Interviewing well is an essential part of launching your career. It doesn’t matter how good your initial application or pitch is to get your foot in the door if you can’t present yourself just as impressively in person! We’ve already compiled a number of tips to prepare for an interview. But what are the most common mistakes young people make?
Here are the most important:
Not knowing enough about the company
I remember going to an in-person job interview where one of the first questions was, “Describe what we do here.” The question itself wasn’t surprising, but what was unexpected was their impressed reaction when I answered it correctly. Do people really interview at companies they don’t know anything about?
Unfortunately, yes. In the age of blasting out resumes to any and every job posting, sometimes candidates will make it to the interview stage without adequately familiarizing themselves with the company. No one expects you to be an expert before you work there, but there are a number of easy ways to show you put in the time to do your research before the interview.
Bare minimum research would be Googling the company to check out their website, LinkedIn, and any other social media. If the website has an FAQ page, even better! You should study it. If there’s a demo or webinar you can sign up for, watch that as well. At the end of your research, you should be able to give a quick pitch to a friend on what the company does as well as answer any basic questions about the company.
Not knowing enough about the job
It’s not enough to just know about the company; you have to be versed in the specific job as well! This is where the dating analogy fits the job hunt best. When you go on a date with someone, you don’t want them to feel like you were simply looking for a living, breathing human. They want to know what about them is interesting to you and what makes you two a good fit!
It’s the same with jobs. There are plenty of memes out there saying the answer to,”Why do you want this job?” is essentially “because I’m broke/need money,” but that’s a terrible answer to give in an interview. It’s the same as simply looking to date any living, breathing human.
What is it about the role that makes you excited? What skills do you have that fit what they’re looking for? How are you equipped to create value from day one on the job?
You can only answer those questions if you’ve really dug into the job posting. If the posting is lacking in specifics, take your researching skills (sometimes known as spy techniques) to the internet. Search the company on LinkedIn to see if you can find anyone in the same position you’re applying for. Then message them to ask about their job! It’s important to use the resources available to you, including demos and FAQ pages. Unless a job posting specifically tells you not to do something, (I have seen exactly one job say that it would disqualify candidates who scheduled a demo prior to their interview) consider it fair game for your preparation.
Not giving specific examples
Once you know all about the company and the role, you’ll want to start planning how to match your skills and interests with the job description. This is the part where you want to beware of “copy-paste” answers.
If your answer in an interview is an exact copy that you could paste into another interview for a different job, you’re not being specific enough. Even if you’re answering a generic question like “What is your greatest strength?” you should always be tailoring your answers to the specific company and job you’re applying to. If you have already researched the company and the role, your answer to “Why do you want to work here?” will be easy to specify.
It’s also essential to have specific examples for character traits you claim in an interview. Think of these as your evidence when making a case for yourself; it’s not enough to just make the statement! I think every person I’ve ever interviewed has said they’re a hard worker. Simply stating that you’re a hard worker gets you zero points in an interview. You have to back it up.
The example you use to back up your claim should depend on the role you’re applying for. If you’re interviewing for a marketing role, your example of being a hard worker might include the time where you mapped out and executed a social media strategy for sharing blog content in order to increase traffic on top of your regular, daily responsibilities. If you’re interviewing for an operations role, you might use a different example, like working for a catering business during wedding season.
Your goal is to frame your answers in a way that shows you understand what skills are needed in the role, and demonstrates evidence of those skills through past experiences.
Not showing emotional intelligence
This mistake can be harder to identify and fix as it takes time and growth to recognize your emotional intelligence. But here are a few categories to consider:
You want to send the signal that you’re excited about the interview! Make eye contact, smile, and be an active listener during the interview by exhibiting forward tilt.
Be polite! If you are interacting with others at the company besides your interviewer, make sure to treat everyone with respect. You never know when you might be “entertaining angels.” Similarly, be sure to reciprocate if the interviewer asks how you are or how your day is going so far.
Speak with enthusiasm and confidence. Interviews can be nerve-wracking, but remember that most interviews are meant to be conversations, not interrogations!
It’s usually not appropriate to ask about salary, vacation days, or other benefits in a first interview. There could be multiple stages of screening candidates, and you don’t want to weed yourself out by asking a tactless question.
To give another dating analogy, asking about salary and benefits during a first interview is like asking whose parents will pay for the wedding on a first date. It’s just weird.
Not sending a thank-you note
Sending a quick thank-you email is one of the easiest ways to stand out after an interview, and forgetting to send a thank-you note can sometimes make you stand out in a bad way. I once interviewed 6 candidates for a position, and 5 of them sent me a thank you note after their interviews. Obviously I didn’t make the hiring decision solely based on who did or did not send me a thank you note, but it did stick out enough for me to remember it a year later!
Make your note personal (aka specific) by mentioning something you really enjoyed about the conversation and thank the interviewer for their time. That’s it!
Take care to avoid these common mistakes by doing your research and being considerate. Just starting there will set you up well for your next interview!