Job interviews are scary — even when you're a professional job seeker. You spend an hour at a table with total strangers, sharing details about your life to convince them to give you money and responsibility. Who wouldn't find that stressful?
There's no completely fail-safe method on how to prepare for an interview and get hired. However, there are several ways to blow it completely. Plenty of great candidates fail to land their dream job, because they make avoidable errors in an interview situation. Here's a guide to the most common job interview mistakes and some tips on how to avoid them.
1. Don't Do Your Homework Before a Job Interview
Knowing how to answer interview questions begins with research. Recruiters often find themselves interviewing candidates who don't seem to know the first thing about the job they're applying for. Relatively straightforward job interview questions such as, "What do you think of our product?" or "Have you seen our website?" are met with blank stares, which can cause the interviewer to wonder why the candidate applied in the first place.
Check their website, follow them on social media, look for news articles and read their Wikipedia entry if they have one. Even an hour of research will tell you a lot about what they do, as well as what their corporate goals and values are.
You also want to research company culture. This is huge in the hiring process, particularly for companies who hire for culture fit rather than experience. If you understand what the culture is, you have a better chance of selling yourself in the job interview as the right person for the team.
2. Get the Basics Wrong in a Job Interview
An amazing number of candidates get the most basic things wrong in a job interview: arriving late, speaking rudely to greeters, not shaking hands, the list goes on. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and breaking interview etiquette could kill your chances of getting hired.
If you do commit a fundamental error, it's probably because you failed to get organized first. Start planning a few days before your job interview. Have your clothes cleaned and pressed, get a haircut if you need one, and be prepared to look and act professional. Finally, gather any materials you need, and leave time in your commute for unpredictable delays.
If something does go wrong, don't panic. This is an opportunity to show your potential higher-ups how you deal with adversity. So call ahead, and set an expectation for your arrival time. Don't get flustered — just get to the interview.
3. Let Your Body Language Say Don't Hire Me
Recruiters have limited time to make a decision about you, so every detail counts. If your body language says you're bored or tired, the hiring team may decide you lack the energy to do the job.
Work on your poise. Practice with a mirror or get a friend to help. You want to be confident and enthusiastic, so smile, make eye contact and offer a firm handshake. Sit up with your back straight, don't let your shoulders slump and speak clearly.
Be excited, without being manic. It's possible to have too much enthusiasm, which is equally off-putting. The impression you want to give is focused, sharp and emotionally in control.
4. Fail to Provide Detailed Answers
Why do interviewers ask questions? Some candidates don't seem to know. They treat the interview as a general knowledge quiz, answering each question quickly, so they can get on to the next one. However, the interviewer wants to hear how you communicate your unique personality and experience through storytelling.
Each question is a chance to sell yourself. Don't just say you know Excel. Talk specifically about challenges you overcame when using the program. Concrete examples with quantifiable results are key: "In my previous role, I recovered 13 percent of revenue by correcting a formula calculating variances in a monthly accounting workbook."
A good answer to an interview question is an honest one. Don't answer based on what you think they want to hear. Answer based on what you know. The person interviewing you is looking for a particular mix of experience, qualifications and skills. Each question is intended to establish if you fit that profile. By answering dishonestly, you risk getting hired for a job you'll be unhappy doing.
Every interviewer wants the same thing — an employee they can trust. Make it easy by showing you are organized, focused and pleasant.