I am always asked for quick interview tips. These Dos and Don’ts are the basics. Don’t make these common interview mistakes – thorough preparation is the best way to avoid the pitfalls below.
Here are some lessons learned from job seekers that bombed the interview:
Don’t talk in generalities. Be specific. There is a huge difference between just saying you have a skill, and giving a specific example of the ways you have used that skill. Anyone can say they are good at something. Without an example that illustrates that you do, in fact, have excellent problem-solving abilities, it’s all just talk. And forgettable.
Do: Tell them about the time you saved the whole computer system from crashing and they will get it. And they will remember you.
Don’t try to fit too much information into one answer. Ask a question and – BOOM! This candidate just starts talking about everything and anything they think might help them get the job.
Do: Be strategic. Make points one at a time. Teach them about you. Lay it out and build your case one strength at a time. Afterwards they will remember each thing that makes you a perfect fit for their team.
Don’t give endless, meandering answers. An interview answer may start out great – specific, clear and powerful. But if the candidate keeps talking, and talking, and talking – the clear message is lost.
Do: Be concise, and know when to end an answer. Tell them one thing, give them a specific example, and STOP. Give them a chance to ask another question so you can tell them something else about why you are the right person for the job.
Know Your Value.
Don’t duck taking credit. Some people are uncomfortable talking about themselves. A response such as, “One of my responsibilities in my current job is to analyze data” is generic, common and forgettable.
Do: Have the confidence to say “I”: “I am a data nerd, I love analyzing data, and in my current position I spend 50% of my time analyzing data”.
Don’t qualify your strengths. Nobody wants to seem like a braggart, but you have to tell them exactly what you bring to the table. When talking about your strengths, don’t qualify your value. If you don’t believe in yourself, they certainly won’t.
Do: When they ask about something that you know is a significant strength – let them know you’re a pro.
Don’t dress inappropriately. Missing the mark with how you present yourself betrays a lack of knowledge about the target, a lack of preparation and/or a lack of interest.
Do: Put some thought into the image you are presenting. (See my blog “Interview Tips: What To Wear” for guidance if you think this might be you.)
Don’t neglect target research. You can’t show them you are a good fit if you don’t know what you are trying to fit into.
Do: Spend enough time on research. Know what they company does, their mission, their goals, who the players are, and the values they hold dear. (See my blog post: “Interview Tips: Researching Your Target” for tips about conducting deep target research.)
Don’t appear rude without meaning to. Seriously, this happens more than you think. Some people yawn when they are stressed or nervous, and are not even aware that they are doing it. Yawning during an interview is a surefire way to make a terrible impression and not get the job. And if you unconsciously roll your eyes every time you get an unexpected question, you might as well just roll on out of the room.
Do: Practice with someone who will give you honest feedback, and eliminate any unconscious behaviors that might be hurting your candidacy.
Don’t avoid eye contact. I know that for some people, this may be a challenge. But it is important to try to overcome this challenge, because a lack of eye contact often makes people feel that they can’t trust you.
Do: Practice with a friend and ask them to tell you if you are making eye contact or not. The eye contact doesn’t necessarily have to be constant – you don’t want to stare. Make an effort to make eye contact twice – once at the beginning and again at the end of your answer.
Don’t forget to ask for the job. Don’t be shy about letting them know that you want to work for them. Nobody wants to hire someone that doesn’t care whether or not they get the job. Don’t confuse “be confident” with “be arrogant”.
Do: Confidence means knowing exactly how you offer value and showing enthusiasm for the opportunity. Let them know you really want this particular job with this particular company.
Don’t mess up the follow up. Following up after an interview shows your interest. Conversely, not following up could be interpreted as a lack of interest. If two candidates are neck and neck for a position, and one follows up and and the other doesn’t, the follow-upper becomes the stronger candidate.
Do: Take the time to follow-up promptly and properly. (See my April blog, “Interview Tips: After the Interview” for tips on following up.)
Preparation Is The Best Defense
Here’s the best interview tip .of all: Take the time to learn interview skills. A winning interview doesn’t happen as a result of chance, luck or sudden inspiration. A successful interview is the end result of learning a handful of interview skills, and taking the time to properly prepare. It’s not rocket science; interview skills are a discreet set of concrete skills that can make or break your next big opportunity. Spend a few hours and learn them. If you know what to do, you won’t have to think about what to “don’t”