Five Deadly Interview Mistakes

If you are getting interviews but not getting the job, you may be making one or more of the most common five deadly interview mistakes. Here is the list along with how you can overcome making those mistakes.

1. Thinking the interview is about you

In an effort to “get their message across,” some interviewees monopolize the conversation with long-winded responses, focusing on how they can enhance their skills and expand their experience. You want a balanced interview with you talking no more than 60% of the time and they will be trying to assess whether you already possess the know-how they need and how well you might fit into the company’s organizational culture. When answering questions, limit your responses to two minutes. If they want you to give examples or provide more information, they’ll ask.

2. Failing to translate your skills and experience

You use words and examples that are common to your function or industry and assume interviewers will understand them or be able to translate them to applications in their industry. When you do this, initial interviewers may not be familiar with the acronyms and terms specific to your previous jobs and they might assume you communicate poorly with nontechnical people.

Don’t expect your interviewers to translate your experience to apply to their industry. That will be your task. You need to use terms and analogous descriptions they will understand in the context of their industry or type of work.

3. Not being prepared

Interviewers expect you to prepare for the interview, even if they have not prepared. Research the company on the Internet and in the news and talk to someone who has some inside knowledge about the company. If it’s a publicly held company, check out annual and quarterly reports they file with the SEC. Prepare for their questions by anticipating what they’ll be asking you about, such as: your strengths and weaknesses, why you left your last company, why you chose your career path, and what your positive and negative work experiences have been.

4. Lacking candor

You can’t think of any personal weaknesses, you’ve overcome all your weaknesses, or you say you haven’t given it a lot of thought. Mistakes? Not you. You rose through the ranks and never made mistakes. No one progresses in a career without making mistakes and learning from them. Trained interviewers will be looking to see if you readily acknowledge and admit your weaknesses and can describe mistakes you’ve made and what you learned from them.

Adding a humorous story about a mistake you made, how others may have chided you about it afterward, and what you took away from the experience can endear you to an interviewer. When confronted with a tough interview question about your past, don’t give a measured response that sugarcoats reality, as interviewers will quickly see it as disingenuous.

5. Not asking any questions

The interview is coming to a close and the interviewer inquires as to whether you have any questions. You reply that you don’t, or you ask a few insignificant questions that you could have easily answered if you’d visited the Web site or knew anything about the company or its industry. Unless you’re the only qualified candidate, you probably just ended your job prospects with this company.

Interviews should be two-sided events. The employer wants to determine whether you’re the right person for the business, and you need to know if the employer is the right one for you. Always take a note pad with you when you go for an interview. Prepare your questions and write them on your note pad. You want the interviewer to see that you have questions. Keep in mind that the following are only three things interviewers will use to decide whether you are the person they want:

  • You have the right skills and experience to do the job we want done.
  • You have the personal characteristics that will fit in with our organization’s culture.
  • I like you and, from what you tell me, I believe you’re telling me the truth.

If you are in mid-career and would like to increase your ability to get beyond an initial screening interview, go to the Career Center for more help. Prepare for interviews by downloading Worksheet 10.1 – Preparing for Interviews. You can use this document to prepare for your next interview.

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