man tying his dress shoes

The 6 Most Common (and Avoidable) Interview Mistakes

Many of us have had less than stellar performances at an important interview. It’s no secret the interview process can be daunting. Luckily, many of these blunders are avoidable and with a little practice and some information, even the worst interview mistakes can be avoided. Here are the 6 most common mistakes to watch out for when interviewing:

Inadequate Preparation

Not being prepared for an interview – what a horrible feeling! While you may know your resume inside and out, the company profile and even who is interviewing you, if you are unprepared with nuance, tone or even attire, you may be in for trouble. Take the time to understand the elements behind the company you are applying for. What is its style and culture? Is it customary to wear three-piece suits every day or is it a total casual workplace? Being too overdressed or underdressed can often be something that hurts not just your confidence, but your chances to make a good impression in some cases. Always err on the side of the more professional the better, since there is simply no excuse for coming in too casual in jeans and a tattered t-shirt. Being well prepared also includes understanding the environment in terms of comfortable language and posturing. A start-up company may seem casual and cool but you still need to be professional in how you address people and your body language.

Being Overly Confident

You may think you are perfect for the job and you may be the best candidate but there is a fine balance between being confident and over confident. Many companies prefer to promote from within, and internal interviews are becoming a more common occurrence. One of the biggest mistakes in this context is for employees to think, “Gee, I’ve been here ten years already, I’m a sure thing, they can’t not give me the job!” Wrong! Whether an internal or external applicant, if you truly believe you know everything about everything and there is no room for learning, you are setting yourself up for disaster. No one likes a know-it-all – not even when they know it all.

Mind Your Manners

As well as keeping your ego in check, make sure your good manners are evident from the time you step in the building to the time you get back to your car. Don’t just turn on the charm when you are introduced to the person interviewing you. Your actions and words are being watched by everyone. If you are rude and condescending to the receptionist, you better believe that he/she may be giving that feedback to the big boss. The golden rule should apply to everyone, especially if you would like to work with them in the future.

Speaking Too Fast (or Too Slow)

Pausing between answers and delivering short, concise sentences shows an interviewer you are capable of hearing a question, and formulating and delivering a meaningful response. Speaking too fast or delivering slow, long-winded answers reflects poorly on your organizational skills. Interviewers are almost always taking notes and you don’t want to go too fast and have them miss something important or worse, have to ask you to repeat yourself. On the other hand, you will create awkward silences if you think too long on an answer and you lose the flow of the interview.

Not Making Eye Contact

When you are interviewing with three or more people, you need to not just address the person who asked the question, but you need to have appropriate engagement with every person on the panel. Eye contact is also a good way to gauge how the process is going. Panel members who are not looking at you may be a sign that you are not being engaging enough. Take note from that and you can work on bringing them back around to you.

Inappropriate Body Language

Even if you are ridiculously nervous, sitting on your hands is not a proven effective behaviour. On the flip side, you want to project confidence, but you don’t want to give the impression that you are too confident by leaning back and looking bored or God forbid – putting your feet up on the desk (kidding – I would hope that no one would ever dream of that). Nodding as someone speaks and leaning forward to show interest are some of the more acceptable forms of body language.

Other Mistakes

I have seen some other crazy mistakes that interviewees have made. This may be a no-brainer but avoid chewing gum in an interview. It’s not only unprofessional, but also rude. Even if you chew nicotine gum to stop smoking, you are sending a clear message to the company that you cannot or will not go an hour without nicotine and as a result, you will probably not be considered a good fit. Also make certain you are clean (coming straight from the gym without showering is never a good idea), decently groomed and ready to talk with confidence and a positive attitude.

Giving an effective interview is easy with the right preparation. If you’re prepared, appropriately confident and aware of the most common blunders, you can avoid making mistakes that may cost you the job.

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