The 3 biggest interview mistakes you could make
Having run a series of in-depth workshops with job hunters recently, I thought I would summarise three of the commonest mistakes that job hunters make when being interviewed.
1. Assuming that you can just turn up to an interview and ‘be yourself’
Some candidates think that they don’t need to prepare before interviews. And they are the ones who probably get rejected time after time.
Whenever I coach job hunters, I encourage them to spend at least several hours preparing before interviews. So if you think you can simply turn up to an interview and have an informal conversation, you will probably be severely disadvantaging yourself compared to most of the other, better-prepared candidates.
To prepare effectively, be sure to have both written out and rehearsed out loud answers to likely questions. Here are six of the commonest questions that come up again and again:
- “Tell me about your three biggest achievements. What part did you play that made these your biggest achievements?”
- “What are your biggest strengths? Give me examples of situations that illustrate each of these strengths.”
- “What is your biggest weakness? Tell me how you have learned to compensate for this weakness.”
- “Are you a good team player? Tell me about a time you made a significant contribution to a team.”
- “Tell me about the biggest project you have ever been in charge of. What specifically did you do to make it a success?”
- “How do you go about solving problems? Talk me through the biggest problem you ever encountered at work and how you overcame it.”
2. Assuming that your skills and experience are enough to get you the job
Some candidates assume that an interview is about helping a manager to find the candidate with the best skills, qualifications and experience. But that’s rarely the case.
Most of the time, interviewers are actually more influenced by a candidate’s personality and warmth as well as the ease or flow of the conversation.
So be sure to portray these qualities throughout your interview. Answer questions in a conversational tone of voice – don’t be too monotone or stiff and formal. Find opportunities to make positive comments about the organisation and why you’d specifically like to work for this one employer – and of course it will help you to do this if you do some research about the organisation beforehand. Smile and laugh appropriately. Show that you’re the kind of likeable, friendly human being that the interviewer could have a drink with after work.
Remember that an interview isn’t just about your professional skills – it’s also about your personality and human qualities too.
3. Volunteering irrelevant or even harmful information
I once met a candidate who felt it important to tell interviewers that she was married with two children and that she was keen to balance her work life with her home life. Of course, this only meant that she kept going to interview after interview and getting rejected!
It’s illegal for employers to ask about your personal life. But if you volunteer such information, there’s nothing to stop employers from discriminating unfairly against you and rejecting you.
So don’t tell interviewers that you were made redundant unless you’re specifically asked about it. Don’t mention illnesses you’ve had. Don’t talk about your partner, your family or children. Don’t say anything about gaps in your employment history or other weaknesses that you think you have. Don’t talk about your religious beliefs or your passions outside of work. Just about the only thing you should mention is if you play any team sport or an individual sport to a high level.
In an interview, you are there to sell yourself. So be as positive as you can be without lying.