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Common Interview Mistakes (And What To Do Instead)

Interviews are always stressful, but are even more anxiety-producing when you realize you’ve made a mistake. Whether you accidentally said something distasteful about a former boss, revealed that you knew less about the role’s responsibilities than you thought you did, or were just having a bad day, mistakes are bound to haunt you! 

But as a recruiter, I can tell you that everyone makes mistakes, and every interview makes the next one better. So in this piece, I share four of the most common interview mistakes and explain how to get ahead of them.

4 of the most common interview mistakes

In my recruiting career, I’ve seen and heard it all, but there are some interview mistakes that come up more often than others. Let’s review the top four mistakes and the impact they can have on your interview.

1. Lack of research

Regardless of how good you are at impromptu conversation, interviewers can tell when you haven’t done your due diligence on the company and role. Without adequate research, your answers to interviewers’ questions won’t be relevant or convincing. And, most likely, your questions for them won’t be memorable either. Not only does this come off as being ill prepared, but it also gives the impression that you won’t succeed in the role in the future.

2. Assuming an outcome

Going into an interview with a predetermined outcome in your head is a recipe for disaster. Even if you feel like you have the interview in the bag, you should never act like it. Assuming that you’re overqualified for the role usually translates to sounding over confident and uninterested. Interviewers are always looking to hear about your ability to do the job at hand, so tell them about that without acting like you are above the level of work. On the flip side, assuming that you’re underqualified for the position can make you sound uncertain and insecure. Who knows, maybe the hiring manager is purposely looking for someone green to mold and teach. But doubting yourself can make the hiring manager think twice.

3. Seeming unenthusiastic

Interviewers want to chat with people who are passionate about their field and the position they’ve applied to. Let your excitement and enthusiasm shine through! Employers associate enthusiasm with doing a good job, so they are going to hire someone who is excited and interested in the work they are doing for the company.

4. Bashing former employers or employees

Speaking poorly about anyone is an immediate red flag to your interviewer. Even if you are explaining a situation in which you were right, it still makes people wonder what your behavior is like behind closed doors. Plus, gossiping is just plain rude. Being transparent during an interview can be beneficial, but not at the cost of seeming inconsiderate or downright negative.

6 steps to avoiding mistakes

While you can never guarantee that mistakes won’t happen, there are certainly ways to reduce your risk. Here are six steps you can take to ace your next interview:

  1. Seek some common ground – Use LinkedIn to find out where your interviewers went to school, where they’ve worked in the past, and what they like to post about. Having these little tidbits in your back pocket can help you relate to your interviewers and show that you’ve done your research.
  2. Read the JD – This may seem like a given, but you won’t believe how many people don’t actually read job descriptions. So do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. Mark it up if you have to. You should be very familiar with the responsibilities and the “nice-to-haves” to the point where you can bring them up naturally in your conversations, and relate the responsibilities to your current ones.
  3. Have examples up your sleeve – Even though you don’t know exactly what someone will ask, you can probably guess what kinds of questions interviewers will throw your way. Create a list of specific projects you worked on or managed that match what your new job might entail. If you’re interviewing on Zoom, you can even have the list beside you to reference in case you draw a blank.
  4. Practice your answers out loud – It may sound silly, but rehearse answers to typical questions in the mirror. You’ll find out quickly where you start to stumble over your words or don’t have a concrete enough example. Also, pay attention to what posture or seating arrangement makes you feel most confident. Then, if possible, replicate that during your interview. For example, if you feel like you have a better stage presence when standing up, do that on a phone screen (remember, no one can see you).
  5. Think of a diplomatic way to talk about your current and former workplaces – As I mentioned earlier, speaking ill of your current and former employers leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. Figure out a more tactful way of saying you’re anxious to move on. For instance, you might say the team dynamic wasn’t for you, or you wanted to learn more about x topic. I advise to always bring this question to present tense, and talk about why you are excited about the current employer at hand.
  6. Pump yourself up – Before heading into the interview, think back to what got you excited about this role in the first place. Was it the people? The company? What would it be like to work there? How would your talents be put to good use? Pondering this before your interview will make you sound more eager and interested in the role. 

Preparation is the key to prevention

Although it takes time, adequate preparation is the secret to interview success. Practice makes perfect, and it’s no different with interviews. I’ve found that preparing not only calms your nerves, it also sets you up with a positive attitude and allows you to be your best self. And if you find yourself struggling with a question or two, you can always take a moment to pause and think back to your training. You got this!

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