The seven biggest interview mistakes

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There are lots of articles out there about mistakes that are made during interviews that prevent candidates from showing their worth. This article isn’t about “dressing right” or “showing up late” — common sense stuff — but about the big mistakes people make that loses the job offer.

Let’s take a look.

1. Failure to research the company

You might think you know a great deal about the company you are interviewing with. Bank of America, after all, is a bank and does what banks do. And General Motors makes cars. So you think you know the company. That’s not the kind of research I’m talking about here.

Instead, you need to research how the department you are interviewing for fits into the company or division. You need to research how your team contributes to the rest of the company.

Why so specific? Because if you do the research, you will be able to ask credible questions about the position and show that you have a bigger picture about the work that is directly tied to the position. Plus, if you are asked a question you don’t quite understand, you will have better context about the question from your research on the department so you can ask better clarifying questions.

2. Failure to research the hiring manager

It is becoming a common practice to search you out on the Internet to see what gets returned. Why shouldn’t you be doing the exact same thing with the hiring manager?

The point on researching the manager is not so much to ask about what you found as research, but, instead, to enable you to ask good questions about the manager’s management style. Knowing the manager from a social media standpoint helps you frame the answers to your interview questions in a way that shows better fit for the job than other candidates.

Just remember: make sure you get the right manager in your research. Spell my first name incorrectly and you’ll think I’m a business strategy consultant — in Zurich. I’m not.

3. Failure to practice answering interview questions

Athletes practice to hone their skills. Speakers practice their speeches before speaking. Yet, in one of the most important events in our business life, we casually walk into an interview without practicing our answers to obvious interview questions (“What’s your greatest weakness?”).

And while an interview, at its best, is like a good business conversation, the truth of the matter is that you need to weave your business results into the answers you give. Putting in results in an answer isn’t natural both because it requires numbers and it sounds like bragging. You overcome this with practice so all of it becomes a natural response to interview questions.

4. Failure to create success stories

Hiring managers will remember answers to interview questions — but everyone remembers stories better. After interviewing twenty candidates for a position, wouldn’t you want your success story to be the one answer the hiring manager remembers best?

Powerful stories about how you brought business results as an answer to an interview question will show best how you are differentiated from all the other candidates doing the interview.

5. Failure by criticizing management

Paradoxically, the number one reason a person leaves their job is because of the manager. Including managers. But, in an interview, criticizing management is the kiss of death to getting a job. There is simply no percentage in criticizing your past managers to getting another job — because the hiring manager isn’t looking for criticism, but people to help achieve the business goals.

I listened, in vain, to a former co-worker of mine while I interviewed her for a job at my new company. Mostly what she did during the interview was talk about the poor management practices of where she was still working. While I agreed the company had poor management practices, she thought because she knew me it would provide reasons for getting the job. But, I was looking for how she could help me and my team meet our business goals. She never had a chance compared to others who were showing how they reached business goals at their current job.

6. Failure to remember there are only three answers to interview questions

Every interview will throw you a loop on some questions. Then, we panic. It wasn’t a question that I practiced answers to before the interview. It wasn’t mentioned in the job description. I didn’t find it in my research.

Then we blow the answer to the interview question by doing all those no-no’s other pundits write about like taking forever to answer a question.

Instead, remember there are only three answers to interview questions: can you do the work, are you motivated to do the work, and will you fit into the team?

Every question, in one way or another, comes down to these three. So if you are asked a question that is throwing you for a loop, you can ask a clarifying question to determine if the hiring manager is looking for something about your job skills, your motivation, or how you will fit into the team. No panic, just a clarifying question to help you formulate your answer.

7. Failure to follow-up after the interview

Follow-up is two-fold. First, you write a thank you e-mail to the person doing the interviewing. And if it is “panel” interview, a thank you to every person on the panel.

Not writing a thank you note to the people interviewing you is now so common that the failure to do so stands out as a person not motivated enough about the job to even write a simple thank you note. It may not cost you the job, but it will hurt your chances.

So make sure you get e-mail addresses from the people interviewing you or their business card (you have yours, don’t you?) so you can follow-up appropriately.

Second, you need to set a calendar date to follow-up on the interview. Hiring managers rarely interview everyone in a single day and they have to go through some process to hiring anyone. Consequently, calling the next day for a status on the job doesn’t make sense.

Your job, with the hiring manager during the interview, is to determine the right time to do a follow-up inquiry about the job and the right person for the inquiry.

Then, when you do follow-up, you can reference back the mutual decision for the follow-up. That helps you a couple of ways: you collaborated with the manager about the timing so it reminds the hiring manager that you both agreed to the follow-up. Plus, you really followed through and didn’t just talk about following up.

The interview is about getting a job offer

Job candidates sometimes forget the objective of the interview is getting the job offer. Everything in the entire interview process is getting to the point where you are presented an offer. There are successes along the way, of course, like getting the phone interview from your resume. Getting the face-to-face interview. Getting the second interview.

All good things to happen. But none of it matters until you get the job offer. Avoid these seven mistakes and you will put yourself in the Cubicle Warrior position to do just that.

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