True Stories from People in the Position to Hire Part 2: An occasional series featuring real anecdotes from hiring managers and recruiters

by | Last updated Apr 7, 2020 | career advice, Career Management, interview questions, Interview Skills, interview tips, Job Search

Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid

In her last round of hiring, my friend “Allison,” a SaaS company director, expected her pool of senior-level consulting candidates to be savvy in nailing their job interviews. Instead, she found that many mismanaged some basics including body language, positivity, and company research.

“Many of these candidates had 20+ years of experience, so I expected that they’d know how to interview properly,” she said.

And yet here was her reality:

Candidate violation #1: Didn’t do company research

“This was his second phone interview with us, and as we were talking, it was obvious to me that he hadn’t taken the time to review our website,” said Allison. “We have a plethora of information out there—YouTube videos, webinars, white pages, you name it. A big part of this role is to be curious, and it became clear he was so uninvested that he didn’t take the time to look at the product that would be his job to teach others. So we eliminated him. We’re a growing company and need to hire, but it takes a lot of money, time, and effort to hire the wrong person, so we passed.”

The Solution:

This is the most preventable mistake a candidate can make. Whether you’re interviewing in person or by phone, take the interview seriously and find out as much as you can about the job by combing through the job description and talking with any contacts who know the job.  Research the company, and the person you’re interviewing—easily done through LinkedIn and the company website.

Candidate violation #2: Thinking negative thoughts out loud

“When ‘Jeffrey’ was called to interview, he said ‘Can you get back to me in a couple of days? I’m in the middle of taking my daughter to college,” remembered Allison. “I was surprised by that. He came across as harried and unprofessional. But because he was so highly qualified, we gave him a chance and set up the interview. At one point he said–out loud–I’m doing so poorly.’”

The Solution:

We all have important life events, but when Jeffrey was caught at a bad time, it would have been more professional to say, “I’m scheduled through Thursday, can we set up a time to talk on Friday?” And, instead of saying “Can you get back to me?” which is presumptuous, he should have said that he would take the initiative to follow up.

Interviews are stressful, but self-criticizing instead of focus on selling your strengths is a bad idea. Even if you think you’re not doing well, stay positive, stay on track, and convey why you’re the right person for the job.

 Candidate violation #3: Bad body language and sarcasm

Allison related how “Marcus’” body language and demeanor were nonchalant, “Sitting a little too far back in his chair, a little too comfortably—like he wasn’t engaged or interested in the job.

During the interview, a C-level executive stopped in to meet Marcus. “When she asked why he was leaving his current position, he said ‘Well, I’m not leaving it yet!’ It wasn’t funny, it was rude.

And to dig himself in even deeper, when the exec asked if he had any questions. His response? ‘No, I don’t.’ This was his golden opportunity to make a good first impression with our company leader, and he completely shut down the conversation. He blew it. It was not a culture fit—he was very negative.”

The Solution:

Even if you’re happily employed, when asked why you’re interviewing, a response like, “I enjoy what I do, yet I’m always open to new opportunities for career growth” or “I wasn’t looking to leave, but I was happy to get a phone call from your recruiter. The position sounds intriguing and I’d like to learn more” are both positive replies.

The interview is a 2-way conversation, so prepare 5+ thoughtful questions (some may get answered during the interview, so you’ll want to bring more than you need). Some time-tested questions to ask are, “Who succeeds here?” “What are your priorities for the position in the first 30/60/90 days?” “In one year at my performance review, what will you say to let me know I’ve surpassed your expectations?”

Researching the company, being engaged, staying positive, and preparing good questions are all winning strategies for a great interview.

dalena bradley job interview coach career coach 

I’m Dalena Bradley, job interview coach and career marketer dedicated to helping you communicate your value, stand out from the competition, and win the job!

Contact me to discuss how we can collaborate.


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