You’ve done the work, and put in the time… and now you’re scheduled for the interview which could land your first ever full-time job. Hooray! This is the chance to explain your skills, make an impression and explain why you’re the best person for the job. However it is important to expect the unexpected. Any high-pressure, nerve-wracking situation can bring about variables you would never prepare for.
With this in mind, before you go take a moment to reflect and think about yourself (like you did when preparing your resume.) A few seconds of preparation now could be the determining factor later on.
If it has been awhile, or you don’t have a lot of prior interview experience, the process can seem intimidating. One of the most important things to remember, whether interviewing in person, over the phone or via Skype, is to practice. Many college campuses offer mock interview programs; these provide great opportunities for pre-interview prep, and their methods can be used much more informally at home. Just look over a list of questions, or discuss answer options with a friend. The more you do this, the more natural it will become.
With any in-the-moment event, the unexpected can occur… even if you’ve practiced endlessly. Prepare for the unforeseen by taking a few minutes to review six common interview mistakes – what to do to avoid, or bounce back from, spontaneous bumps in the conversational road.
1. Don’t Overshare.
The interview begins with the standard “Tell me about yourself” query. Though you’ve prepared extensively, you suddenly realize you’ve been rambling for ten minutes. How can you bring the answer back around to the message you were initially trying to convey?
Expert Tip: It is important to remember that interviewers are people too. It’s okay to pause a moment, mentally returning to what you were supposed to mention in the first place. And if you’re still embarrassed post-monologue? Don’t be afraid to verbally acknowledge your mistake. Based on the recruiter’s temperament and your personality, saying something like “Wow, that was thorough!” is not only okay, but often endearing and relatable.
2. Don’t Read a Script.
While it is important to practice and prepare, just be aware of keeping your sentences fresh. If you’ve practiced too much, answers can come off totally rehearsed and bland.
Expert Tip: Before the official day, try a mock interview with someone you trust. Getting feedback from someone who really knows you can be eye-opening! You might be doing something, like nail-biting or fidgeting, that you would have never thought to plan for!
Speaking of which…
3. Avoid Those Nervous Habits.
We all have them. Twirling hair, avoiding eye contact, trailing off at… the end… of sentences…
How can you avoid doing what happens so naturally?
Expert Tip: Be aware of these tendencies and take deliberate countermeasures. Talk too fast? Consciously make the effort to slow down. If you tend to trail off, instead end sentences determinedly strong!
With this in mind, know these eccentricities will never go away completely. And that’s okay. The goal is not elimination but containment – just to avoid memorable distractions.
4. Don’t Be a Stereotype.
You’ve got a response of the ages for the “What are your greatest strengths” question. However, you panic when asked about weaknesses. Your stiff comment of being a “perfectionist who works too hard” now seems lame and cheesy.
Expert Tip: Have no fear… this can be fixed! Take that response and connect it specifically to things you truly need to work on, and add what you are doing currently to correct these issues. Or move on. But whatever you choose, DO NOT share a plethora of other weaknesses in an attempt to cover for your previous response. You want to get hired, after all!
5. Do Your Homework.
Don’t fall for one of the most common recruiter traps in the book: when asked, know the job you’re applying for. Scrambling for a pathetic response in the moment is one of the biggest pet peeves of any hiring manager, so be sure to research before the interview.
Expert Tip: There is always information about companies and positions online; taking a few minutes to read beforehand can add immeasurable value to your interview.
6. Don’t Be Unreasonable.
You’re almost done, and have nailed every hirer question… until salary (unexpectedly) comes up. Panicked, you offer a range way higher or lower than you deserve considering past education and experience.
Expert Tip: Though you might not be sure exactly what you should expect to earn, online resources can again prove beneficial to prepare for this inquiry. Campus career center website Glassdoor, or other online salary calculation tools, can help you determine a rough, appropriate estimate. Additionally consider location, background and other potential factors.
A little time taken for preparation and practice could be the key to landing the position of your dreams!