We will all have an awful interview at some point in our lives. And that’s ok – trust me, they make excellent stories. On the other hand, the best interviews are more akin to a conversation than a simple question and answer. But how do you work past the butterflies in your stomach and the cold sweat on your palms to fully engage the person sitting across the desk?
The first step is avoiding the simple interview mistakes we all make when we’re nervous. The best way to do that is to know what these mistakes are, and the steps you can take to overcome them.
1. You Didn’t Do Your Research
You don’t need to know the first and last names of everyone in the company by the time you walk in to your interview, but you do need to know what the company does and for whom. Know their vision, any new developments, and what others in the industry are saying about them. Your goal is not to showcase your cyber-stalking skills, but to demonstrate that you understand their company and its position within the industry.
Solution: Rather than a cursory peek around the company’s website, visit their social media platforms. Identify their branding goals by what they share on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a blog (if they have one). Then, see if you can find any business articles to determine where they stand within their industry and to understand their position within that industry.
2. You Gave Textbook Answers
Yes, you should do your research and prepare for the interview, but you will have to avoid sounding like a drone if you truly want to land your desired position. Your interviewer has heard canned answers many times before, and has likely never been impressed with a single one. So while you may well be “qualified, hardworking, and eager to contribute,” such a bland answer will prevent you from standing out amongst all of the other “qualified, hardworking, and eager to contribute” people who also interviewed for this position.
Solution: Be honest. Share something interesting about yourself in your answers. For example, the simple question of where you see yourself in five years is be an excellent opportunity to mention your interests in astrophysics or history or fashion, and your dreams of combining your hobby with your present career. This tactic allows you to start a conversation with your interviewer(s), making you infinitely more memorable.
3. You Didn’t Ask Questions
Rather than making you appear uninformed, asking questions will demonstrate your intelligence, skill, and preparedness to your interviewer(s). In fact, if you aren’t asking questions, you run the risk of appearing unprepared, uninterested, or unintelligent. Furthermore, the right questions will help you determine whether or not this is actually the position you’re really interested in. Understanding your daily responsibilities, priorities, and your manager’s goals will allow an invaluable opportunity to avoid a job that has the potential to make you miserable.
Solution: Ask questions that will help you understand what your day-to-day responsibilities will be. Which departments and individuals will you work closely with, and what will they be expecting from you? For more ideas, as well as tips on interpreting your interviewer’s response, click here.
4. You Left Without Learning
Conversations are more memorable when all participants leave with something to think about. The only way you will accomplish this is if you move away from a bland question-answer format and practice the skills listed above to begin a meaningful conversation with your interviewer(s). Rather than stalling the conversation with textbook responses, honest, unique answers and intelligent questions will ensure that the conversation continues to progress.
Solution: Listen to the person across the desk. Respond to them and engage. Don’t be afraid to showcase your personality, sense of humor, or curiosity at the appropriate time. Rather than admitting you don’t know something and apologizing, admit that you don’t know and ask a question in return. What is the functionality of the unfamiliar software package? How often will you use it in the position and to what purpose?
5. You Didn’t Follow Up
A thank-you note may seem quaint, but failing to send one could signal that you are uninterested or, worse, rude. Interviews are hard for everyone, including the hiring managers, so a quick note goes a long way.
Solution: A short, simple email thanking your interviewer(s) for their time and expressing your gratitude for their consideration is a perfect way to close the experience.
Looking for a job can be a job in and of itself. Put yourself closer to your perfect position by learning to avoid these five common pitfalls. Happy hunting!