Interview Mistakes and How to NOT Make Them

Have you ever left an interview and been like, “What the hell just happened?” You knew you bombed. You knew you could have done better and yet, you didn’t.

Maybe you didn’t get the coaching you needed. Reflecting back, maybe you didn’t prepare as much as you think you should have. Maybe you made one of the mistakes that I’m going to share now.

I’ve been a career educator for almost a decade and I see many of these interview mistakes in clients or friends every single day. Sometimes, I realize that I’ve made these mistakes when I look back at interviews that I’ve been on.

Let’s see how many you’ve made. I know I’ve made some too. :)

You didn’t do your research on the company

Researching the company, knowing their mission statement (the company’s or the department that you’re interviewing with) is really important. Many times, the company will ask you some questions regarding either the field/industry or the company as a whole and knowing a bit about it is key to success.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you prepare for your interview:

  • Have there been any press releases about the company, CEO or top execs?

  • Has the company been acquired or did they acquire new businesses recently?

  • Did they IPO recently? (if you’re in the start-up world, this can come up)

  • What’s been up and coming within the industry? They might ask you about an article you read within a publication within that industry.

  • Look up other people at the company that have the job you’re applying for and see how their background aligns with yours. Do you seem like a similar person for this role and you’ll fit in with your new colleagues? Maybe they’re looking for someone who has a different background on purpose (if you don’t align).

You didn’t prepare to tell your story

Everyone has a story. Your story is amazing and unique, just like you. Knowing how to tell it can be challenging and maybe puts some of us outside our comfort zone because it can be seen that we’re “bragging” about our accomplishments.

Let me tell you something, hunny, If you’re not going to brag about yourself, who will? How will the employer know about all of your amazing accomplishments if you don’t talk about them? If you don’t tell them that you’re awesome, they’re going to think that you’re not awesome and give the job to someone else. That would be TRAGIC!!!!

I keep, what I call and “Accomplishment Document” (AD) within every job I take. I do it year by year, July 1 - June 30 every single year. I have this document for the last 7 years! I put a calendar reminder on every single month (i don’t always complete the document every month but I try!) and take a good 30 minutes to go through my calendar to write down what awesome things I did that month. I track my phone calls with employers, career coaching appointments, strengths coaching sessions, employer visits on site and other professional development activities that I participate in. This document, over the course of a year gets to be 5 - 7 pages, bullet pointed within certain categories that make sense for my profession. Whenever I’m going into an interview or going into a review with a supervisor, I have a track record of all of the AMAZING things I’ve done this year to remind me that I’m fucking awesome! This is something that I go over in detail with my students and clients because it is so important and really does help when you’re preparing to applying to a new job, you can pull examples from this document for your resume and for your interview.

I’ll compare the job description of the position that I’m interviewing for, with my AD and I look for my accomplishments and how they align with that job. I know that I have strong examples when I do this and totally ROCK my interviewers socks off. It is the perfect way to have all of your greatest successes at the forefront of your mind.

A good mantra to keep in mind:

I know my story better than anyone else. I’m awesome. I’m prepared. I’m the new [insert job title] at [company name]. I can do this.

Sometimes I say this as I’m dancing around my bathroom listening to Britney Spears. Just me??? lol

Power poses also help when gaining confidence to tell your story. When you’re in your car or in the bathroom right before you go into the office, just stand in the wonder woman pose for 2 minutes and feel yourself become more powerful! Don’t know what power poses are? Check out this video.

You dressed too casual

I get it, many companies are moving to a more relaxed dress code. Thank you, technology companies! However, you don’t want to show up to an interview in jeans and tennies. You want to be at least business casual or business professional depending on your industry and level within the organization. It is always better to be over dressed than underdressed. You don’t wanna be the person who shows up to an interview at a bank or venture capital firm in shorts and a t-shirt.

Business casual includes:

  • Dress pants

  • Dress shoes

  • Button down shirt (men)

  • Nicer top (not too low cut, women)

Business professional:

  • Same but add a jacket that matches your bottoms (for the most part)

  • Darker colored suit

  • Neutral shirt

  • Polished shoes

Both:

  • Understated jewelry

  • Well groomed (clean shaved, nails looking good, shower…)

No-no’s:

  • Loud colors

  • Shorts

  • Short skirts

  • Denim

Oh yeah - and put away that damn cell phone and you better make sure that it doesn’t ring during the interview. If you are waiting for an emergency phone call, let the interviewer know ahead of time. This might feel a bit awkward but it is necessary if you really might need to take a call during the interview.

You didn’t have any questions for the interviewers

Inevitably, the last question that the interviewers are going to ask you is, “What questions do you have for us?” or some variation of that. When a potential candidate doesn’t have any questions, it is a HUGE red flag for the employer. I’ve sat on many hiring committees and we NEVER hire the person who doesn’t have any questions. You want to look curious about the new employer in some form.

Many people I work with don’t know what questions to ask. Here is a list of a few of my faves:

  • What motivates you to come to work or what is the best part of your job?

  • What do you think will be the most challenging aspects of this job for the person who gets this position?

  • What is the work cycle for this job? Are there really busy times or slower times?

  • Is there a “typical day in the life of X position?” If not, what does the work flow look like?

  • What are your expectations of this person within the first 30 days? 60 days? 90 days?

  • What training is involved in this position?

  • Is there an opportunity for professional development by participation in conferences or seminars? (assuming that’s something that you like to do)

The ONE question that you absolutely, cannot leave the interview without knowing:

  • What is the timeline for hiring this position?

You want to know if they are looking to get you in within the next couple of weeks or the next month because the worst part of the job search (I think) is waiting to hear that you for sure, for sure, have the position. I ask clients this all the time when they’ve completed the interview and I most often hear, “I’m not sure.” CRINGE!!! You always want to know this.

You didn’t send a “thank you” note to at least one of the interviewers

I have colleagues and friends who always do a hand written thank you note to their interviewers. I’ve done it before and I think it’s not always feasible. I’ve had hiring managers call me the very next day, almost before I get my Thank You email sent.

Here’s the thing, send at least a thank you email to ONE of the interviewers. You can send separate emails to everyone who interviewed you, if you like but that’s not necessary. Send it to the hiring manager for sure. If your style is a hand written thank you note, by all means, do it! That’s going to show them how above and beyond you are. HECK, just sending a thank you email is going above and beyond because not every job seeker does that.

What do you say? You thank them for their time. If there was something that you forgot to say during the interview that you really wanted to, the thank you email is the time to do that. Reiterate that you’re even more excited about the position and you’re looking forward to hearing from them. Then it is done.

You don’t have to keep reaching out to them about timeline because, you should already know the timeline. If the timeline passes and you haven’t heard from them, that is an appropriate time to reach out and ask them if there’s anything else they need from you to continue the process. Sometimes you want to be a little bug in the ears of HR.

In summary

When you have an interview, remember that these people already like you enough to want to meet you. Go into the interview with a critical eye. When I’m interviewing I always ask the airplane question about the people who are interviewing me, “Would I want to be on an airplane with these people across the country?” If the answer is no, you might want to re-think working with these people because they might not be your people. I’ve loved traveling with colleagues in the past because they passed this test.

You are interviewing them, just as much as they are interviewing you.

  • Research the company

  • Know your story and how to tell it well

  • Dress professionally

  • Have questions for the interviewers

  • Send at least one thank you note.

Hit me up in the comments if you have any questions regarding these interview mistakes.

Much love - Missy