Career Advice, Interviews

5 Common Interview Mistakes You Can Fix Right Now

Talking with the colleagues

Does it ever seem unfair to you that there are unlimited ways to make a mistake in an interview?

Even after you’ve worked hard to avoid all the biggies – you always show up on time, dress your best, and send a thank you note – what about the countless other ways you can get off on the wrong foot with a prospective employer? It seems like little mistakes are hiding out at every step of the journey just waiting to throw you off your game and make it seem like you’re not the best candidate for the job.

If that sounds like your job hunting experience, never fear! Today we’re sharing advice from Amanda Gulino, Senior Director of HR & Talent at Reading Partners and founder of A Better Monday who wants to help you overcome the five most common interview mistakes that hold candidates back from making the best possible impression:

Interview Mistake #1: Responding to the interview request too slowly

In today’s hyper-connected day and age, application follow-ups and interview requests happen fast. If you aren’t checking your email and phone and responding to recruiters and hiring managers quickly, you may miss out on the opportunity or leave a bad impression.

“No recruiter or hiring manager expects candidates to be constantly checking their email (…Or do they?! If so, beware of what that means once you accept the job!),” says Gulino, “However, taking several days to reply sends a message that you may not be interested in the job and that this may not be a priority for you.”

How to Avoid It:

“Your goal is to demonstrate a healthy level of interest, without being over-the-top,” Gulino explains. So when you’re actively job hunting, plan to check your email and voicemail at least once every 24 hours (if not every 12 hours) and respond promptly to invitations to interview.

Interview Mistake #2: Keeping it neutral with the recruiter

Strong relationships move the conversations forward, whether we’re talking about longtime connections or new acquaintances. If you tend to treat recruiters like temporary intermediaries, it’s time to re-think your approach and treat them like the important rapport-builders they are.

“A good recruiter has at least some level of influence on the outcome of the search, especially if that person has a strong relationship with the hiring manager,” says Gulino. “Building a relationship with a recruiter allows you to leverage their valuable influence and insights.”

How to Avoid It:

“Build a genuine relationship with your recruiter or company contact by being friendly and graciously accepting advice,” encourages Gulino. “For example, if the recruiter offers to prep you before your interview, take them up on that opportunity.”

Interview Mistake #3: Showing up scatterbrained

Few people can show up to an interview, wing it, and truly give the best impression. The rest of us need to prepare both physically and mentally for an interview so that we can focus on the conversation and convey a calm and organized presence. That means making time for reflection and critical thinking before you show up for the interview rather than trying to think on your feet.

“Rambling is a major issue I see, presumably because candidates don’t stop to think before beginning to speak and answer a question,” says Gulino. “You need to look, feel, and be polished and prepared from the moment you step into the company’s office because if you arrive and appear disheveled, give scattered answers, and don’t appear energetic about the conversation, it doesn’t send the strongest first impression (or second or third) to whoever is greeting you.”

How to Avoid It:

“In practice, being prepared means having your resume or other materials printed, your phone on silent, and your clothes are comfortable and professional,” says Gulino. “But you also need to take that extra step for mental preparation. I recommend a simple mindfulness technique that is amazing at calming nerves before an interview: take ten deep breaths, then ask yourself, ‘How do I feel now?’ If you’re still in an anxious moment, take ten more and repeat until you feel grounded.”

Interview Mistake #3: Ignoring non-verbal communication

How successful do you think Oprah would be if she interviewed all of her guests hunched over on her elbows and her eyes cast down on the table? That’s a pretty radical departure from how she actually presents herself – poised, with excellent posture, amiable eye contact, and a warm smile. What may surprise you is that your posture may be sending just as strong a message to your interviewer through non-verbal communication.

“We tend to spend more time thinking about what we say versus how we say it,” says Gulino. “When you go in the interview be thoughtful of body language and body positioning to make sure you’re sending the message you want to send.”

How to Avoid It:

“One of the best ways to check your non-verbal and verbal communication is to practice an interview answer or two and video yourself,” explains Gulino. “What observations do you have while watching the video back? What do you do? Do you sit on your hands? Stare off into space? Coil? Fidgeting, sitting on hands, slouching, leaning back versus in are all gestures that diminish presence, and, therefore, diminish confidence.”

Interview Mistake #4: Coming up with questions on the fly

It’s perfectly natural for questions to come to you throughout the interview process and for you to ask them. However, if you rely on your conversation with the interviewer to bring out everything you want to know about the company, you may miss out on an opportunity to display your critical thinking skills.

“Most candidates know to prepare questions for the end of the interview,” says Gulino. “However, there’s a difference between asking for specifics about your role or the company’s goals for the future and asking questions that will help you determine if you want this job. If you only ask questions related to you (not the company), it can leave a hiring manager wondering about your motivations for the role. Hiring managers will also think you only care about yourself, not the job or company. Ask a mix of questions about the job/company to demonstrate your interest and questions that will help you determine if the role is a good fit for you. Both matter.”

How to Avoid It:

“Create a bank of questions with 1-2 that you ask every interviewer,” says Gulino. “And make sure you include a mix of questions about the organization (For example, what are the biggest pain points of the last person in this role? How could your next hire address them?) and questions about your role(For example, what are growth opportunities like at the company? What professional development do you offer?).

Interview Mistake #5: Being so eager that you skip negotiating

Sometimes a job can seem too good to be true, right down to the generous salary and benefits package. But any time you accept the first offer, you’re leaving money on the table that you may regret a few years down the line.

Negotiations are a time to lean in and show your business acumen,” explains Gulino. “People want to work with smart people who understand how to navigate seemingly difficult conversations with grace and ease. Negotiating makes a lot of people uncomfortable, so this is a great place to work with a coach or trusted thought partner around negotiation strategy.”

How to Avoid It:

“Don’t totally flip the script and become a different person,” says Gulino. “But do demonstrate that you have some business chops and are comfortable discussing your compensation and worth to the company.”

Fortunately for all of us, hiring managers don’t sit around wondering what mistake you’ll make next. They’re too busy focusing on finding their next great hire – which could be you. Use this list to help you avoid common mistakes and show them the real version of yourself that is uniquely qualified for the job.  


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