At interviews across the world, candidates are repeatedly making the same mistakes over and over again. Below are some of the most common pitfalls that we have witnessed during the interviews we have carried out over the years. Do you recognise yourself in any of these? If you do, don’t worry, you are not alone! The important thing is to understand that these areas could be undermining your performance at interview so do something to avoid making the same mistakes again.
1. Failing to build rapport with the interviewers
So many people come for an interview crippled by nerves or so focused on the interview itself that they forget basic communication skills. As a result, they fail to build rapport with the interviewers and don’t make as good as impression as they could at the onset.
When you are waiting to be interviewed and the interviewer comes to greet you, are you one of those people that offers a limp handshake and limited eye contact? Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer who is meeting you for the first time. Wouldn’t it be better if you gave a firm, confident handshake, looked them in the eye and smiled?
On the way to the interview room, along the corridor or in the lift, are you one of those people who makes conversation or do you walk along in silence? Come on, the interviewer is only human so why not strike up a conversation. Better still, show some interest in them – ask them how the interviews are going or ask how many people they have interviewed already. Anything really that allows you to start building some rapport. This way, before the interview has even started, you have made a good impression and this will help you to feel less nervous.
2. Forgetting to smile and show personality
When you are in the interview hot seat facing the interview panel, it is natural that you are going to feel nervous and a little vulnerable. To help you try and relax, you should make a conscious effort to smile as often as you can. If you have done your preparation well, you should have little to be nervous about so really focus on trying to let your personality shine through.
During interviews, too many people turn into strange, robotic versions of themselves which doesn’t reflect reality. There are so many examples of people that give monotone answers or who look completely miserable throughout the whole process. They end up sounding really unconvincing and appear to have zero passion for the job. Inevitably, these people do not get the job.
A key part of the interview is for the interviewing panel to be convinced that you are going to fit in well to the team and the organisation itself. It is important therefore that you give your answers with enthusiasm and show passion in the answers you are giving. Smiling as much as possible will help you with this, so sit up straight and let them see the twinkle in your eye as you convince them that you are the best person for the job.
3. Trying to predict the questions that will come up and preparing around these
A common mistake that people make time and time again is to answer the question that they wanted to come up rather than the one that was actually asked. We have probably all spend time preparing answers to questions that we think are going to come up but are then completely thrown when a slight variation of that question comes up instead. Unfortunately though, if you don’t give the panel the information they need to assess you against their specific answer, it is unlikely that you are going to score highly.
A good tip here is not to prepare for specific questions but instead to prepare a range of examples related to the job criteria. If, for example, you have prepared evidence that supports your general ability to work effectively in team, it will be much easier to answer any question on this subject. If however you have prepared a specific answer around a question such as ‘tell me about a time you made a positive impact in a team’, then you will really be struggling if the question tests team working skills in a different way. Perhaps they will ask what make a good team, how you have worked with a difficult person, or what was the worst team you ever worked in. As you can see, there are so many different questions that test the same skills and experience at an interview so don’t try to guess what questions are going to come up.
4. Rushing in to an answer too quickly
When you are asked a question, it will take you a few seconds to process the question and to filter through your memory to select the best answer to use. What you really should avoid is rushing in to answer the question without thinking, as often, you end up not answering the question or choosing a poor example to support what you are saying.
In an interview, don’t be afraid of silence. What feels like ages to you, is probably only a few seconds so be confident enough to pause and think about the question. If you want to say something, you could comment ‘Ok, let me think about that one’ for example. Regardless though, take time to really think about the question and what criteria the interview panel are looking to assess through the question. Then choose an answer that shows your related ability and experience in that area.
5. Failing to show real interest in the job
We talked earlier about how a lack of enthusiasm and passion can end up costing you dearly at an interview. These are things that you need to get across through your responses and interactions with the panel.
At the end of the interview, you can also harm you chances of success if you have no questions for the panel. To be honest, the interview panel will be just as tired as you by the end of the interview, so I am not advocating asked lots and lots of questions. Instead, just make sure that you have 1 or 2 really strong questions to ask that will genuinely help you to make up your mind about whether or not you want the job.
Remember, the interview is also a process for you to judge the job and the company as it may be that you decide that this is not the right job for you. Therefore think about what you really want to know about the job or organisation that is not apparent from all the job information you have. Things related to your personal development, training opportunities or long term responsibilities in the job itself. If you are really interested in the job, there must be other things that you want to know as the details in an advert or job description are usually not that comprehensive. And whatever you do, don’t ask a dumb question as no questions are better than a dumb question.