In my twelve years as a professional Recruiter I have heard almost every reason why candidates have been unsuccessful in their interviews. Below are 4 of the most common mistakes job seekers make.
1. A Poor First Impression
It’s widely accepted that interviewers will assess a candidate within the first two to three minutes of meeting them so it’s important to bring your ‘A-game’ to an interview. Reflect for a minute – Are you guilty of any, or all, of the following?
- Weak handshakes. A flimsy handshake and/or poor eye contact is an instant turn off and can suggest a lack of confidence and weak character.
- Poor personal hygiene. A sensitive topic, but there are job seekers who have not yet discovered the inventions of soap, deodorant and hair brushes.
- Poor general presentation. If you turn up to an interview wearing a suit that is so old it has started to shine or is too garish, you will not be taken seriously. Sloppy presentation can also imply that you don’t care about your interview or yourself.
- Not smiling. People generally prefer to be around happy and positive people so remember to be friendly. Would you want to work with someone who doesn’t smile?
- Negative body language. Slumping into your seat with folded arms does not give anyone a great first impression of you. Be aware of your posture and keep your body language open. For example – leaning forward slightly shows interest, nodding when you agree with a point shows you are engaged – you get the point.
2. Over or Under Selling Yourself
When you undersell yourself, you are not providing further depth to your résumé leading hiring managers to assume that you don’t meet the necessary requirements for the role. Overselling yourself is usually a result of mis-using two simple words ‘I’ and ‘we’. Don’t talk up work that you only assisted with as you will be caught out if you can’t answer how you achieved the final outcome. Even if you do secure the job, you will be caught out when you are asked to perform tasks that you are not skilled for. It isn’t worth the damage to your professional reputation.
You should always accurately represent yourself and outline your experience and achievements using phrases such as: “I took ownership… “, “I was selected for a project and my responsibilities were …”
3. Not Listening
I am a firm believer in the advice – you have two ears and one mouth so use them proportionately. This is one of the golden rules for interviews. Listen to the questions carefully and don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat the question if you don’t understand. Avoid rehearsed responses and ensure you answer the question that is asked.
Another common mistake job seekers make is to interrupt the interviewer. I am certain that in most cases this is caused by over-enthusiasm as opposed to rudeness, but it is undesirable. Never finish people’s sentences, talk over or interrupt them when they are speaking.
4. Being Ill Prepared
If you aren’t prepared to research a company before you meet with them, you really shouldn’t bother turning up to the interview. Rarely will you wow a hiring manager if you can’t demonstrate a good knowledge of their business. By asking questions based on the information you have learnt about the company, you demonstrate your knowledge and interest in the position. Beyond just company information, I’d recommend learning more about the person you are meeting with. LinkedIn is a great resource for this and can help you to build rapport early in your interview.
It’s important that you always seek out feedback. You might not always agree with the advice you are given but it is still important to reflect on the feedback. The advice you are given may secure your next role.
Even if you have done all the right things, sometimes interviews just don’t go your way. Don’t be disheartened or lose confidence. Often hiring managers find it difficult to choose between multiple high caliber candidates. In those instances, decisions will often be made on gut instinct and reflect personality compatibility or cultural fit to the organisation. While disappointing, it’s important that you stay positive and persevere with your job hunt, confident in the knowledge that the right role for you is still out there.
My advice – putting in the effort pays off. Take the time to give yourself the best advantage possible. I recommend reading our Job Seeker Toolkit for hints and tips on interviewing.