Avoiding Common Interview Pitfalls

You’ve invested a lot of time in your job search – updating your resume, posting online, networking, applying for open positions.  Finally, your efforts have paid off – you are invited for an interview.  Don’t panic!  Here are a few tips to ensure that your interview is a successful experience.

  1. Although it’s normal to be nervous during an interview, it is important to appear calm and self-confident, keeping your anxiety at bay.  Be careful, however, not to appear overly casual or familiar with the interviewer, as this may not be well perceived.  Be sure that your body language conveys confidence, respect and attention to the interviewer; sit straight, maintain eye contact, listen intently, nod in acknowledgement and smile genuinely. 
  2. Refrain from answering interview questions with canned responses found online.  Although there are endless resources available to steer job seekers through the interview process, use sample interview questions and answers only as a guide.  Recruiters have seen all the same websites and heard these answers many times over.  What an interviewer wants to hear from each candidate is their own professional experience supported by relevant examples.  Therefore, there is no substitute for careful preparation.  Take the time to refresh your memory about your past experience and be prepared to speak as a Subject Matter Expert about what you have accomplished professionally and provide explanations detailing how you did it. 
  3. Practice answering common interview questions so you can express yourself clearly, but do not try to memorize answers word-for-word.  Instead, be prepared with a multitude of situations from your professional experience to offer as examples of how you apply required skills on the job (e.g.: business judgement, logic, creativity, time management, multi-tasking skills, etc.) The more successful you are in speaking about your accomplishments, rather than reciting memorized text, the more natural and free-flowing the interview will be. 
  4. Refrain from discussing anything personal during interviews.  A good rule of thumb: If it doesn’t relate to the job, don’t bring it up. When you are asked to tell the recruiter about yourself, it is not an invitation to reveal your life story.  By asking this question, the interviewer is looking for a summary of your professional experience, which should be communicated in 2-3 minutes.  One recommended format is to start with your earliest experience and work your way up, briefly describing each job and key responsibilities.  This gives the recruiter a clear overview of your experience and career progression.   
  5. In the early stages of the interview process, focus on what you can offer the company, versus what you want.  Your goal at this point is to secure the potential employer’s interest in you.  Accomplish this objective by familiarizing yourself with the company, industry, its business challenges and objectives prior to the interview.  This will put you in a position to present your experience in a way that is aligned with the company’s goals.   If an offer is extended, you will then have some leverage to negotiate your points of interest. 
  6. Never express negativity when speaking about your previous jobs.  Maintain professionalism at all times; do not criticize, complain about or appear ungrateful towards your past employers.   
  7. Allow enough time for the interview, taking into account that it may run longer than expected.  Assuming things go well, you may be asked to meet others on the spot.  Be sure to keep your schedule clear for several hours following the scheduled appointment in case you are invited to stay longer.   
  8. Turn off your cell phone and anything else that may disrupt the interview.
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