11 Mistakes Candidates Make in Job Interviews

With all the training, coaching, and resources available for job seekers, hiring managers remain astounded by the missteps candidates make in interviews. When interviewing for a job or promotion, your goal as the candidate is to highlight your offer as a benefit for the company, show a direct correlation between your experience and the goals of the company, and demonstrate how your values align with the company’s belief system.

Yet, when interviewing, so many applicants make these mistakes:

1. Appearing unfocused about what you offer. It is NOT the responsibility of the interviewer to discover what you stand for, what you are good at, and why you are the ideal fit for the position they are hiring for. It is 100% your job to connect all the dots between who you are and what they need.

2. Saying, “Sorry I was late. I had an important call to finish.” This can leave the interviewer thinking: What am I? Chopped liver?

3. Asking, “How quickly can I be promoted?” Pushing too hard about next steps might tell the interviewer you have short-timer syndrome. You see this as a stepping stone and won’t commit fully to the job. It is advisable to ask about career path and possibilities in the company, but be careful about being too direct.

4. Wearing a business suit to an interview in a tech company in Silicon Valley. It’s critical to know how people dress in the industry, company, and community that you’re pursuing. While I’d always advise dressing up for an interview — it shows respect for the interviewer and the occasion — if you dress 10 notches above everyone else, you might give the impression you won’t fit in in that job or company.

5. Looking at your watch, cell phone, tablet, etc. too often. If you are using your tablet to take notes on, tell the interviewer in advance. Otherwise, it can appear that you are impatient, bored, or both.

6. Not being prepared. In today’s information world, it is unacceptable for a candidate to arrive at an interview without having done research: Have good questions for the interviewer, know what the company does and who they serve, look at the LinkedIn profiles of key stakeholders, and come prepared to the meeting.

7. Disparaging a former employer or competitor. It never works to try to make yourself look better by making someone else look worse. The interviewer might worry how you will describe this interview to the next one you’ll be on.

8. Speaking in negatives. Instead of saying, “I’m not the best at details,” focus the conversation on your assets, “I’m a great big picture thinker!” If the conversation has too many negatives, even if you are refuting misconceptions, the negatives might be what the interviewer remembers about the meeting.

9. Downplaying your successes. An interview is not the time for modesty. Humility is always great, but when someone asks you about your talents, skills, passions, and goals, it’s critical that you are clear, focused, and can connect your offer to the opportunity for which you are being considered.

10. Forgetting to say “thank you” at the end. It might feel like a small step to the candidate, but the interviewer spent time reviewing the resume, preparing for the meeting, and asking probing questions. Before you leave, a verbal, “thank you for spending time with me today” is very important.

11. No follow up. The end of the first interview meeting is the start of the interview conversation. Immediately after the meeting, write a handwritten note to the interviewer(s) thanking them for their time, referencing something that was discussed, and reminding them of your interest in the position. If there is a good reason, then an quick email thank you can occur as the handwritten note is in the mail. Email should never replace the handwritten note completely.

Interviews are a stressful part of the job search. With these tips, you can maximize the chances of getting the offer — then YOU get to decide if you want the job!

By Lida Citroen Personal Branding Expert for Executives, Veterans | Speaker | Reputation Management Expert | Author |
Monday May 15, 2015