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Five Fatal Job Interview Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Today’s job market is an incredibly challenging place to enter. With dozens if not hundreds of people chasing every vacancy, just securing an interview can be a triumph in itself. Once you’ve been given the opportunity to present yourself to a potential employer, the last thing you want to do is stuff things up by making a rudimentary error. Follow these job interview tips and that won’t be an issue…

There are probably very few of us who actually enjoy job interviews. Interviews are by their nature designed to test us, put us under pressure and provide the interviewer with a prism from which to view our very being. Okay, the last point there might be a bit heavy, but hopefully you get the general idea.

Rarely, if ever, will any two job interviews be the same. Even if you are going for an identical job to one you previously interviewed for, chances are it will conducted by a different person and they may ask different questions or be looking for things from candidates.

So then, it doesn’t matter what you do and it’s all down to luck and what happens on any given day? Wrong. Even taking into account all the different variables, there are a number of very definite and fatal mistakes that you can make that will ensure you will definitely not get the job.

Here are five of the most common interview mistakes, along with advice to ensure you don’t fall foul of them.

Mistake #1: Dressing Inappropriately

The first impression you make with a potential employer – even before you’ve opened your mouth to speak – can be the lasting one. If they make their mind up about you straight away because you’ve dribbled some chocolate milkshake down the front of the tracksuit top you’ve worn, it will be almost impossible for you to turn that around over the course of the interview even if you come across as the epitome of intelligence, wit and bonhomie.

The most important thing to do, therefore, is to make sure your interview attire is appropriate to the job you are interviewing for. Whether you’re going for a position in a bank or a part-time job behind a bar, generally speaking you can’t go wrong if you wear a smart suit, an ironed shirt or blouse and some smart shoes. If you’re without a smart suit and your funds don’t stretch to forking out for one (they don’t come cheap), a shirt and tie or blouse and trousers or skirt should suffice.

It’s not just your attire that’s important; a shower, a shave and even a fresh haircut could be the difference between getting hired and being told thanks but no thanks.

Mistake #2: Poor Body Language

You’re not human if you don’t get nervous. However, if your nerves affect you to the extent that you’re overtly displaying negative body language, you’re in danger of doing yourself a massive disservice, as well as compromising your chances of getting the job.

Take a deep breath, try to keep a clear mind and remember to make eye contact with your interviewer and be mindful of your body posture. By making direct eye contact with your interviewer upon greeting them and when answering questions, you will come across as composed and confident even if you’re not. Also, make sure that you do not slouch in your seat or conduct the entire interview with your hands in your pockets, as this will give you the appearance of someone who is disinterested.

Don’t pick your nose or scratch your privates, either.

mistake #3: Not Doing Your Homework

We’ve already touched on the unpredictable nature of job interviews. However, there are some questions that you’re almost guaranteed to be asked, one of them being ‘What do you know about our company?’

If you respond with ‘er, not a lot’ or a blank look then you’ve probably blown your chances there and then. So, there are absolutely no excuses for not doing your homework.

Most companies have a website that you can use to conduct research, with pertinent background information usually found in the ‘about us’ section. Look at the company history, any ‘mission statements’ it might have, who its customers are (existing and potential), who its competitors are, the wider state of the industry the company is part of and anything else you think may be pertinent.

You could delve deeper, researching key individuals within the company and even the person who is going to be interviewing you. Use LinkedIn as a starting point for this, and then search engines to see if you can find out anything further. This sounds a bit creepy, but you could find stuff like interviews with or opinion pieces by the CEO of the company – mention that you’ve read these during your interview and offer a comment on what was said for BIG bonus points.

This sounds like it’s too bleeding obvious to mention but you should also research what the job role entails and prepare answers about the role accordingly. You may be asked to give examples of when you’ve used certain skills that apply to a particular aspect of the job, but suppose don’t have actual applicable work experience? Think of another area of your life where you’ve demonstrated those skills (A practical example: perhaps writing reports is part of the job role – you’ve never done that professionally but you have kept a personal blog for a few years, which you can talk about in the interview.)

Mistake #4: Making Negative Comments

Whatever you do, don’t answer any of the questions by referencing how much you dislike a current or previous employer. You do not paint yourself in a good light if you start making disparaging comments about an old boss or co-workers; it suggests that you might not be a team player and are unable to gel with a group, which is not a quality that employers will be looking for.

The important thing then is to make sure you present yourself as being of a positive disposition. This suggests that you are an affable person, capable of fitting within any group dynamic. Even if you are invited by a particular question to offer a critical viewpoint, try to ensure that you end the answer to the question by saying something positive.

Again it’s something that seems too obvious to mention but bad language and displays of prejudice are an absolute no. I recall interviewing someone for a writing job who, when asked how he would describe himself, exclaimed “I’m a bit of a bigot – you’re not Welsh, are you?” Absolutely, shockingly true.

mistake #5: Not Asking Any Questions

Once the interviewer has asked you all the questions on their list, they will usually ask you whether you have any to ask yourself. This is not the chance for you to flatter your interviewer by suggesting their interviewing technique is so conclusive that they have filled in all the blanks to the point that you don’t need to ask any questions.

You must ask some questions, as it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate that you have considered where the job and you might fit together. It also shows that you have an inquisitive mind, and that you are not afraid to ask questions when something is not clear to you – a quality that could prove vital when trying to pick up all the aspects of a new job.

If you think you might struggle to think of relevant questions while you’re on the spot, don’t be afraid to prepare a few before you attend the interview. Remember all that research you did about the company? You should be able to form a few questions from that.

You could also ask about anything from company policies regarding holiday and sickness and likely career paths within the company structure, training and development opportunities that are offered and what the interviewer considers the best route to work from where you live. The more you can make it sound like you really want the job, the better.

In summary

Be prepared – preparation will help quell the nerves and enable you to offer solid answers to most of the questions you’ll face.

Dress smartly – first impressions count.

Don’t be a jerk – no one wants to employ a jerk.

Article image by TedMurphy

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