You’ve found the role, made an application and been invited for an interview. What happens next will see you celebrating your success or trying to work out what, if anything, you did wrong.
To spare you the post-interview angst, here are some of the most common mistakes people make in job interviews and how you can avoid them.
One of the key questions an interviewer is likely to ask is what you know about the organisation. Before going to a job interview you can learn about a company by visiting their website, checking out their social media, or reading their annual report. Glassdoor.com is a great resource for researching a business, its culture and the experiences of candidates who have been interviewed previously. If it’s possible to visit the company as a customer, this can be a good way to experience first-hand what they offer and understand how they operate.
Not understanding the role
An interviewer might ask you about your understanding of the role you have applied for. You should be able to describe the purpose of the role and what you can bring to the job.
You can learn about the role from the job advertisement, the job description, and by looking at the LinkedIn profile of the person currently in the role. If you are put forward by a recruiter, be sure to ask questions to find out as much as possible about the organisation and the role.
Talking about what you can’t do
Chances are, you won’t meet all of the job requirements. Rather than admitting to this, a better tactic is to turn the spotlight on to the knowledge, skills and experience you have. For example, many candidates begin by answering a question related to a job requirement by saying: “I don’t have experience in that area, but I have used these skills in X example”.
A better way of answering the question would be to talk to about the knowledge or exposure you do have. It’s better to talk in terms of positives rather than negatives. Remember that no one will fit all the criteria – and the other interviewees are likely to have similar skillsets and experience to your own.
Losing your cool
Let’s face it, interviews are not the most natural form of human interaction and it’s easy to let nerves get the better of us. The best way to alleviate interview anxiety is to dedicate plenty of time to researching the company, the role and considering potential questions you may face.
Another tip for staying in control is managing your physiological state. Mindful breathing techniques are a powerful way to bring you back to the moment, and to stop negative self-talk in its tracks. Try taking a series of calming breaths while you’re waiting to go into the interview. Simply breathe in through your nose for a count of six and out gently through your mouth for a count of 10. This will bring the oxygen back to your brains and help you to think clearly. Three deep breaths should see you feeling calmer, centred and in control.
Instead of sabotaging your interview by telling yourself how inadequate your performance will be or how you have no chance of beating the competition, research has proven that using positive imagery can boost success. So picture yourself having an enjoyable, positive conversation with your interviewer before you start.
Talking too fast
One of the biggest challenges you will face is how to articulate your response to interview questions concisely. This is particularly difficult if you are feeling nervous.
To control your nerves, try imagining the interview as a general conversation which is far less threatening. Listen carefully to the questions being asked and don’t be afraid to ask for a question to be repeated or for further clarification. It’s better to answer the question effectively than make assumptions and answer incorrectly. Once you have understood the question, allow yourself a few moments to consider your response.
Failing to prepare
It is helpful to spend some time ahead of the interview practising some of the questions you anticipate will be asked. Look at the requirements (in the job advertisement and job description) and develop 10–15 possible questions the interviewer might ask around competencies. You should also think about your responses to common interview questions like “Tell me about yourself”, “What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years time?” Practise your responses with a family member, friend or in front of the mirror until you can answer them without hesitation.