How do you ace an interview? A quick Google search will yield countless pages that detail the myriad ways to succeed and get the role. However, you might not be able to easily find the things that can blow an interview. Learning what not to do can be just as important as learning what to do. To help you maximize your chances of making the best impression possible, we’ve put together a list of the top ways in which people damage their own interview.
- Not showing up early. Obviously, showing up late isn’t going to get you any gold stars. However, showing up right on time is not the best approach, either. This will make you feel flustered and not allow you to relax and focus. Plus, it could also signal to a hiring manager that you did not consider the interview important enough to schedule a lot of time to arrive. Looking at it another way, it also gives you less of a chance to get a feel for the organization before speaking with someone in an official capacity. This can make it difficult to determine whether the organization will be a good fit for you, or if you even like the organization’s culture and want to be a part of it.
- Not choosing an appropriate place for a phone or video interview. It’s common to first have a phone or video interview before being invited to an in-person interview. Be conscious that, even though it may feel more casual, the same rules apply as if you were attending an in-person interview at the organization. Make sure you are in a quiet place, with no distractions, and that your sound quality is as good as possible. If it is a video interview, dress as you would for an in-person interview, and make sure you are in a setting that does not have any distracting, or worse, offensive, objects in the background. Even for a phone interview, it is still a good idea to dress up. Doing so will automatically put you in that frame of mind.
- Not knowing the names or titles of the people who will be present in the interview. Usually, when you are invited to interview with an organization, you will be given the hiring manager’s name. You may also be told the names of other members of the leadership who will be participating in your interview. Just as you did your research on the organization when you decided to apply for a role there, you should familiarize yourself with the names of these people and their roles. Now, there’s no need to go through their personal Facebook account and learn the names of their dogs, but visiting their profiles on LinkedIn and, if possible, on the organization’s website, is a good idea. This will show a deeper level of interest and commitment. It will also give you a chance to learn more about how the organization is structured.
- Not rehearsing your elevator pitch. When you search for interview preparation tips, the elevator pitch idea frequently pops up: it’s the 30-second boiled-down version of why you want to work at the organization and what your skills and work habits can offer the team. You may have some ideas floating around in your head about this, but write them down on paper and practice reading aloud what you’ve written. Do this until you can recite the main ideas from memory. This will show that you are prepared and will help you look and feel more confident. It will also reduce interview-day anxiety by giving you (hopefully) some muscle memory to fall back on if nerves start to get the better of you!
- Not talking about relevant things or rambling when responding to “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” In an interview, 80% of the time or more, you will need to respond to something like “Tell me a little about yourself.” This is a bit different from your elevator pitch. Your elevator pitch answers the question “Why should we hire you?” When responding to this question, you should keep it to two or three minutes. You shouldn’t ramble or talk about things that aren’t relevant to the role. You should briefly describe your career, in chronological order, and share key learnings or achievements for each step along the way that would help your interviewer believe you have the potential to be successful in the role for which you are interviewing. At the end of this response you want you interviewer to be thinking “Wow, this candidate is a great communicator and has the basics to be successful in the role!”
- Not being specific when answering questions. You know those questions we love to hate in interviews? Such as, “Talk about a time when…” When you are asked a question like this, the interviewer wants to hear about one particular time in your career. You can prepare for this by doing a search for frequently-asked interview questions. From there, prepare a list of concrete examples that you can readily talk about when prompted. Not being specific can make it seem as though you cannot relate to the question, or even that you may be hiding something. On the other hand, don’t be too specific and wordy or give multiple examples for one question. Keep it concise yet specific.
- Not showing enthusiasm for the role. When you are invited to an interview, it can be too easy to get caught up in making yourself look like a superstar and making it all about self-promotion. This is great–and necessary–but you also need to make sure you have a good understanding of the role and the organization, and a passion for doing the work associated with both. Before you leave the interview, and if you are excited about the opportunity, be sure to professionally express your interest and enthusiasm.
- Not sending a follow-up. Remember your mom pressing you to always send a thank-you? She was right! Make sure you follow up after an interview, whether it took place over the phone or video or in person, and thank the hiring manager for meeting with you. If you worked with a recruiter, you should send a follow-up to them as well. You can use this as an opportunity to reaffirm your interest in and enthusiasm for the role and organization. It’s a great way to maintain communication with the hiring manager. Plus, it will help you stick in their mind!
I hope this list will help you to succeed in your next interview. Do you have any surefire ways to blow an interview? We’d love to hear about your experience and add to our list. And we promise we won’t laugh! We’ve certainly made flubs of our own. Share with us in the comments, and make sure you subscribe for more helpful content, published each week.