Last week, we hosted a members-only professional development webinar entitled, “Getting the Interview Right”. There, Kristal Thomas, owner of Express Employment Professionals, celebrated expert, and speaker delved into how to make a great first impression on your next interview.
Ultimately, every step of the interview process is a step on the road to marketing yourself. Creating a strong brand for yourself throughout the interviewing process starts with your resume and builds from there. It’s important to take the time to be thoughtful from the first step through the thank you note and it’ll make getting in front of the right people, for the right job, at the right time easier. By figuring out what you stand for and representing it in interviews (your brand), you’re more likely to find the right fit for your skills (your product).
Keep your personal brand strong by avoiding these common interview mistakes and critical errors in the interviewing process:
Mistake #1: Not interviewing your interviewer
You may be the interviewee but candidates should remember that it’s not a one-way street. Just like they’re looking for the perfect candidate, you’re looking for the right fit as well.
HOW TO FIX IT: Have a standard set of questions you ask your interviewers to have an apples-for-apples comparison. Your questions should reveal the research you’ve done on the organization and the opportunity.
Mistake #2: Interviewing for too few jobs
Kristal recommends remembering that interviewing is a numbers game. “One of the biggest mistakes I see happen is that candidates just go after one job at a time.”
HOW TO FIX IT: Go after as many jobs as realistically possible at the same time. You’ll have better options if you cast a wider net.
Mistake #3: Lacking confidence
Too many people only apply for jobs that they feel 100% qualified for. The reality is that most interviewers are looking for a person who is the right balance of skills and attitude.
HOW TO FIX IT: Anything you’re 80% qualified for should be a no-brainer. If you perceive your skills to match approximately 50% of their requirements, explain in the cover letter why you’re still the right fit. Perhaps offer to start at the bottom and work your way up!
Mistake #4: Failing to network
Susan Roane, author of How to Work a Room, once famously said: “It’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows you.” But too many people don’t take the extra steps to research and (professionally) connect with people who are part of an organization they may one day interview for.
HOW TO FIX IT: If you’re excited about a position you’ve applied for, reach out to anyone you can in that company. See if you can get an informational interview with them or perhaps a networking coffee and learn more about the opportunity, hiring manager, and culture.
Mistake #5: Having a sloppy social presence
Social media matters. Recruiters search for you before they bring you in. If you have highly negative or politically charged pages you could be seen as a liability or not sharing the organization’s core values.
HOW TO FIX IT: Leave the personality (family pictures, pictures enjoying your hobbies), but remove the deal breakers (politics, negativity, partying) from any social media pages you might have been posting to.
Mistake #6: Failing to research the company
Not doing your research tells your interviewer something about you. The interview is supposed to be highlighting your best skills, traits, and manners. If you come to the table unprepared to talk about why you want to work at an organization, you may not make it to the next round.
HOW TO FIX IT: Take the time to look at an organization’s website and find things that speak to your skills, interests, and passions. Understand the depth and breadth of services they offer. That way, you can draw any examples you share directly back to what they do.
Mistake #7: Showing up in inappropriate attire
Clothes may not seem super important, but first impressions are made from the way you greet someone to how you look. Showing up underdressed or disheveled can speak to a lack of motivation or understanding about what is appropriate in a professional setting.
HOW TO FIX IT: Kristal recommends dressing one level above the job you want. If their company culture is business casual, arrive in a jacket and khakis. If they are a casual culture, find a polo and a clean pair of pants (not jeans). Take the time to dress up a little.
Mistake #8: Not preparing an “elevator pitch”
An elevator pitch is a 1-minute description of who you are, what you have done, and what you want to do next. Most people ramble on when they are asked this question and they take up too much time. The interviewer is then forced to condense the rest of the questions and may not get the information they need to be able to give you a fair shot.
HOW TO FIX IT: Practice what you’ll say when an interviewer asks you to share a little bit about yourself. Make sure you have a quick and snappy way for people to get a sense for who you are and where you want to go.
Mistake #9: Complaining
Of course, you don’t want to complain in an interview, right? But Kristal says this is one of the most common interview mistakes. Complaints about bosses, rants about hours, and gripes about co-workers should remain unsaid.
HOW TO FIX IT: If you are asked about how or why you left a job, put on your best diplomatic hat and say something like, “the culture wasn’t a good fit for me” or “the job description didn’t match my day-to-day duties,” or “the needs of the organization changed.”
Mistake #10: Forgetting to say “Thank You”
In this day and age, the thank you note might seem archaic. But acknowledging your pleasant interaction with the people who interviewed you can go a long way.
HOW TO FIX IT: Stand out by sending a follow-up email or hand-written thank you card to stand out from the crowd. Because so few people do it, you’ll be remembered if you take the time to show gratitude.
We know you have what it takes to get the gig of your dreams. Now, you just need to convince the hiring manager that you’re the right person. Kristal encourages you to think of the interviewing process as an opportunity to put your best foot forward; wow them with your skills before, during, and after the interview. Make sure you get it right by avoiding these 10 common interview mistakes. Take the time to think through the whole process and apply your values to your brand, practice good habits, and follow up to give yourself the best shot at a potential new role.
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