I recently asked six different recruiters and hiring managers to tell me what the biggest mistake applicants make during the interview process is. If they repeated a mistake given by the preceding recruiter/hiring manager, I asked them to give me a different mistake.
Here are the six mistakes that could end an interview, or lead an applicant to not get a second interview/job offer...
1) Being Unaware That it's an Interview, Not an Interrogation An interview is a formal occasion, sure. But that doesn't mean it has to be a somber one. When you are in an interview, just relax. Answer questions, ask questions, and be dynamic. When you fail to interact, it puts the burden on the person conducting the interview to lead the charge and that is when interviews derail and start to feel like a dreaded inquisition. Interviews should be conversational, not robotic. Dynamic applicants stand out and are well remembered while those who are meek and stagnant fade into obscurity.
2) Buying Into Antiquated Advice and Spinning the Questions! When a recruiter or hiring manager asks you what your weaknesses are, answer the question truthfully. Don't spin the question to a positive as many people have instructed you to do. It is an old trick that has fallen out of favor a long time ago, and chances are, we have heard the "I work too hard" answer far too often for it to be genuine. We ask this question for a reason, we want to see how genuine you are and a real answer of substance will get you further than a stock answer. Use this time to let the interviewer know what you areas of improvement are and how you plan to work towards correcting these weaknesses. For example, try saying something like "I don't know when to let go of something. If I can't figure something out, I obsess over it. I know that I need to ask for help and I am learning to do that now."
3) Not Knowing at Least a Little About the Company and the Job When you sit before an interviewer, you are most likely to be asked "Why do you want to work here?" or "Do you know what we do?" The last thing you want to say is that you don't know. If an interview asks you if you know what the company does and you have no clue, hang up the hope of ever hearing back or having the interview move past the cursory high level questions. Things you should familiarize yourself with are
A) What the company does B) Who founded the company and how long ago C) If there are core values or a mission statement, you should know what those are and speak to them in your interview answers D) Know what position you are interviewing for and what the job requirements are
4) Not Knowing Yourself You have researched the company, and that is perfect. But you would be surprised at how frequently people stumble when it comes to answering questions about themselves. You should have answers prepared for questions like "Why do you want to work here", "What are your strengths and weaknesses", and "Tell me a little about yourself".
Create a list of responses a head of time so that you aren't left staring blankly at the interviewer or laughing nervously because you don't know how to answer. And pro tip, to answer the "tell me about yourself" question. Just give us a highlight reel of your professional career and one personal thing. Don't ask us how you should answer, just answer confidently.
5) Bringing in Your Cellphone (if you do, DON'T leave it on) As awesome as cellphones are, and we love them too, do not bring them into the interview with you with the ringer on. Nothing will kill the momentum of an interview faster than your phone going off and you scrambling nervously to turn it off...or worse, excusing yourself to answer it. Just don't.
6) Not Asking Questions Nothing says "I'm not interested in working for you" than an applicant who doesn't ask questions. We all know you have a ton of questions and you should ask us. It shows us that you are interested in working for us and that you are not passive or simply going through the motions. Ask us what s typical day in the job is like. Ask me about why the position is open (expansion or filling a vacant role). Ask me what the challenges are. Ask me what I am looking for in an employee. Interview me as much as I am interviewing you...trust me, hardly anyone does this and it will be a refreshing and invigorating change of pace and it will make me remember you above everyone else.