Job interviews are stressful, for sure. And when we’re facing stressful situations, it isn’t always easy to make an endless string of perfect decisions. Even with the best preparation, experienced pros sometimes stumble when they face the real deal; as any pilot can tell you, the actual plane feels much different than the simulator.
When you step into an interview session with high stakes (in other words, when you really, really want the job), it’s okay to be a bit nervous. But even in your worst moments, you’ll want to steer clear of these very common interview mistakes. If can avoid these sticky pitfalls and stay on course and on message, you’ll greatly improve your odds of landing the offer you’re looking for.
Interview Mistakes: Missing Opportunities to Prove Yourself
Sometimes candidates sabotage their own interviews by saying the wrong things. But just as often, a candidate’s biggest interview mistakes come from what wasn’t said. We’re all familiar with the sinking feeling that occurs when you remember one of the greatest accomplishments of your career…but only while you’re walking back to your car in the parking complex. Missing your moment can sting, and it can slide you down to second place on the candidate list when you actually belong at the top. But you’ll avoid interview mistakes like this if you gather your notes and study your talking points carefully at least a few hours before your session. During your interview, actively steer the conversation toward topics that can help you articulate your success stories and that can show how you can add unique value to the role.
Interview Mistakes: Discussing Salary and Benefits Too Soon
Of course you need to be paid fairly for your work. And you’ll need to negotiate hard and stand up for your interests when the moment comes to do so. But that moment won’t happen during your first interview session. Far too often, candidates ask about salary and benefits during the first meeting, and employers tend to find this tacky. There’s nothing wrong with caring about money (after all, we all need to make a living, and you’re not planning to spend your days in this office for your health). But for the sake of decorum, push that topic to the side until your employers have officially made an offer. For now, focus on what you have to contribute, not on what you’d like to gain.
Interview Mistakes: Failing to Research the Company Beforehand
This is the most common fail, according to a recent study that polled 500 British interviewers. So before your interview, go online and spend some time learning about your target company. Gain a clear sense of how their business works, what kind of product or service they provide, and who their primary stakeholders may be. For example, does this company sell its product to other companies or directly to consumers? If they provide a service, how do they deliver that service? Don’t waste time memorizing third quarter financials, but be ready to respond when your employer asks you a question like: “So…do you understand what we do here?” This happens more frequently than you might imagine, and too often, candidates answer with a shrug and a blank stare.
Interview Mistakes: Not Asking Questions
Before your interview comes to an end, find a way to turn the tables at least two or three times and present the interviewer with questions of your own. Sometimes this reversal takes place at the end of the meeting, and sometimes the interviewer asks point blank if you’d like to discuss anything that hasn’t been covered. But this may not happen, so don’t wait for an invitation. Ask what you want, when you want. Smart questions demonstrate engagement, interest, and self-direction. Not to mention, interviews are two-way streets – they’re as much your chance to size up the company as they are the employers chance to evaluate you.
Interview Mistakes: Stretching the Truth
As you prepare for your session, are you planning to pretend to be someone you’re not? Do you intend to exaggerate your accomplishments or, worse, say whatever you think the interviewer wants to hear (even if it’s not true)? Stop right there. You may find it hard to believe, but you’ll win more points and make more allies if you present yourself as yourself… a regular person. Who you are and what you have to offer—your education, skills, experience, and abilities—are more than sufficient for this meeting and this moment. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished in the past and be proud of where you’re headed in the future. Bending the truth will only create obstacles; it won’t help you overcome them. Not to mention, you’d be surprised by how easy it is to discredit lies about education, skills, and achievements.
If you’ve committed any of these interview mistakes in previous sessions, there’s no need to dwell on the past. Instead, focus on moving forward and making sure your next meeting results in you getting that much closer to a job offer. And if you still feel like you could use some more help prepping, download Interview Game Plan to access our comprehensive program of coaching, video instruction, and tips to help you get the job faster.