5 common mistakes you’re making at interview and how to fix them

If you're getting interviews this is good news, it means that in the first part of the process, your application is working. Your CV is strong enough and is selling you effectively. The trouble is, that interviews make people nervous and when you're nervous it's easy to make mistakes. This week I want to talk about the five most common mistakes made at a job interview and how to fix them. 

5 common mistakes people make for job interviews

Before the interview

1. Not researching the company

It takes around 15 hours to prepare for an interview. This can feel like a lot but it makes a big difference. As well as preparing your answers to common questions (I love this book: Knockout Interviews) you will need to research the company. Consider: 

  • Their values, mission and goals (often found on the ‘about us’ page
  • Any interesting projects they're working on
  • How you might fit in

You can go on their website, use Glassdoor or LinkedIn. If you have any connections who already work there ask them what it's like. You could also check them out on social media. 

Not only will researching the company help you feel ready for the interview but if you are asked “What do you know about us?” or “Why would you like to work for us?” you will be able to answer confidently. 


2. Dressing down

I always recommend people dress smarter rather than casual for an interview, but if you know that the company you’re applying to doesn’t wear suits then it’s OK not to. However, make sure that what you’re wearing is clean, ironed, and that you’ve checked your appearance before you leave. I like to wear a really good pair of shoes to the interview, which I pop in my bag to put on just before I arrive. This is true for virtual interviews too! 

As part of getting ready make sure you are well-rested and focused. If you are anxious, take some time to relax beforehand and use choose a technique to ground yourself which works for you. 


In the interview

3. Not arriving on time

For face-to-face interviews make sure you know where you’re going, the time and date you’re expected. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who have turned up on the wrong day! If you have to travel then make sure you’re there in plenty of time and then find somewhere nearby to wait until it’s time for you to arrive. Work out exactly where you're going, how to get there and leave some contingency time. If you are running late call ahead to let them know what’s going on. 

Of course, you may have an online interview. Here the danger is that you (or the interviewer) might get distracted beforehand and turn up with a minute to spare. I would advise that you log on to the software a day or so before, make sure you know how to use it and allow yourself at least fifteen minutes before your interview starts to calm your nerves. 


4. Not answering the question

The two most common mistakes in interviews that people make are rambling and/or not answering the question. You can do both simultaneously. If you have prepared your answers then aim to keep them succinct and relevant to the question. If, like me, you have a tendency to ramble when you’re nervous then use the STAR technique - Situation, Task, Action, Result. 

Sometimes you are asked a question that you haven’t prepared for. If you know the answer, answer it, obviously.  It’s Ok not to know, the key is being honest about it - say you have never had that experience but then give a “however, this is what I would do faced with that situation” answer.

Not answering the question is common if you haven’t prepared an answer and/or if you’re feeling nervous and have forgotten the question. You may find the interviewer asks you two or three questions in one question. It’s OK to clarify what you’re answering and if you realise you’ve gone off-topic to stop and address it in the moment. 

When you answer any questions make sure you are polite and diplomatic in your answers. If you have had a tough time in a previous company or been out of work for a long time then work with someone like me to practice how you’re going to address these experiences in a positive way. 


Remember it’s a two-way process

The interviewer wants to hire you. I know that because they have taken the time to choose you out of all of the applications that arrive on their desk. You need to demonstrate to them why they should take you on, what you will bring to the organisation and how you will help them reach their goals. But, you also need to be considering whether they are the right company for you. Do they seem prepared? When you ask them a couple of questions at the end of the interview make sure that they are questions that will help you decide if you want to work for them too. What will your typical day look like? What do they expect you to achieve in the first six months? 


After the interview (bonus tip)

5. Not saying thank you

When the interview is over, take some time to consider what went well, what didn’t and whether you would like to work for them if you are offered the position. Then, ideally, within 48 hours, send a thank you note to the interviewer. You can keep it simple - thank them for their time, and reiterate your interest in the role. You might share something you learned at the interview (in those questions you asked them for example!) and/or share something specific about the role that makes you excited about the opportunity. 


If you are reading this after you have been rejected for a role or after a particularly bad interview then remember this: they are called common mistakes for a reason. It's OK to make a mistake, all we can do is learn from them. Get feedback if you can, refocus and try again.


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