How to avoid the worst interview mistakes

After weeks or months of job hunting, your first interview probably feels like a breakthrough. Finally, you have an opportunity to talk face-to-face with a hiring manager, showcase your background and learn more about the company and job responsibilities.

Before you get caught up in the anticipation, remember this: Landing an interview is good news. It’s a step in the right direction. But the real breakthrough happens during the interview, when you say something that strikes a chord with the hiring manager. Suddenly, your tedious question-and-answer session transforms into a lively and authentic conversation. The hiring manager sits forward and asks deeper, more thoughtful questions. You respond with examples from your past and creative ideas for your future that show how you can help the business achieve its goals. You aren’t a random job seeker anymore. Now, you and the interviewer are the same: Two people who want the best for the company.

It is up to you – the job hunter – to take the interview to this level. You have to make the right impression and have something meaningful to say. To ensure that your conversation goes well, watch out for these common mistakes:

Poor presentation or communication. There is simply no excuse for lateness or improper attire in professional job interviews. Similarly, off-topic chatter about your life history, family or political views will likely distract from an important discussion about your qualifications. Stay on point. It’s possible to be friendly without losing track of the conversation.

Lack of insight about the company. In order to plow through the small talk and engage in a more pertinent conversation, you must understand the company’s vision and specialized products or services. Perform in-depth research in advance. How else can you demonstrate that you have the ideal experience, skills and personality to promote business success?

Flustered by interview questions. Be ready for standard interview questions, like “Why should we hire you?” and “What is your greatest weakness?” Also, prepare for tougher inquiries by brushing up on your career accomplishments so you can present examples of how much money you have generated or saved for former employers.

Not asking career-savvy questions. Most employers take a moment at the end of each interview to ask if you have questions about the position or company. In response, many job hunters shrug their shoulders and ask about salary and benefits. Don’t make this mistake! Ask about the boss’s expectations. Ask about the challenges faced by the last person who served in this position. If you care about the company (and your career), you can ask almost anything. Just try to look beyond salary, benefits and vacation time.

Missing the connection. Don’t waste the interview by reciting your resume or rattling off a list of achievements that do not relate to the position. Impress the hiring manager by saying something useful about yourself that will affect the business.

It’s up to you to set the groundwork for an authentic interview conversation. You must establish the connection between yourself and the interviewer, and make it clear that you are two people who want the same thing: To work for a productive and growing organization.

Eve Nicholas can be reached at

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