Job interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience, and there are many common mistakes that people make that are very easy to avoid. Avoiding these mistakes makes your chances of being hired skyrocket, and you definitely stick out from other candidates. Take some time to practice the basics, such as body language, handshake, and how you answer questions and most importantly, just make sure to relax! Job interviews are kind of like school assignments: following the basic rules and not making careless errors might not guarantee an A, but if you do make those careless errors you will receive a poor grade. In the job market you probably won’t get you hired just because you wear appropriate clothing, but not wearing the appropriate clothing could be a deciding factor in someone not hiring you.
Mistake #1: Inappropriate attire. The clothes you wear to an interview can make or break your chances of being hired. First appearances mean everything, and in this case the potential employer will be judging you based on them. While certain jobs might not require you to dress up for an interview, most do and it’s better safe than sorry. Men should at least wear dress pants (not khaki’s or jeans), a long-sleeve button-up shirt, and a tie; but wearing a suit makes you look the most professional and many employers expect it. Women should keep the length of their dresses and skirts below their knees, and have absolutely no cleavage showing. Women can also wear a suit (yes, they make suits for women), or black dress pants a blazer. Clothing doesn’t have to be baggy, but it shouldn’t be skin tight. Make-up should look natural, and not like you are going to a club.
Mistake #2: Poor handshake. The handshake is a very important part of the interview. A weak handshake doesn’t look good, but crushing their hand leaves a bad impression. You want a nice firm handshake, because believe it or not, a handshake can really make you stick out. You shouldn’t have to tweak your handshake depending on who you will be shaking hands with (i.e.- a weaker handshake for a woman). The odds that you will have to shake an 85 year old woman’s hand are slim, so your handshake should be appropriate for everyone. Practice your handshake on various people and ask them what they think of it.
Mistake #3: Eye contact. The appropriate amount of eye contact is difficult for people to perfect. You want to keep an adequate amount of eye contact, while not looking creepy. Look the employer in the eye when you are being asked questions and when you are answering them, because it makes you look attentive. To avoid getting to the point where it just seems creepy, look away for a moment if you are thinking of an answer or briefly break eye contact every now and then while you are answering questions. Looking at the wall or down at your hands the whole time is never a good idea.
Mistake #4: Body Language. This can be difficult because most of us don’t even notice our own body language. The best way to make yourself aware is by doing a “practice interview” and recording it. Some university’s have career centers that will do this for you, where you can practice with a counselor and they give you a tape and go over what you said and how you acted. You can also just set up a camera yourself and have someone ask you questions (or ask yourself them), and go back and watch the tape. Check to make sure you are sitting up straight, and pay attention to any hand and facial gestures that you do. Avoid biting your lip, touching your face, playing with your hair, or fiddling around with your hands. Body language is an easy way to show that you have confidence. If you absolutely cannot sit still, hold a pen, roll your tongue (not when you’re talking), or find some other movement that is not noticeable.
Mistake #5: Being late. This may seem obvious, but it happens more often than you think. Depending on the employer, if you are late you might lose your chance to be interviewed altogether. They might be booked for interviews all day long, or have other meetings or responsibilities to attend to. Avoid this by practicing driving to the place you will be interviewed at the exact time of day you will be going. This will make you aware of what traffic will be like, how many lights you have to stop at, and where you have to park. It’s also a good idea to maybe see how long it takes you to get into the building, and figure out what floor it’s on. If not, add on about 10 minutes to give yourself time to get inside, and in case you get lost trying to find the room.
Mistake #6: Turn off cell phones. There’s not much more to say except just make sure your phone doesn’t ring during the interview. If you can’t turn it off completely, then turn it on silent … not vibrate!
Mistake #7: No knowledge of the company. Having no knowledge of the company is a horrible idea. Some employers will ask you specific questions about the company or projects they are currently working on. “How do you feel about (insert project here)?” “How does out company’s mission statement apply to you?” “What makes you qualified to help us with …?” Even if they don’t ask you specific questions like this, it’s a good idea to mention these things yourself. It shows you have knowledge of the company, which is something many other interviewees’ probably won’t have. Study the company’s web site, and do online searches to find out what they are working on.
Mistake #8: No resumes. Bring extra copies of your resume. There might be multiple people interviewing you, and there’s a chance that they will ask you if you have a copy for them. It’s also a good idea to have a copy in front of yourself so you have a reference if they ask you specific questions from experiences on your resume. This does not mean to look off your resume the whole time! You need to know your resume forwards and backwards, and have every bit of it memorized; otherwise it looks like you just made it up. This is just as back up.
Getting down the basics and making sure that you don’t make easy to avoid mistakes will increase your chances of being hired, and make the job interview process run smoothly.