How to avoid the top six most common job interview mistakes
BY STEVE AGACE
Graduates: don’t bring any angst to the interview, dress formally and give clear, concise answers
Whether your last boss was a bullying dictator or you’re full of post-university angst, do not bring any negativity to the interview. When faced with the challenging prospect of discussing previous employment, graduates should be ready to add a positive spin on even the most reasonable of complaints. While we’re on the subject, keep your integrity intact and never lie. Being able to trust your employees is pivotal, so being caught out in an interview can mean an instant rejection.
Inappropriate interview attire
While it can depend on the job sector, the general rule of thumb is formal clothing. First impressions are vital and demonstrate how seriously you are taking the opportunity. If a graduate turns up in jeans and flip flops, they shouldn’t expect a warm welcome. The best advice is to always take a conservative approach and be well groomed – polished shoes and irons at the ready. You need to fit into a commercial, professional environment which often means you need to be willing to sacrifice youthful fashion for the job.
Talking too much or too little
Your answers should be like concise mini-essays with a clear beginning, middle and end. Too short and it looks like you have little to say, too lengthy and you’ve probably babbled and missed the point. Be composed, think before you answer and employ structure.
Not enough research
This can either be a lack of research into the company and role, or not enough preparation for tricky interview questions. Although nerves come with the territory, if a graduate is both anxious and underprepared, they won’t come across well. You therefore need to go the extra mile when carrying out any research. Candidates should memorise a few key background facts, find out more about who will be interviewing them, such as finding them on LinkedIn or Twitter, and familiarise themselves with the company’s market and wider online presence – not just their own website.
Lack of questions
An interview isn’t just about why a graduate’s past experiences and skills can be applied to the particular role. It’s also a test of their interest in the position. This demonstrates your enthusiasm and as a result, strengthens your credibility as a candidate.
But be careful: asking questions about things you should already know illustrates a lack of research. Perhaps you could ask how a current affairs issue might affect their business. This shows you’ve given the company serious thought. Prepare a list of questions to ask so you don’t forget them. Where possible, relate them to your interviewer and their experiences. A great example would be: “What do you like most about working here?” There is also an opportunity to seek feedback. Asking the interviewer if they have any concerns about you can allow you to overcome any potential objections – but make sure you accept these concerns gracefully.
How can graduates make a good impression during an interview?
First impressions are key: research has found most interviews are decided in the first two to three minutes. Make sure you practise your strong and professional handshake accompanied by a gracious smile and confident body language. But don’t let the confidence end there. From the moment you press the buzzer, you should come across as professional and dynamic. Making confident small talk with both the receptionist and the hiring managers will allow you to expose a little of your personality without the pressure of answering: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
Confidence (not arrogance) is important. Fight through the nerves and give your potential new employer a good impression of the real you. Essentially you have nothing to lose, so just go for it. Also, interviewers generally don’t want to catch candidates out – they want you to do well. Recruitment is a business challenge and employers go into interviews hoping, praying even, that the candidate is the solution.
Self-analysis is another good area to add to your pile of research and something that candidates regularly forget. Look at the job specification and consider what the client might be looking for. Now think about your own achievements and all the challenges you have overcome. Finally, try and match the two together. Without self-reflection, you may forget key life experiences that you could have applied to those tricky competency questions.