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TOP 3 Most Common Interview Mistakes

Common Interview Mistakes

I love conducting job interviews. As a former corporate HR and talent acquisition leader, I had the opportunity to interview THOUSANDS of candidates — from entry-level to senior executives. Now, as a career coach, I am on a mission to use that experience to help heart-based job seekers breeze through the interview process and land comfortably in their next best role.

Today, I’m sharing the TOP 3 most common mistakes job seekers make while interviewing — and how to avoid them.

Common Interview Mistake #1 – Providing generic responses versus telling a story.

Storytelling is powerful. Whether you’re talking to a recruiter on a phone screen or to a hiring manager during a second-round interview, as a job seeker, it’s essential that you paint the picture from start to finish. Your story is likely near and dear to your heart, although the interviewer wasn’t there! Walk them through your story by setting the stage, highlighting what YOU did, and wrap up with the result accomplished or lesson learned. Leverage the job description to anticipate potential questions and prepare a few examples ahead of time.

My favorite way to help job seekers frame their stories is using the OAR framework to respond to interview questions:

  • Describe the Objective
  • Share the Action YOU did
  • Discuss Results achieved

 

For example, if the interviewer asks about your greatest strength, a generic response might be, “my greatest strength is attention to detail.” When you kick that up a notch and turn it into a story it might sound like this, “My greatest strength is my attention to detail. For example, I was the project lead on a large new sales initiative rolling out to 50,000 employees worldwide. Right before launch, I was asked to proofread the communication launch emails. So, I spent time reviewing them and noticed three spelling mistakes, one of them was the CEO’s last name! Because of my attention to detail, the project launched, and communications went out error-free — my eagle eye for editing saved the day.”

Can you see the difference? This story highlights a strength in a way that is relatable and memorable! 

Common Interview Mistake #2 – Lacking energy or not showcasing enthusiasm for the job. 

Many job seekers think they have to be “perfect” throughout an interview conversation. Or that the interview is a performance and they have to memorize their lines. This belief can cause a job seekers’ nerves to spike, and in turn, they come across as disinterested or, even worse, robotic. 

An interview should be an engaging two-way conversation, not a solo performance with the spotlight on you. Hiring managers (AKA your future boss!) want to hire a human, not a robot! Approaching your interview as a conversation can help your shift your midset and calm your nerves. 

Your goal for an interview should be for the employer to see you as a future colleague. Think about how to present yourself as someone who will bring more to the table than they ever imagined! 

  • How can you make their lives easier?
  • What can you provide to the team?
  • What value do you bring?

 Typically, during an interview process, a hiring manager wants to know TWO main things: 

  1. Can you get the job done? Do you have the skills and abilities to do the job?
  2. Do I like you? Are you a good fit with the team?

The best way for your employer to see you as a future colleague is to prepare & practice before the interview.

  • Analyze the job description — What does the team need? What can you offer to help them get what they need? Quick example, I was a candidate for an HR role at a tech company. I didn’t have tech experience, although I knew they wanted someone who could lead HR projects across multiple teams. I had cross-functional leadership experience, so I practiced and showcased those related experiences in the interview, and got the job! 
  • Recently, I worked with a client who was interviewing at a large CPG company. We noticed decision-making was mentioned in the job description multiple times, so we practiced his decision-making stories. 
  • Ask for the schedule ahead of time & connect with your interviewers on LinkedIn. Connecting with your interviewers ahead of time is a fantastic way to break the ice. Check to see if you have anything in common and send them a note to let them know you’re looking forward to meeting them in the interview. Not to mention, this is a great way to build your network!
  • Practice + practice + practice — Action builds confidence. Sit in front of a mirror, dress the part, and play the part; this will help ease your nerves. Another fabulous way to practice is to take it old school and make flashcards. Write out potential interview questions, shuffle the cards to surprise yourself on the spot. Take it a step further and record yourself on your cell phone. Play it back and audit your response — would you hire you!?

I realize that virtual interviews can add a layer of anxiousness — here are a couple of hacks to help: 

  • Ask for the interviewer’s phone number ahead of time in case the technology fails.
  • Prep your set up & background — a neutral wall color is best.
  • Be cautious of lighting — depending on your location or the time of day, the sun can create distracting shadows; practice with a friend to make sure your lighting is in tip-top shape.
  • Don’t hold your phone, and be sure to check the mic.
  • One of the BEST things about virtual interviews is that they can allow for an added layer of self-assurance — write your stories on post-it notes and stick them around your computer. The simple act of knowing your responses are right there in front of you will help calm your mind. 

 

Common Interview Mistake #3 – Job seekers don’t ask *good* questions. 

You should be interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask and have them with you. Yes, it’s completely okay to have notes with you during an interview. 

If you’re meeting with multiple people, ask targeted questions based on their job title. For example, if you’re meeting with HR, ask about the performance review process or their retention strategy. When meeting with your future boss, ask about their leadership philosophy. 

If all else fails, you can’t go wrong with asking about the other person’s career path. Trust me; people love to talk about themselves! And this gives you excellent content for writing a personalized thank you letter. 

In my experience, most job seekers want to know about the company culture. Instead of asking a generic question like, “how would you define company culture,” define WHAT you want to know about the company culture and frame your questions based on what you genuinely want to know. Here are a couple of my favorites: 

  • What do you love and not love about the company? 
  • What makes you proud to work at this company?
  • Does the organization support your career growth?
  • Is risk-taking encouraged, and what happens when people fail?
  • What challenges will I face in this role?

 

As an interviewer, if I save time at the end of the interview for you to ask questions and you respond to tell me you don’t have any questions, it’s very disappointing and sends the message you’re not interested in the job or the company. Prepping *good* questions ahead of time will emphasize your interest and differentiate you from the other candidates.

In closing, showcasing your passion + interest through detailed stories and well-thought-out questions will set you apart.

My favorite interviews are conversations — two-way discussions where the candidate shows as much enthusiasm for the role as I do about hiring for the role. Keep in mind, the interviewer will know you’re nervous, it’s okay, take a deep breath and smile — you should feel confident to present yourself as someone who will bring more to the table than they ever imagined.

For more quick tips, I invite you to download this FREE Ultimate Interview Prep Guide — conquer your next interview with poise & purpose!

Common interview mistakes

TOP 3 Most Common Interview Mistakes

Common interview mistakes

TOP 3 Most Common Interview Mistakes

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