Job interviews – aren’t they just the best? They’re your chance to really strut your stuff, dazzle your interviewer, and leave ‘em begging for more! I bet you go on job interviews in your spare time just for the sheer fun of it, right?
No? Did I guess you wrong? Do you feel like you’ve been interviewing for forever but have yet to receive a job offer? Do you get tied up in knots just thinking about job interviews? Maybe it has been years since you last interviewed, and you’re worried about how things may have changed since then.
You’re not alone. The good news: There’s help.
I’ve conducted hundreds of job interviews during my career, and I’m here to share with you some of the faux pas and blunders I’ve seen along the way. Your next interview could be the one that ends your search and lands you the job of your dreams – as long as you avoid these eight interview mistakes:
1. Talking Too Much
You may be overjoyed at the prospect of interviewing with one of your top-choice employers, but be careful: You don’t want to blow it by prattling on incessantly during the interview. Of course you’re nervous, of course you want this job, and of course the interviewer understands the dynamics here. Still, you can’t be sharing too much information.
The interviewer may seem okay as you ramble on, even nodding their head and mumbling “uh-huh” every once in a while. However, interviewers are just like the rest of us: They have short attention spans. You can expect them to pay attention for about 90 seconds at a time, max, before drifting off. Eventually, they’ll hear nothing you’re saying. Keep it short, to the point, and on topic.
2. Trashing Your Former Employer
If you’re less than thrilled with your current job situation – feel like you’re working for Attila the Hun? – it may be tempting to unload when the interviewer asks the inevitable question, “So, why are you looking for new employment?”
However, you cannot be negative when answering this question – not even just a little. If you slam your current boss or job, the interviewer may conclude that you’ll just end up slamming them and their company, too, when you move on. Plus, no one – not interviewers, probably not even your mother – wants to hear you whine.
Instead, simply say you’re seeking new challenges, looking for a company with room for advancement, or you believe your skills may be put to better use elsewhere. Keep it positive.
3. Speaking Too Softly
Your suit is pressed, your shoes are polished, and your hair is coiffed. Don’t forget to “prep” your voice, too! If you speak too softly, you may ruin the first impression you hoped to make and even cost yourself the job. You may have the best professional background in the world, but if the interviewer can’t hear you describe it, it doesn’t matter. At the very least, a soft voice can make you appear insecure or timid.
How do you know when to ramp up the volume? Watch for feedback from your listeners. If they routinely have to lean forward, read your lips, or ask you to repeat yourself, dial it up. Even a slight change could make a big difference.
4. Speaking Too Loudly
On the flip side, speaking too loudly can be irritating and exhausting to your listeners. Even if you’re saying exactly what the interviewer wants to hear, you run the risk of coming across as egotistical, boastful, or even aggressive if your booming voice is blowing their hair back. Similarly, sudden, unexpected bursts in volume may startle your interviewer and can make you seem unstable and easily excitable.
If you’ve ever been told you speak too loudly, now’s the time to tone it down. “Too soft” is no good, but “too loud” isn’t the solution. Just as in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you’re striving for “just right.”
5. Putting Yourself Down
You want to paint yourself in a favorable light, and you want to be completely truthful with the interviewer, but this is no room for self-deprecation in an interview. Catch yourself before discussing a failure, a shortcoming, or a doubt, and do your best to reframe it as something positive. Be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished; share those accomplishments joyfully, without reservation. Being able to speak enthusiastically and honestly about your strengths will send the message you are mature and self-confident. Think of it this way: If you don’t think well of yourself, why should the interviewer?
6. Looking Everywhere But at the Interviewer
If you look up and down, across the room, at the pictures on the walls, or – God forbid – at your watch instead of making eye contact with the interviewer, it may appear you are not paying attention, have poor social skills, or are bored and can’t wait to get out of there.
Establishing rapport with the interviewer is critical to your success, and one of the most effective ways of doing so is with good eye contact. When you make genuine, direct eye contact, the interviewer will feel that you are connected, that you understand each other, and that you are being honest. Your name will climb to the top of the “most wanted” list.
Think swearing makes you look cool? Trust me: It doesn’t – not in this situation.
It’s absolutely unacceptable to swear during a job interview, period. The message you send by cursing is that you have no self-control, that you’re rude and unsophisticated, or that you have zero respect for the interviewer. Whether true or not, any of these messages can cost you the job. In an interview, you are expected to be on your best behavior. Keeping your language clean shows you are taking the opportunity seriously.
8. Being Unprepared
When you arrive at a job interview, you should be 100 percent prepared in every way. Do your homework beforehand. Know everything there is to know about the company and the job you’re applying for. Memorize your resume. Know the questions you’re going to ask.
Then, relax. If you’re fidgeting with papers and notes, it may look like you’re unprepared and nervous, or the interviewer may think you’re killing time while trying to answer an unexpected question. It’s a good idea to bring a few copies of your resume (I suggest three), a recommendation letter or two, a portfolio of your work (if you have one), and a tablet or notebook for taking notes, but otherwise, it should all be firmly in your head. That way, you’ll appear calm, confident, and ready to handle whatever comes your way.
Job interviews are all about making a great first impression and being fully prepared for what follows. Practice really does make perfect, so before you head off to your next interview, take some time to work out the bugs, eliminate the stumbles, and polish the performance. You’re selling your most important and treasured commodity: You! Gather your confidence, don your killer smile, nail that interview, and rock your new job.