Interviews can be daunting experiences at the best of times and I am sure that we can all share horror stories of when we have had a nightmare at interview. One of the early interviews I had was for a sales role at a large technology company. I had really wanted to get a job there and when the call came that I had got an interview I was over the moon. I researched the role, the hiring managers, the company, the market. I had everything prepared. The day of the interview came and I woke up with the mother of all colds that was rapidly turning into full blown flu. Roaring temperature and sweats I knew I couldn't cancel it so thought I would be brave and try my best to perform. Arriving at the company's HQ I parked up and the heavens opened. I had no umbrella. I had to make a dash for it and by the time I got from the car park to the office building I was drenched. So picture the scene....I was completely wet through. A streaming nose. Severely sore throat. Hot and cold sweats. Not exactly the best first impression. Suffice to say, it didn't go well and the job eluded me. But the lessons didn't! I reflected on this and vowed never to make the same mistakes again and to ensure that before any interview all of my candidates are fully prepared.
We are often trained in sales, marketing, accounting, how to present and the like. But when do we ever get training on how to conduct a job interview? After all it is a skill in itself. So as a starter I thought I would list the 10 most common mistakes I see and hopefully these tips will help you perform to your very best at interviews in the future!
1. Don't turn up late!
Punctuality is vital. There really is no worse first impression than arriving late for your interview. It immediately says to your prospective employer that you are disorganised, sloppy and disrespectful. The key is to manage your time to ensure that you arrive at least 15 mins early. If you are going by public transport then ensure that you leave plenty of time. Check that there are no adverse weather conditions predicted or indeed impending industrial action. If going by car then plot your route and where you will park. How far will you have to walk from the car park to the office. Leave plenty of time to gather your thoughts. An out of breath good morning to the interviewer is never a good start!
2. Don't under dress for the occasion!
One of the most common mistakes that people can make is going too casual. Your current workplace may well have a no tie policy but going to an interview with an open neck shirt could be a fatal mistake. My advice is simple. Wear a smart business suit and tie if you're a man. And interviews really aren't the time to field the comedy tie or scarf that the kids got you for Christmas. You want the focus to be on your ability to do the job professionally than your comic sense of fashion.
3. Don't leave your phone on...and definitely don't take a call!
We use our cell phones all the time. They are in our hand or in our pocket our whole waking day. But the one place you don't want to have it on is in your interview. The easiest mistake to make is to leave it on and it makes a noise and you have to fumble around nervously to turn it off. I have even heard of situations where either the interviewer or even the candidate takes the call and then continues with a full on conversation. You might as well finish the interview there and then as there is very little coming back form that. Make sure that you turn off your phone before you get in the building and put it away in your bag or case.
4. Don't greet with a weak handshake - watch your body language!
What is often described as the wet fish handshake is the first and last nail in the coffin of your interview! Body language as a whole is an often ignored subject but can be the difference between you failing and getting that dream job. Exude confidence rather than arrogance. Don't run your hands through your hair, fiddle with a pen, slouch in your chair or fold your arms in front of you. These will all be warning signs to the interviewer and not make them warm to you. Practice in front of the mirror or even film yourself practising your for your interview. See how poised you look. Watch top celebrities and some world leaders for tips. They will have had endless media training and some will interview brilliantly. Watch what they do with their hands and how they stand or sit.
5. Don't say too much and don't say too little!
This might sound counter intuitive but nerves can often get the better of us and one of the ways we show this is by either talking at a million miles an hour without a pause or just answering yes or no to every question posed. Either way will create a barrel load of awkwardness and ruin the interview. You want to listen well. We have 2 ears and 1 mouth and we need to use them in that proportion. Be succinct but make sure you listen to what you have been asked. Come armed with some great examples of your successes at work and practise answering questions before you go to interview.
6. Don't bad mouth your current employer!
You may well be frustrated at your current job and your boss may well be the boss from hell. It may well be the reason why you are looking for a new role. But when you then spend a large part of your interview complaining bitterly about everything that is happening in your current company then you are signing your own death warrant. Always try to be positive and look for the great things about your current role and focus on career progression and greater challenge in the new role rather than complaining about all the bad processes and people at your current role or how stale you feel!
7. Don't lie on your cv/resume!
If you do, you will get found out! Honesty really is the best policy! Now I am not suggesting that you list every single deal that you have lost but don't add deals you haven't won. If you are in sales, your performance against quota will be important and be honest in what you have achieved. With the advent of social media and google searches, its fairly simple to do some basic background checks and you will have to assume that your interviewer will have done their homework! So probably not a good idea to say you won a few marathons if you struggle to finish a park run!
Check out last week's article: CV/Resumes: What Are They Good For?
8. Don't get too personal!
The interview is going really well. You are really clicking with the interviewer and they are smiling at all your responses. It can be very easy to forget that you are at a job interview and suddenly you are sharing a little too much information about what you got up to last weekend. The interviewer may well still be smiling but they are mentally drawing a line through your application. Remember to remain professional at all times and make sure that your anecdotes don't over step the line!
9. Don't swear!
Sometimes we can be so used to using rich language now and again that it can become second nature. Don't let a great interview be turned blue even if you think the interview is over and you are just chatting about the football. Its an easy mistake to make. Stay professional throughout the whole event. From before you get to the office to after you have left it!
10. Not doing your research and not following up!
Not doing your homework at school is one thing but you cant blame the dog for eating it when it comes to your interview! Learn about the company, its culture, its values, products and clients. There are so many sources you can use from its own web page to social media and news articles. Research who is interviewing you on LinkedIn and on google. Have they written some articles or been interviewed for their company. Know about the role and who works in the company. All of this will show your interest in the company and demonstrate to the interviewer that you are someone who puts in the extra effort to be successful.
I hope that these 10 tips stand you in good stead for your job interviews going forward. Some may well seem really basic but all should be on your check list. And if all else fails remember one more thing. Always take an umbrella...just in case you get caught out!