It’s not a secret that a good first impression is key to a good interview, but sometimes it’s not clear what makes a good impression. Do you establish rapport with the interviewers by throwing in personal tidbits? Do you remain passive and coldly professional? Do you highlight your best experiences and refuse to acknowledge your worst?
It’s easy to think you’re doing the right thing when you’re actually telling the interviewer all the reasons they shouldn’t trust you with the job. Five common interview mistakes are easily avoided with a little thought and self evaluation.
1. Don’t use the “constant smile.” Faking a smile throughout the entire interview will not only make your face hurt, it can give off a creepy vibe to the interviewer. Smile naturally when greeting the interviewer, when leaving the interviewer, and anytime the conversation appropriates. Otherwise, keep your mouth neutral and relaxed.
2. Don’t talk excessively about your private life. Some people don’t realize that establishing rapport and reciting your life story are two different things. Some interviewers will ask you what you like to do in your spare time. Having a few standard answers ready (e.g. “I like to read” or “Knitting is what I do to relax”) is a good idea. It’s okay to name a few hobbies, but don’t go into detail about the books you’ve read or the last five scarves you’ve knitted.
3. Don’t talk negatively about a previous employer. I’ve had the privilege of sitting in on interviews to help fill a position I was leaving, and I cringed when I heard someone bad mouthing their previous employer. Not only is it not professional, but it leaves a bad feeling with the interviewer and concern that they’ll be on the receiving end of those complaints sometime in the future.
4. Don’t use clichés for answers. Employees want you to be open and honest, and they don’t want to hear the same phrases that they’ve likely heard from several other interview candidates. Phrases like “I don’t have any weaknesses,” “I tend to work too hard” and “I see myself as manager in five years” are answers that don’t answer the question and don’t impress potential employers. Even if you have to take a few moments to formulate a real answer, it’s better than reciting cheesy lines.
5. Don’t assume you’re going to be offered the position. While confidence is important, there’s a fine line between feeling good about an interview and assuming you’re going to get the job. When ending the interview, avoid phrases like “When do I start?” and “I’ll see you in a few days, then?” Even if you’re a top contender, leaving on a pushy note is a bad final impression. Word your questions as “What if” statements (“When would the position start if it was offered to me?”) and leave with simple thank you for the opportunity to meet with the interviewers.