Bad interviews are a sit-com staple – like the time on Friends when Rachel literally kissed the interviewer at Ralph Lauren. Rachel managed to land the job regardless, but in the real world, mistakes during an interview are more likely to see you back on the job market than in a corner office. Of course, everyone makes mistakes, but there's no reason that you can't perfect your interview skills and avoid some of the most common (and problematic) mistakes made by job-seekers. Let's count down the six biggest offenders and find out how to make your interview go off without a hitch...or a kiss.
If recent political events are any indication, egotistic displays of self-promotion may seem like a good idea. And yes, it's a good idea to impress a potential employer with your skills and accomplishments. But there's a big difference between giving relevant information about your abilities and self-aggrandizement. A good rule of thumb: answer honestly when asked about achievements but remain modest. You can also focus on areas in which you excel that also demonstrate your ability to work with or support others.
2. Answering but not asking
Think of the interview as more of a conversation than a Q&A session. Your future employer isn't just interested in how you respond to questions – they want to see that you can interact with the information and think critically about both your answers and their questions. Most experts recommend coming prepared with questions about the position, the company, and other relevant issues, but don't be afraid to ask a question if the interviewer presents new information that wasn't available earlier. Actively engage with the interviewer, demonstrate your knowledge and interest, and show that you are willing to get the answers you need.
3. Not knowing the company
Asking questions is a good way to show that you've prepared for the interview. In fact, before arriving at the interview make sure to do thorough research on the company and its role in the relevant sector. A quick Google search is a good starting point – look for recent articles about the company, find out information about the company's goals and potential, and if possible do some research on the person, or people, who will be conducting the interview. Make sure that you know as much as possible about the position – and if the role is new to you, or outside of your usual field of expertise, be prepared to give a clear explanation of how your current or past experiences make you a good choice.
4. Not paying attention
Interviews aren't just about questions and answers, and as we've already established, you should approach the process like a conversation, or more accurately, a professional discussion. Think of the interview as a meeting, listen carefully to what the interviewer says, asks, and implies, and find ways to address their needs. Be an active listener, and use the tone of the interview to your advantage so that you can present information about yourself or your skills that will help the interviewer understand how you will contribute to the company.
5. Making a bad first impression
This should go without saying but always put your best foot forward at an interview. Show up on time by giving yourself an extra thirty minutes. Dress nicely and appropriately – research both the sector and company beforehand to get an idea of what's typical attire, but if in doubt it's better to be overdressed than underdressed. But impressions aren't just about timeliness and clothing. Your handshake, demeanor, and etiquette will all help or hinder the interviewer's perception of you. Be friendly but not overly familiar, avoid jokes and informal conversation, and don't complain about or belittle your current employer or coworkers. Your potential employer wants to hire someone who takes the position seriously and will fit well with the existing team. And last, but definitely not least, be polite and respectful throughout the entire process. You never know who is observing you, and the woman standing behind you in the elevator could be the head of the department.
6. Trying to fake it
Remember when you thought it would be a good idea to list InDesign as one of your tech skills on your resume? Or when you assumed that no one would ever find out that the extent of your Spanish fluency is limited to a couple of spring breaks in Cancun and reruns of Dora the Explorer? Fudging skills on a resume is, unfortunately, a common practice but is one of the biggest issues potential candidates face when interviewing. Made-up resume points are a problem, but lying in an interview can be disastrous. If an interviewer is asking about a skill or experience, it's almost a given that they have the knowledge to know if you're the real deal. Of course, it's scary, but if a potential employer asks a question to which you don't know the answer, be honest. If they enquire about a skill you don't possess, tell the truth and explain how you would either use other abilities to compensate or acquire the necessary expertise. Remember, it's better to be yourself on paper and in person than to sweat your way through an interview hoping that no one will ask you to conjugate Latin verbs, or worse yet, end up in a position for which you don't have the skills.
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