The job market has never been as competitive as it is right now. On average, you can count on competing with 50 to 500 other applicants for the same job that you applied to. Once your resume has gotten the attention of the HR department enough to warrant an interview, you need to know what exactly to do and not to do at the interview. Whether you will be getting a simple one-on-one interview, or you are being interviewed by a multi-person hiring panel, here are 5 common interview mistakes, and the ways to avoid them. Following these tips will help you come across as the top candidate for that dream job!
1. Showing up too early or too late for the interview
This one should be a no-brainer; but you would be surprised at how many people break this seemingly obvious rule. Showing up late (even 5 minutes) is an immediate red flag for the hiring manager. This shows them, unfairly or not, that if you can’t even make it to the interview on time, you might have problems with reliability or time management. Showing up early is also a no-no. Interviews are usually tightly structured, and many companies will schedule concurrent ones over a portion of the day. You may think that showing up early and chatting it up with the receptionist shows an eagerness towards the company, but it invariably irritates the hiring manager because they don’t want to feel rushed in order to interview you. And yes, this could be construed as a lack of time management as well. If you arrive at the company a little early, sit out in the car and practice your talking points. The ideal time to show up would be 5 minutes before the scheduled interview.
2. Not dressing appropriately for the potential job
If you are interviewing to be a financial consultant at a prestigious firm, then showing up to the interview in an old t-shirt and jeans is probably not the best idea. And, conversely, wearing a suit and tie to a landscaping job interview wouldn’t be a smart idea, either. Dress to impress, but dress conservatively. For most jobs, a button-up shirt and khakis would be a sensible choice.
3. Texting/checking e-mails/talking on the phone
You may think you look like the world’s most efficient multi-tasker by making those important phone calls right before the interview, and by replying to text messages and e-mails during the interview. But what you really look like, to the hiring manager or panel, is someone who has trouble focusing on the job at hand. And that “job” is your interview! You should be able to devote your complete attention to the company, during all phases of the interview. The easiest way to avoid this is to turn all alerts off on your phone, or to leave your phone out in your car until the interview has been completed.
4. Asking not enough (or too many) questions
You may have done a lot of research on the company you are interviewing for. In fact, this is highly recommended. But coming into the interview presuming that you already know everything about the company, and the position, is another red flag. Ask the hiring manager or panel specific questions, even if you already know the answers to them. One good question is, “What would I be doing in a typical day, for this position”? This will allow you to hear the little things about the job, as well as the big things. But asking too many questions will backfire. You aren’t there to interview the company, you are there to be interviewed!
5. Having false information on your cover letter or resume
You have landed the interview because your resume stood out in a vast sea of applicants. Now, you need to demonstrably show that you can back up everything that you have written. If you are interviewing for a job, you can reasonably expect that they will do job and educational background checks, and will probably expect you to demonstrate that knowledge right there at the interview. Don’t lie on your cover letter or resume; even if you think it will improve your chances to get a job, because it will eventually backfire even if you do get the job.
I have interviewed for many jobs (I am employed full-time, but actively job searching), and I have admittedly been guilty in the past of breaking one or two of these rules. Getting an interview does not guarantee that you will get the job, and not getting the job doesn’t guarantee that you will not get another interview in the near future. With some common sense, perseverance, and a little good luck, you could be getting that dream job in no time, as long as you remember what to do and what not to do.