When given the opportunity to interview for a new job, you have the chance to build on yesterday’s success or to put its failures behind and start over again. Long ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” The thing you must be willing to do today is to walk through an unfamiliar door, ask for a job, and convince a stranger that you are the best candidate. Your loved ones wished you good luck, and luck would be a welcomed companion, but you know that luck alone won’t get that job. Are you fully prepared? You dressed appropriately, are on track to show up five minutes early, and you’ve done online company research. Your cell phone is turned completely off. What else? To better the odds of getting a second interview, here is a reminder of five common interview mistakes and how to avoid making them:
1. Setting the wrong tone from the beginning
When invited to enter the inner sanctum and sit down, assume a respectful, alert posture. This is a formal interview process, but you want to avoid being “stiff” because that signals you are uptight rather than confident. You want to exude a vibe of being comfortable and conversational, but not cavalier or over-confident. To best hit the mark, take a soft cue from the interviewer’s demeanor. Don’t awkwardly mirror them (that’s silly), but at the subliminal level, it’s true that “Like likes Like.”
2. Talking too much … or too little
Interviewers are looking for honest, straightforward and complete answers. They watch for clues to your character, verbal skills, and professional judgement. If possible, give the more important questions the most weight, and the less important questions a shorter answer. More important, keep the discussion focused on your professional skills, not your personal life. If asked about challenges you’ve successfully faced, have work examples already in mind – don’t offer up emotional tales of dealing with aging parents, your spouse’s unemployment, or your victory over addiction or a serious illness.
3. Talking trash.
You will be asked why you left or are leaving your most recent employment. How can you answer without sounding angry, petty, abused or arrogant? Before the interview, practice framing negative answers in a positive way. If you last worked in a corporate setting where your boss micro-managed you to the point of screaming, you might answer, “It’s not about leaving, but about moving forward. While I work well on team projects, I like the challenge and satisfaction of working independently, with minimum daily supervision. This position seems to be a better fit with my style and strengths.”
4. Asking the wrong questions
If the interviewer asks if you have any questions, say yes! But don’t ask about salary, 401(k) matches, or if you might take a pre-scheduled vacation. Hold those for final interview or post-offer negotiations. Instead, you might ask about the process for employee reviews or what the interviewer thinks would be a benchmark achievement in your first 30 days. What qualities or talents does the company most value? It’s your chance to get a big-picture understanding of the job and also what might be expected of you if hired. Is it a fit?
5. Talking about other job interviews
If an interviewer asks where else you are interviewing, you don’t owe them private job search details. This interviewer needs to believe this is the job of your dreams, even if you just came from interviewing for a better opportunity. Likewise, unless you are a superstar, you can’t use other interviews to manipulate this company’s hiring schedule. If told the decision will be made “early next week”, don’t respond worriedly that you might have another offer on Friday. Instead, thank them for the opportunity and say again how much you hope you are their first choice at the end of their process. If you get a different solid offer in the meantime, then certainly check back to see if you are still a viable candidate.
Interviewing is an experience that initially may tie you up in knots, but it also holds the promise of setting you free. With much thought and a little preparation, you can do this.