Job interviews are stressful situations akin to public speaking, bungee jumping and skydiving. For most of us, the same cortical and chemical responses start firing off in your brain and body when preparing for, and heading off to, an interview. Usually, you feel more nervous that you look, and selection panels or interviewers aren’t horrible ogres waiting for you to fail or sabotaging your chances. They recognise nerves and would forgive a minor slip-up. But what errors are they NOT willing to overlook? Below are some pointers on avoiding job interview epic fails and how to recover if you fall into one:
1. Being late
OK, sometimes this is truly unavoidable in the face of some unforeseen traffic or public transport incident (though always give yourself at least 30 minutes on top of your usual travel time). This is the most common mistake at interview stage. Don’t rattle off excuses if this does happen to you. Instead, contact your interview en route, explain yourself and give them an ETA. This is much better than leaving them hanging not knowing whether you will show up or not.
Employers value someone willing to bend and flex with organisational, business and project needs. Your questions of the interviewer should reflect that. Ask about upcoming priorities, what kinds of projects/activities you will be involved in. Stay clear of any questions about standard work hours, benefits, salary, flex time, etc. All of that can be nutted out at job offer time – remember, you don’t have to accept an offer if you get one and these factors don’t meet your satisfaction. In the interim, keep questions limited to the job and organisation and showcase your adaptability and willingness to make a positive contribution.
3. Blank slating the interview
Nothing says “zero care factor” better than someone who comes unprepared and uninformed to interview. Make sure you have a toolkit of examples in your back pocket to bring out that demonstrate your core capabilities and that could support your responses to questions. Have a clear list of achievements you want to highlight and always, always, always answer in the affirmative to the question “Do you have any questions of us/me?”, a non-committal “nope” will get you struck off the list no matter how great you interviewed. Refer to point 2 for pointers on what you could ask.
4. Dreaming the time away
Be present, focused and “on”. A part of the interview (especially for natural introverts) is a performance. You want to be highlighting your best aspects while being genuine and engaged in the interview. This is your chance to shine and build rapport so that they can see how well you would fit in. Listen out for cues to questions, read between the lines and offer information and get over the self-deprecation and sell yourself. Because if you don’t, someone else will!
5. Be nice to EVERYONE
From the minute you enter the building, you come across potential colleagues, people who have the ear of the interviewer/s and influencers. This is you chance for the first impression so don’t blow it with arrogance, dismissiveness or nonchalance. Stay professional, stay off your phone, be patient and smile. You never know who is watching.
Good luck as you head to your next interview!