Avoid Common Interview Mistakes
Your professional CV and attention-grabbing cover letter are landing you interviews with your target companies, yet somehow you are never able to make it past the interview stage. Make sure you are not suffering from the following career-blowing deficiencies.
Lack of Professionalism
You will not get a second chance to make a first impression so it is imperative that the way you look and act in the interview are in keeping with the professional context and not working against you.
- Arrive at the interview on time. Nothing shows as much disrespect to the employer as arriving late and having no good reason for it. Aim to give yourself plenty of lead time; those precious minutes you spend waiting for the employer when you arrive early can be used to assimilate the new surroundings, read any company literature in the waiting area and get yourself in the right mood and frame of mind.
- Arrive at the interview alone. This is not the time to bring along your children, spouse, domestic help or parents and it is surprising how many candidates bring along an uninvited significant other for moral support or other unjustifiable reasons.
- Arrive properly dressed, perfectly groomed and with a professional smile and firm handshake that indicates you are happy to be there, happy to make the interviewer's acquaintance and mean business. There is plenty of literature available on dressing for the workplace so make sure you do not miss the mark. Dress conservatively and sensibly in a business suit that is not too tight or revealing and is appropriate for the industry you are interviewing for. Busy accessories, busy or revealing attire, attire that is too casual, or unclean, sloppy careless attire, excessive or inappropriate make-up will all send out the wrong message.
- Bring extra copies of your CV in mint condition, and if relevant, your portfolio.
- Be courteous. Listen to the interviewer attentively, smile politely and do not interrupt. Tailor your answers to the precise questions to show you are in fact listening and understanding all that is being said.
- Watch your body language. Sit upright in the chair, maintain comfortable eye contact, smile and nod politely without staring the interviewer down or using aggressive, domineering, passive, bored, overly familiar or overly confident body language. Your voice, hand gestures and eye contact are all sending out signals to the interviewer; make sure you are aware of the impression you are making and that it is a professional and appropriate one. You need to come across as energetic, interested, confident, courteous, and happy to be there.
Lack of Preparation
If you are properly prepared, your answers and how you deliver them should be well rehearsed and very few if any questions should come as a surprise.
- The interviewer is looking for the candidate who is most skilled, competent and generally appropriate in the context of a given job, company and industry and all your answers should be tailored accordingly. You should be very familiar with the skills and competencies the employer is looking for from your research activities and be able to demonstrate them in your answers.
- You should know your CV inside out and support all your answers on personal strengths with directly relevant specific examples from your past work experiences and/or education.
- You should be familiar with recent events in the company and conversant in industry trends and news if asked about them.
- Avoid long rambling answers that do not specifically address the skills or experience in question. Be succinct and precise in the delivery of your response.
- Don't forget to ask intelligent questions. Your questions should indicate that you have researched the company and industry thoroughly and are familiar with pressing issues and trends.
Lack of Interest
Your attitude can make or break the interview. Employers are looking for energetic professionals who will be positive and enthusiastic members of the team. Looking bored or tired or displaying lack of interest during the interview will work against you. Over-confidence, superiority, bragging or excessive name-dropping will also not go down well with the prospective employer. Negative comments about previous employers, bosses or peers are generally regarded negatively and you should refrain from them at any stage of the job search. Answer questions attentively, respectfully and in a manner that engages the employer and demonstrates your interest in the company and the job.
Lack of Honesty
Exaggerations and outright lies at the interview stage are more often than not glaringly obvious. Experienced employers will be more or less familiar with what the limits of your job would have been at your current or previous places of employment and will probably probe deep where they detect inconsistencies or fabrications. Make sure the dates and facts on your CV and cover letter are accurate and that your answers are brief, to the point and illustrate your strengths rather than weaknesses without resorting to lies.
Lack of Follow-Up
Many a potential job is lost by poor follow-up. Companies are interested in candidates who are interested in them and you need to reiterate and confirm this interest in a thank-you letter and diligent follow-up after the interview. Remember that employers are busy and may have been side-tracked from your application so don't assume it's over till you have received confirmation of the outcome of your application one way or another. Your first follow-up letter following an interview should thank the interviewer for their time, reiterate the skills, competencies and experiences that make you uniquely suitable for the job and give a time/date at which you will call the employer to follow up. More often than not, the employer is waiting for you to make that next move after the interview and your thank-you letter should be used to sell yourself again.
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