Below are some common interview mistakes and how to avoid them. Some of these may seem small at face value, but they can actually have a big impact on the interviewer’s perception of you.
Tell me about yourself
This interview question presents a great opportunity for you to endear yourself to your interviewer. However, many people end up spinning it into a discussion of their work achievements, which isn’t necessarily the best approach. The question doesn’t mean “tell me why you’re good at your job” – the interviewer simply wants to learn a bit about who you are as a person. Without giving an incredibly lengthy biography, this is the chance to share where you were born and raised, your education background and a brief career overview.
The trickiest question that I am most asked for advice on is “what are your weaknesses?”
We all have weaknesses. When an interviewer asks this question, they’re trying to understand how self-aware you are. Don’t be afraid to be honest when answering this question, however it’s important to choose your words carefully and make sure you don’t list a weakness that is an essential skill for the role. For instance, don’t respond that you have issues with time management if you’re going for a project management position.
Here is an example of a good response that puts a positive spin on a “weakness”:
* I value efficiency so highly that I put too much pressure on myself. I continue to search for the right balance between enjoying my work and pushing myself.
Don’t needlessly highlight negatives
When asked a question about what you have been doing or what you are looking for, don’t point out what you haven’t done or what you aren’t looking for. For example, “what are you looking for in the culture of a firm?”
“I’m not looking for a place that requires people to stay back late.”
Some people have the tendency to begin their answers to these sorts of questions with irrelevant negatives. This comes across as if you haven’t listened to what the questioner has asked you and it appears defensive – as if you are overly concerned that you may not have experience they need or that they may not be able to offer you what you want.
There are better ways of getting this information for yourself, such as via the questions you ask the interviewer.
Don’t speak over the person interviewing you
You might feel excited about a question and feel like you’ve got the perfect answer before the interviewer has even finished speaking, but regardless, cutting someone off mid-sentence is rude, impatient and can make you come across as arrogant.
People who achieve high marks academically and are highly technically skilled tend to be the ones that have a sense that they already know where the question is going before it has been fully asked. The problem is they come across as if their time is so valuable that they don’t need to hear the end of your sentence. They often talk frantically and constantly seem rushed.
People like this put the interviewer on edge. Despite their technical and academic achievements, they leave the interview having made a poor impression.
It’s important to make a good impression with your attire. If you show up to an interview (or even if you’re having the interview over video chat) without having made any effort with your appearance, this gives an unfavourable impression. Putting effort into looking professional and well-presented means that the interviewer will feel more confident in your capabilities and professionalism. There is zero risk to being overdressed, but plenty of risk if you’re underdressed!
Research the firm
If you want to be hired by a company, then it’s vital to do your due diligence before the interview. Learn about what they do and what they stand for. Job interviews aren’t just about an interviewer deciding if you’re the right fit, they’re also a chance for you to decide if you’ll be happy in the role. Think about if the firm/job is what you are really wanting. Ask yourself questions such as “does the work sound interesting?” or “what are the company’s values?”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
This question is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate how your professional goals align with the job you are applying for. Emphasise the skill areas you want to grow and develop, but avoid being specific about job titles and exact timeframes. Do not make the mistake of answering “I don’t know”, as this makes you sound like someone who lacks direction and purpose. Never joke (or seriously say) “I want your job” to the interviewer – they won’t be amused.