Three Common Job Interview Mistakes To Avoid

Are you preparing for an interview? Following the advice in this post can be the difference between landing your dream opportunity or walking away empty-handed.

Over the last four years, I have filled over 30 entry-level through senior management positions and I have watched qualified person after qualified person bomb their interview. As an interviewer, it is so frustrating to watch top candidates be their own worst enemy. It is even more frustrating to be in the “hot seat” and struggle to communicate why you’re the right person for the job.

Regardless of skill, intelligence, education or experience, we’re all susceptible to the pitfalls of nerves and lack of proper preparation. (Trust me—despite knowing all the right things to do, I am still prone to terrible interviews from time to time.) Do yourself a favor. Learn from the mistakes of others and avoid these three common job interview mistakes:

Interview Mistake 1—Not using your resume to communicate how great you are.
Not only is your resume your ticket to the job interview, it is also the first impression you give the selection panel. Captivate them by giving detailed descriptions of how past jobs have prepared you for this one and support each with facts and figures. For example, last year I submitted more than 40 permit applications, allowing 12 public infrastructure projects to begin construction on schedule. Doesn’t that approach communicate my value as a prospective employee better than just saying I prepare permit applications?

Interview Mistake 2—Giving vague or unnecessarily long answers.
Nothing is more frustrating to an interviewer than hearing the same generic response over and over and over (and over and over and over) again. Not only do specific answers set you apart from other candidates, but they’re also the best way for the panel to get to know you. Where applicable, use stories to support your answer, but keep them concise and to the point. You don’t want to eat up your entire interview time on one question.

Bonus tip: If you notice yourself rambling, close out your thought immediately and allow the interview to move on to the next question. Don’t try to fix your answer. I can tell you from experience on both sides of the table that it usually makes things worse.

Interview Mistake 3—Not preparing for those tricky questions.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” “Describe a time you had a conflict with a supervisor and how you resolved it.” Tricky questions like these are a fact of interviews so come prepared to answer them. If a question catches you off-guard, like several did in my most recent interview, try pretending like you’re having a conversation with a friend and answer accordingly (albeit professionally). It helps calm the nerves and drive out solid, truthful answers. Just be careful not to overshare.

Interviewing is an iterative process that only gets better the more you do it. Over time, you learn to describe yourself and your talents more eloquently, as well as expand your inventory of potential questions to anticipate. Still, there will be good interview days and bad interview days. (You need only look at my very sweaty, very ramble-y Miami Fellows interview from last month for evidence.) Hopefully recognizing these typical job interview blunders and how you can avoid them improves your odds of achieving your professional dreams.

Have you ever made any of these job interview mistakes? Have you borne witness to others that we can learn from? Please share your stories and advice below!

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