5 Common Interview Mistakes - and 1 Kiss of Death - You Should Avoid to Land Your Next Best Opportunity
During my early career, I remember being excruciatingly nervous for job interviews. My hands would sweat, my heart would race, and my mind talked in circles for days. The day of the interview was flat-out awful. One time, prior to an interview officially starting, the recruiter was making typical small talk, probably trying to calm my very apparent nerves. Because I use humor to diffuse situations when I am nervous, I made a lame attempt at a joke, and for some reason, stated there were only 356 days in the year. I got an odd look and instantly regretted waking up that day. Needless to say, the recruiter did not move me forward to the second interview.
It’s normal for candidates to be nervous during the interview process. My nerves stemmed from lack of interview experience and preparation. Fortunately, I have learned from my mistakes, and the mistakes of other candidates when I meet with them. Here are five common mistakes to avoid - and one kiss of death - so that you can land your next best opportunity.
1. You know nothing about the company or organization:
Recruiters and hiring managers are thrilled when a candidate shows up having done their homework about the company. Research the company before the interview by checking out their website, understanding the services/products offered, and the company's mission statement or values. While you do not have to take a masterclass on the company, know the basics and then some. Take notes and see if you can incorporate what you have learned with answers to possible interview questions.
For example, you could say, “I understand that this is a new position with the company, due to growth. One of my key strengths is flexibility; at my last job, I also worked in a newly-created role, and I learned that flexibility is key when incorporating a new role with existing positions.”
2. Inability to explain how your skills translate to the opportunity at hand:
By the time you are ready to have the interview, you absolutely should have read everything you can – the job posting, the job description, researched what the company does – and be able to explain how your skills make you an excellent candidate for the position. What skills do you have that are similar and adaptable to the position you are interviewing for?
For example, you could say, “Being a team-player is key to the role, based on what I read in the job description. In my current role, I am part of a seven-person team. We learned to communicate effectively using Slack. It avoids us clogging up our inbox, and we are able to quickly respond to issues or new ideas.”
In this example you show not only soft-skills (being a team player and communication), but also a technical skill (Slack).
3. Not knowing or communicating your strengths - and how they can help you succeed:
Every person should know their strengths! I recommend knowing three top strengths that you bring to the table and being able to communicate those strengths effectively. In fact, in all of the interviews that I conduct, I typically ask, “What strengths do you have that make you stand out as a top candidate for this position?”
Knowing what you do well, where the experience comes from, and how it could apply to the position at hand is a key component to a strong interview.
For example, if you are applying to an executive assistant role, you could state, “My key strengths are strong attention to detail, being highly organized, and communicating effectively with people at all levels. In my last role, I implemented an Asana board to track projects. Because this was new to the organization, I had to explain how it worked, and how other employees would use it. I developed a series of short Loom videos for training purposes, which helped just about everyone understand how to use Asana.”
4. Not knowing your weaknesses - or opportunities for growth and professional development:
As a recruiter, I always ask this question of candidates. Everyone (yes, everyone) has some aspect of their work style or professional experience that is a weakness, where they can further grow professionally. While you might think this is a “gotcha” question, it actually shows that you are humble, know where you need to improve, and how you plan on improving.
For example, you might state, “One of my weaknesses is that I tend to say “yes” to every project that comes my way - and I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed. I really enjoy helping others, but now I often state, ‘Let me think about that, given my current workload. Can I get back to you by tomorrow morning?’ This gives me time to assess what I can and cannot help with, and also time to advise my supervisor about additional work.”
Now there are things you want to avoid saying here. I once had a candidate tell me that his weakness was getting up in the morning and being on time for work. While I appreciated the truthfulness of the statement, he did not move forward in the interview process.
5. Having zero questions at the end of an interview:
Recruiters or hiring managers expect you to have some questions as an interview wraps up. If you do not, then it shows you have not really thought much about the job, the company, or how you could be a part of the organization. Asking about possible career paths, the training provided, or even the next steps in the interview process are all appropriate questions during a first interview. I counsel candidates that you should avoid asking about benefits and vacation time at this stage - that should be discussed later.
The Kiss of Death Question that No Interviewer Wants to Hear
While I stated that you should have questions at the end of every interview, there is one question you absolutely should NOT ask:
“Please tell me more about your company. I didn’t have time to do much research before our interview.”
It’s the kiss of death!
Now, at this point of the interview - and given how you probably answered the inevitable, “why do you want to work here?” question, the recruiter or hiring manager most likely knows by now that you have done practically no research about them. But asking this question seals the deal - you have officially landed on the “no” list. Prospective candidates who ask this question would be an unengaged employee looking only for a paycheck.
Can you think of any other interview missteps that I left out? Leave them in the comments below. We love hearing from you!
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