewer about you? How are you going to be a good fit or to use the skills you claim to have? It shows low interest and lack of professionalism.
Even if you have relevant experience and qualifications, make sure you are aware of the company's recent developments, the company's mission and vision, the products and the industry.
Rule of thumb: you are properly prepared when you can confidently explain in which industry the company operates, the technologies adopted or developed, what the company does, the products or services offered and who the customers are, focusing on the areas that the role you're applying for touches the most.
Bonus tip: try to connect with someone that works or has worked at the company to gain extra insights.
2. Not paying close attention to the interviewer and the questions asked.
The interview is a conversation, not an exam or a test, and you are not a student anymore. The interviewer has to evaluate your skills and experience, but also your overall personality as a potential employee that will be collaborating with other members of the organisation. Your personality and attitude will be taken into consideration and personable candidates always reach better outcomes. This is not to say you have to break jokes, but rather pay attention to the interviewer and showcase your personality and values. The first rule to engage in a good conversation is to listen, so pay attention to the kind of questions you are asked - it will help you understand the interviewer's concerns and address them with precise answers. Some of these questions might carry underlying meanings that you can detect if you've done your due diligence. For example, questions like "where do you see yourself in 3 years" could be asked to test how long you plan to stay at the company, what kind of aspirations you have, how determined you are to progress within the organisation etc.
If the interviewer asks generic questions, like "what hobbies do you have" or "what do you do in your free time" don't start talking endlessly about your passions but rather use the answers to show traits of your personality that suit the role and the company. Maybe you take classes (enjoy learning), you run events (entrepreneurial), you enjoy the physical activity (hardworking and motivated) or play in a team (good collaborator).
Rule of thumb: As human beings, we are naturally drawn to like people who make us feel comfortable and the best way of doing it is to feel comfortable yourself. Sure, you will be nervous but doing your due diligence (point 1) will help you feel at ease as you will be confident and prepared. This will also improve your mood as you won't be as scared and anxious, appearing more relaxed and creating a positive environment.
Bonus tip: Some questions can catch you off guard or be brain sizzlers designed to test your thinking process. Whether you get a brain sizzler or a question you don't know the answer of, don't panic and show the interviewer how you think in order to find the solution. Your thinking process is as important as your knowledge, if not more so for specific roles. An example:
Q. "How many ping-pong balls could you fit in this room?"
A. "This room could measure 6 meters in width, 3 in length and 2 in height, which makes its volume equal to 36 cubic meters. A ping-pong ball has a radius of approximately 2 centimetres so its volume is of around 34 cubic centimetres. Since it's cubic units, it takes a thousand units to increase by one order of magnitude meaning that I could fit more than a million ping-pong balls in the room."
If you don't know how to find the volume of a spere or other technical information, is fine - in that case, you'd say something like: knowing the volume of the room and the volume of a ping-pong ball, I would simply divide the volume of the room by the one of the ball to find the solution.
3. Not adding value.
The most successful interview is the one that shows what it would be like if you were already an employee. Companies hire professionals that can add value to the organisation so if you can do the same during the interview, you will be noted. It doesn't mean that you have to provide a business or a tech solution on the spot and revolutionise the company, but if you've done your due diligence, you might have spotted something that can be improved or have some ideas. When you present ideas or notes during an interview, you are proving that you are willing to add value to the organisation which means you understand the company and the problems it's facing. Most importantly, it shows the interviewer that you are passionate about it and proactive (not just reactive) so you would probably be a good employee.
Rule of thumb: As you are preparing for the interview, look for areas of improvement or opportunities that the company has not experimented with. This might be something that a competitor is doing or something that has proven successful for your previous employer, so make a list of ideas or possible opportunities that you can share during the interview.
Bonus tip: Act as if you were already covering the role or simply voice what you believe makes an organisation operate better. Even if your suggestions have been tried in the past or aren't feasible, you will be perceived as a stronger candidate.
4. Not asking the right questions (or questions at all).
Since the interview is a conversation, you should be asking questions. Most candidates don't, either because they don't really care or because they are too scared. The interviewer is your best chance to find out more about the company, what it's like to work there, the management style, the culture, the kind of employees they go after etc.
Ask questions to understand if the company is a good fit for you, remember that is a two-way process: the interviewer is evaluating you while you evaluate the company. Plus, asking relevant questions (not just any question) tells the interviewer that you care about the role, you are not just there to get a paycheck and it reinforces your proactive and passionate attitude. Not asking questions is associated with generic candidates who are fine working everywhere and for everyone, which is not how you want to come across. Simply put, it's a sign that you would be a good employee and it plays with the other steps I've explained.
Rule of thumb: You should leave the interview with all the information you need to make a decision about your next move. That means that you should have asked questions regarding the company, the employee, the management and the role in order to fill any gap not covered by the job posts or the interviewer.
Bonus tip: You've done your preparation so you know everything about the role and the company but pretend that it was your first day of work, what information would you need to know? Those are the answers you should be looking for. If you can't think of anything, you can ask information about the rest of the people in the team, what happened to the person that was covering the role before you or even what plans the company has for the future.
Name: Kathleen Steffey
Website: Naviga Recruiting
In my view, lack of preparation kills the chance of being selected.
There are so many actions to take in order to prepare for the interview properly. I've seen many candidates make rookie mistakes, even in the prime of their career. Below are my top 5:
Name: Adrienne Tom
A few common interview mistakes that job seekers make, preventing them from moving forward in the process include:
Job seekers who make critical mistakes during interviews tend to not come into the interview with a story of self. In other words, they don't have at least two- or three-minute answers to fundamental interview questiosn, ones that should be easy to answer. Such questions include "Tell me about yourself," "What are your greatest strengths?" and "Tell me about a time when you needed to work on a team."
When preparing answers to these questions, you want to quickly tell the interviewer the situation, what you need to do, how you executed your task, and the results you procured from your efforts. All told, you need to communicate to the interviewer what exactly you did and the results that came about from your efforts. If you keep your answers focused, you'll be able to cover different moments from your career without coming off as scatter-brained. You need to make sure your responses comprise of enough details that they are remembered once you leave the interview room.
Name: Sean Sessel
Website: Oculus Institute
1. Lack of confidence: This cannot be hidden. 55% of communication is through body language, and 38% is through tonality. Because 93% of communication is through means that are primarily under subconscious control, lack of confidence will be blatantly apparent. If you don't have faith in yourself, why should anyone have faith in you?
2. Failure to communicate enthusiasm: Employers want employees who are self-motivated instead of people who are going to show up for a paycheck and do the minimum. If you don't convey that this is a job that you really want to do, then you'll probably lose out to someone who does. Take a step back from trying to sell them on why you're such a good candidate for them so that you can authentically convey why they are such a good environment for you.
3. Basic courtesy: Far too many people don't demonstrate basic warmth in their interactions, especially with people they don't think are decision makers. Trust me; people talk. Be respectful and pleasant with everyone you meet; look them in the eyes and smile. For the people who spent a significant amount of time with you, send them authentic thank you note with nothing but gratitude. A major part of a job interview isn't about just whether or not you can do the job but also whether people can see themselves enjoying working with you."
Name: Emily Frank
Website: Denver Careercatalyst
There are more things, of course-- some people answer the question they wish they were asked instead of the one they were actually asked for instance. But those are my top 3, the things I see over and over when I prep my clients for interviews.
Website: Nigel Wright
Lack of preparation/research is the main factor alongside general interview experience, i.e if in a job for a long time, then might not be comfortable/used to be in an interview setting.
Further on preparation, not knowing your own responsibilities and key achievements, i.e what have you done, how did you do it and what was the outcome/result
Differentiate between what did YOU do vs what did the team do
Not answering the question, i.e not being specific enough to the answers, links to the bold text above
Name: Sussan Lucas
Many job seekers decide that they want the job before they interview! You can't know much about a job or a company culture or how you would get along with the boss by reading a job description. As a result, they focus on selling themselves in the interview, rather than focusing on if this would be a good fit for eveyone.
Name: Nick Glasset
Website: Origin Leadership
Without a doubt the mistake that most job seekers make that cause them to not get offered a position is that they actually treat the interview like a first date! They’re trying to pander to the needs of the company and to be a candidate that they will want to hire. When you try to impress the interviewer just so you can get hired, you won’t come across as confident and capable, instead you’ll appear hesitant and unsure of yourself. Just be yourself! Do your homework on the company, pick out your favorite outfit, be ready and prepared... but show up as you, not as what you think they want.
Name: Laura Spawn
Website: Virtual Vocations
By the time you’ve gotten to the interview stage, you’ve already made it past the biggest hurdle: the slush pile. Recruiters, especially those looking for telecommuting professionals, often find themselves inundated with hundreds of resumés for a single job posting. If you landed an interview, this means you were among the best of the best.
But you’re still far from a shoe-in. Many jobseekers stumble in their interviews because they fail to prepare ahead of time for what’s ahead—and that doesn’t just mean getting up early to get ready and printing out a few hard copies of your resumé. In addition to presenting yourself as a clean, prompt professional, preparing for an interview means preparing for what you’ll be asked and how you’ll respond.
For this, we often recommend to jobseekers that they create themselves a script with answers to common interview questions or questions they anticipate being asked. The contents of your script will vary by industry, but regardless of your career field, craft your answers in a way that ties back to your resumé and cover letter and makes you memorable, and don’t shy away from using persuasive and industry-specific language that proves you know what you’re talking about. In a virtual interview, you may be able to reference your script (or notes from it) during your actual talk with the recruiter, but if you're interviewing in person, it can still serve as a useful study guide as you prepare for the big day.
Name: Missy Scot
Website: Missy Scott
There you go.
A list of the top job interview mistakes recruiters are seeing. By sharing their insights with us, we hope you do not make such mistake in your next job interview.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this expert roundup. It was quite insightful.
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