I do a lot of interview coaching with my clients. When it comes to job interviews, the five biggest mistakes people make are:
- Not preparing for the "Can you tell us about yourself?" question. A lot of job seekers spend their time preparing for what they consider to be the "tougher" interview questions, such as "What is your greatest weakness?" and neglect how they'll respond to "Tell us about yourself." Why? Mostly because they think that this is where they can really "wing it" in the interview because they already know enough about themselves to answer the question. However, when I've done both mock interviews with clients and actual interviews with potential employees, I often receive the same "deer caught in headlights" glare from each person. This is because they suddenly realize they don't know where to start or how much personal information to share. The response should always be about your professional self, how you can contribute to the company's bottom line, along with a few more necessary ingredients. We even coach our clients on how to use their response to this question to gain a little more control over the interview.
- Answering only in generalities. Anyone can talk about what their skills are in an interview, but that's not what's going to impress the interviewer. Giving examples of occasions when you've demonstrated those skills and abilities is!
- Not having stories ready for behavioral interview questions. This ties into #2. Behavioral interview questions are those that typically start with "Tell me about a time when you _____." Again, you have to be able to site a specific example of when you've been faced with a task and how you handled it. Behavioral questions are asked not to see how you would potentially handle a certain situation, but instead to see how you've handled that situation in the past. This is because past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. There is a specific formula we coach our clients on to provide the proper structure and story outline for an appropriate response to a behavioral interview question. The Amazon bestselling book Advance Your Image outlines that specific formula, and also includes sample interview questions.
- Not having questions of your own prepared. I've seen flawless interviews quickly turn into epic fails when the candidate hasn't bothered to ask any of his or her own questions at the end of the interview. Interviewing is a two-way street, and asking good and appropriate questions can actually help you get the job. In fact, when I got my first job out of grad school, I was told they chose me from the other candidates because of the kinds of questions I asked. They found my questions to be just as thoughtful as my answers. We teach our clients what questions to ask and which ones are landmines to avoid.
- Not asking for the job. There is a professional way to show your interest in the job and to come right out and ask for it. Most people don't even bother asking for the job in the interview. The few that do are typically the ones who receive an offer.
- not doing your research on the company BEFORE the interview, and
- not sending a thank you note AFTER the interview!
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