By: Cate Murray | Updated: 2015-09-11 | Comments (1) | Professional Development Interviewing
It's a sad reality; candidates who are great fits for a company, culture, and specific job miss out on receiving an offer due to an unfortunate and often unintentional mistake they make during an interview. In previous tips, we've highlighted best practices to consider during your job search and interviews you go on. But what are some specific mistakes candidates make?
Here are the top 10 most common mistakes we've seen candidates make. By being aware of these, and by taking measures to minimize them, you're already ahead of other applicants/candidates!
- Didn't research the company.
Imagine you're the interviewer and the candidate can't respond to the question "What do you know about our organization?" or "Why would you want to work here?" What would your reaction be? For most, it's that the candidate must not be that interested if they didn't take the time to learn about the organization they're interviewing with. A form of that question is one that's typically asked very early on in the interview. You want to make sure you're prepared to communicate some information on what the company does, their background, and other key details, especially when you factor in the importance of a strong positive first impression!
- Don't understand the role and/or why they're a fit for the role.
It's imperative you review the job description for the role you're interviewing for. It would also be beneficial to review it several times, especially the day before, or the morning of, an interview. If you aren't able to explain a brief synopsis of the position when you're asked something like "What are your thoughts on this position," it won't be a good sign. One of our go-to questions to ask anyone we're interviewing is "What is your understanding of this position, and/or the priorities of this position, at this point?" Also, reviewing the job description a few times prior to an interview will help you better communicate why you're a fit. As mentioned in an earlier tip, one of our favorite pieces of interview prep advice is to read the job description in full and write down a list of all the reasons you're qualified. This not only helps communicate qualifications, but can ease interview anxieties and increase confidence.
- Have no questions.
If you have no questions, the interviewer will likely assume you have no interest in the position. Always, always, always have questions prepared! It's good to ask questions geared to the role you're interviewing for. For example, if you're interviewing for a Development role, inquiring on the breakdown between out-of-the-box and custom development, who does code reviews and unit testing, and what development methodology that group/team follows, would be good questions to ask. If all of your questions have been answered organically throughout the interview, you can always ask the interviewer to expand on certain aspects. We recommend asking at least 2-3 questions. Even asking for clarification would be a wise move, such as "My understanding of the expectations of this role are that you need someone to come in and join a 2-person team to set up a production environment with 12 SQL Servers and implement the SQL BI Suite. Is that correct?"
- Aren't qualified.
Obviously, Managers need candidates who can come in and perform the responsibilities of the job. Most Managers will consider candidates who don't have every requirement on their "wish list," if they can demonstrate that they can get ramped up and perform those key tasks. Most Managers we've worked with would rather hire an individual who has 70-80% of the requirements/knowledge/skills they're looking for that demonstrates strong initiative and learning capabilities over a candidate with 90-100% of the skill set that has minimal passion and initiative. At a recent user group meeting, a Manager with 25+ years of experience managing teams stated that he's hired candidates with only 50% of the requirements, but they showed strong initiative and explained how they would gain the knowledge they needed to be successful in the job. We've found that most Managers want candidates who can pick up the necessary skills within 2-3 months of being in the job.
- Unprofessional/poor attitude.
There are various ways you can exhibit unprofessionalism during an interview. Examples of some of the major ones include profanity, speaking extremely negatively about past co-workers, clients, managers, etc…, answering or checking your phone, inappropriate clothing/attire, chewing gum, or being unkempt/unshaven. Even if the environment is more casual, the rule of thumb is typically still business professional for interviews. And even if you develop strong rapport during the interview, profanity is never acceptable. There was an exceptionally strong candidate of ours that interviewed several years ago, who was a strong fit for the company, team/culture, and role. The Manager really liked him, but said he couldn't move forward because the candidate used profanity twice during the interview. The Manager said "he probably felt comfortable because we really hit off, and I don't even think he realized he cursed, and I would overlook it and hire him, but this is a customer-facing role, and it's not something I can risk."
- Develop minimal rapport/connection.
One of the best things you can try to do during an interview is to establish a connection with the interviewer. If you can find a commonality/similarity, it can help develop rapport, and you'll likely be more memorable. Many interviewers, especially depending on the role the candidate is interviewing for, are looking for applicants to "make a connection" or "relate to them" at some point during the interview. When we're hiring for customer-interfacing roles, that's one thing we always look for. We're constantly evaluating "Is this candidate relating or reacting to anything I'm saying?" One Manager of ours called after an interview and asked if the person's references mentioned anything about their listening skills because the candidate hadn't responded/reacted to what the Manager had been saying. This also shows that if you're not reacting, it could be misconstrued as you not listening.
- Poor communication overall.
Poor communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal, are often reasons qualified candidates miss out on job opportunities. Non-verbal skills include eye contact, tone of our voice, eye contact, facial expressions, etc. In addition to these, we often see candidates use verbal ticks or filler works such as "um", "you know", and "like" because they're either nervous or they're afraid of silence. It's much better to pause for a few seconds to gather your thoughts before you respond to the question over using filler words and coming off as not calm and confident. If you're worried about your use of verbal ticks, asked a mentor/co-worker/friend to do a mock interview with you! The more prepared you are at answering common interview questions and explaining your background and qualifications, the more relaxed and confident you'll feel during the actual interview.
- Poor explanation of why they're in job market or why they've left
Most Managers want individuals who are looking for a long-term fit. Therefore, a lot of short term positions without valid reasoning of why you left, or poor explanations of why you've left previous positions, can be a major red flag. Prior to an interview, prepare tactful explanations of why you've parted ways from each of your previous employers. It'd also be helpful to practice explanations in front of a mirror. Make sure your answers aren't negative as well.
- Seem disinterested.
A recent study showed that one of the top reasons candidates don't get hired is a perceived lack of interest in the role. While unfortunate, this is something that's easily fixed! Going back to point #3, make sure you have questions prepared. Again, if you don't have questions, you'll likely be perceived as not being excited about the role. Interviewers want to hire people who will genuinely care about doing a good job, and interest is highly correlated with that. One of the questions we like to ask during interviews is "What caught your eye about this position?" or "What triggered your interest?" You can always proactively communicate your interest and excitement in a role, especially near the end of an interview. We encourage candidates to wrap up an interview demonstrating why they're excited about the position!
- Go off on tangents.
Long-winded answers are usually a product of nerves. Keep in mind that interviewers are put off if they ask you a question, and you ramble on for 5-10 minutes. A recent IT Director of ours said "The average technical question I ask can be answered within 20-60 seconds." This is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind. If you're worried you're not answering the question as fully as the interviewer would like, you can say "Would you like me to clarify or expand on that?"
Before your next interview, review these top 10 reasons candidates miss out. You can highlight any reasons which you may need to work on. You can also check off the ones you have already put some thought into how you can address during the interview, such as asking quality questions and demonstrating your interest!
Do a mock interview with someone you trust, and ask them questions like:
- Did I communicate my interest?
- Did I go off on any tangents (i.e. speak for more than a couple minutes at one time without the interviewer interjecting)?
- Did I adequately address why I left previous positions?
Based on the feedback you receive from the mock interview, make improvements and do a second one.
Check out these other career related tips.
About the author
Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.
Last Updated: 2015-09-11
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