Many aspects of job hunting, from online applications to advertising on social media, have changed in recent years, but the face-to-face job interview has remained.
While you may look like the ideal candidate on paper, it is essential you make a good impression in person.
Here’s our guide to the most common interview mistakes and how to avoid them.
Bart Turczynski, expert at the Uptowork career advice website, says the worst mistake is not preparing for standard interview questions such as ‘What do you know about us?’ and ‘Why us?’
“If you go unprepared, you will look like a schoolchild who didn’t do their homework,” he says. Do your research and make sure you know a bit about the company. If you are going for a finance role, read up on the company’s finances and accounts.
“You don’t have to spend a whole week doing research,” says Turczynski, “but if you don’t know anything about the business, other than what’s in the job ad, it’s a sign you don’t care about getting the job, you only care about getting a job.”
Making a good impression – from start to finish
Remember you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, says career coach Sarah Jones. “Remember that before you open your mouth, your appearance and demeanour carry more weight than your words,” she notes.
“I have heard of people doing really well at the interview, then making a flip comment in the elevator such as ‘god that was tough’ and blowing it all at the last minute. It’s all about make a good impression throughout the interview from when you enter the building, to when you leave.”
Not following up
How many times have you walked out of the door of an interview then heard nothing and left things there? Jones says it’s essential to follow up an interview. “Make sure you follow up with a LinkedIn message or email afterwards. That extra effort can make all the difference,” she says.
Looking at it from their perspective
Katherine Bryant, founder of The Progress Partnership coaching consultancy, says you need to try looking at things from the other side of the desk. “Speaking from a perspective of ‘why I want this role and why it’s good for me,’ rather than ‘here’s the value I’ll add to your team’ is one of the most common mistakes people make,” she notes. “Yes, they want you to be happy but they need to see how you’ll contribute too.”
Not listening properly
Make sure you listen properly too and don’t talk over the interviewer, Bryant advises. “Answering the questions you want to answer rather than those actually asked does not bode well for your ability to take guidance or work well in a team.”
Not being yourself
“Be yourself, everyone else is taken,” as the famous playwright Oscar Wilde once said. Don’t make the mistake of being more professional than personable.
“Many people think they have to put the most professional version of themselves forward at interview,” says Dean Connelly, recruitment director of We Are Latte. “They forget that an interview is all about making a human connection and for both parties to assess if they are the right personality and culture fit for each other. Be yourself and be genuine.”
Don’t leave it up to the interviewer to ask you all the questions
Many line managers and senior finance professionals may have little or no training on interviewing and recruitment. “This could mean they make assumptions based on a candidate’s experience, don’t ask detailed questions or know how to uncover someone’s skill-set,” says Connelly. Asking a few key questions at the end could help showcase your skills and suitability for the role.
“Allow the interview to start naturally,” Connelly advises, “then start to ask questions about what they’d like the person in this role to be able to do. This is your chance to show relevant examples of how you fit the role.”
Don’t try and blag it
Many people make the mistake of thinking they have to be able to do everything the job requires, but if your knowledge of the accountancy software they use is actually quite basic, don’t be afraid to say so.
“Be honest and then show them how you are able to pick things up quickly,” Connelly advises. “It shows an interviewer that you have good self-awareness, are realistic and are open to learning.”
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