Top 5 Interview Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

June 5th, 2016

You’ve put hours into perfecting your resume and cover letter. Great work – but you’re not done yet! Until you’ve impressed an employer in your job interview, you’re still a candidate and not a new hire. Now it’s time for your ‘A’ game.HM May Blog 3

Successful interviews are far from impossible, but you’ve got to avoid making mistakes.

Recruiters often see some of the same critical interview mistakes from candidates. Avoid these mistakes and you’ll better position yourself to land a great job:

1. Not asking any questions. You might be eager to wrap things up and tell everyone how you aced your job interview, but when an interviewer asks you if you have any questions, he or she isn’t just being polite. This is a critical step in the interview process, and one that can make or break your chances of landing the job. Thoughtful questions can turn an average interview into a great one, while a lack of questions (or a poor choice of questions) can have the opposite effect. Try to get specific with your questions and show that you’re interested in the job, engaged with the employer and eager to jump in and start getting results. Here are a few examples:

      • How will my performance be evaluated in this position?
      • What does your company value the most (and how can I contribute toward those values)?
      • What do you do better than your competitors? Conversely, what do they do better than you?
      • What do your customers/clients love about working with you?

2. Not sending a ‘thank you’ letter. This is a “classic” piece of interview advice that is still just as important today as it was 20 years ago. Although technology may have changed expectations here a bit, sending a ‘thank you’ letter, note or email is essential. Not only is it polite and good manners to thank the interviewer for his or her time, it is one final opportunity to present your qualifications and sell yourself for the job. If you’re sending a letter or card, be sure to get it in the mail within 24 hours of your interview. If you’re emailing, later that afternoon or the next day is appropriate.

3. Not tooting your own horn. Now’s not the time to be shy – job interviews are your chance to SHINE. Take every opportunity to show interviewers how you contributed to successful projects, great ideas you had to improve customer experience, awards or recognition you received – the list goes on and on, and shouldn’t stop with these ideas. Show off your knowledge, experience and passion for the job. While you don’t want to come across as cocky, showing pride in your accomplishments and enthusiasm in your skill set demonstrates to interviewers that you will bring that same level of excitement to their business.

4. Being negative and complaining. Last year, we talked about confidence in job interviews and how staying positive can help you. Let’s flip that coin and examine how you can spoil an interview by being negative. In addition to the most obvious choice of negativity to avoid – bad mouthing past employers or colleagues (which you should, of course, NEVER do), this also includes complaining. Sometimes it just slips into the conversation unintentionally: “How are you today?” “I’m fine, but wow, that weather is awful!” Or sometimes it can come through when answering questions during your job interview. Either way, avoid negativity and complaining at all costs. No one wants to work with a Debbie (or Donnie) downer – if you’re complaining about the weather in your interview, who knows what you’ll complain about every day in the office? At least, that’s what the interviewer will be thinking! If you’ve failed into the habit of griping about the weather or traffic in every day conversations and you’re especially concerned about interviews, just keep your answers to intro questions short and sweet – when asked how you’re doing or how your drive/commute into their office was, a quick “Great, thanks” will do just fine.

5. Not paying attention to the interviewer. You’re understandably focused on what you’re saying and doing during job interviews, but if you’re too focused on you, you might be missing some important cues from the interviewer. For example, if you’re talking about a past employer or skill set and you notice the interviewer’s eyes brighten or increased note taking, that’s a good sign that you’ve piqued his or her interest and are discussing something that is directly relevant to the job. Run with it! Take every opportunity to showcase that skill set again throughout the interview. Also, it’s pretty common to miss important cues in interview questions when you’re too busy thinking about what you want to say. This is completely understandable, but it could seriously hurt your chances of landing the job. It’s perfectly acceptable to slow yourself down and be sure to listen to the interviewer, which could help tip you off to certain skill sets or personality traits the employer is seeking. Then after the question has been asked, pause for 10 seconds or so to formulate your response. It is always better to listen to the question and possibly pick up on cues that will help you land the job through a more thoughtful response.

Looking for a job in Southern California? We’re hiring! Here at Helpmates, we work with employers across Los Angeles County and Orange County. We’ll help you find the right job and put your best foot forward to avoid interview mistakes. Search our current job openings or contact your nearest Helpmates office to learn more.

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