Get interview feedback from the voices that matter most.
We're all human. At some point, we've all dropped our phones, burnt our toast, or shrunk a few clothing items in the laundry. Human error is natural and that's why mistakes are OK. Still, there are some occasions when, regardless of how understandable, mistakes are not welcome — like a job interview.
If you've had unsuccessful interviews in the past, don't be too hard on yourself. The important thing is that you learn from any mistakes you made so you can correct them for future interviews. To help you do so, we reached out to professionals who've all been on the other side of the table. We asked them to share any tips and feedback they wish they could have given candidates after a less-than-perfect interview. Here's what they had to say.
1. Perform sufficient research
Without a doubt, candidates not completing sufficient research was the No. 1 complaint interviewers and hiring managers had — and that doesn't come as a surprise. Demonstrating that you've learned about the company and the role for which you're applying is your way of telling an interviewer that you are taking the opportunity seriously. According to Melissa Carvalho, career and life coach, “Companies like to know that you admire them and know about them. [Doing your research] can be used in a positive way in the interview.”
Not putting in the time to familiarize yourself with the company can make you appear indifferent or apathetic. As TopInterview's career expert Amanda Augustine says, “There is no excuse for not knowing anything about the company.”
2. Identify specific successes
If your biggest goal in an interview is to convince a hiring manager why they should hire you, a major focus of yours should be on demonstrating the value you can contribute to the company. “It's not enough to have your accomplishments listed on your resume,” says Augustine. “Employers will expect you to be able to speak to these achievements in detail during the interview process.”
Stacey A. Giulianti Esq., Chief Legal Officer at Florida Peninsula Insurance Co., agrees, and comments on the way applicants often come up short: “They can't identify specific successes they've had in previous positions. I want to know precisely how the candidate made their prior companies more successful or more efficient.”
If you're having trouble communicating your biggest selling points, working with a professional interview coach can help you prepare.
3. Ask appropriate questions
We all know how essential it is to have queries prepared for the inevitable “Do you have any questions for me?” But proceed with caution: Not just any question will do. It's unwise to inquire about topics like salary and benefits too early, as this can give the impression that your biggest priority is the money, not the job itself.
Donna Svei, Executive Resume Writer for Avid Careerist, offers this justification for waiting to ask those hefty questions: “A little patience can ... give [a job seeker] more leverage when the balance of power in the candidate/employer relationship has shifted to the candidate.” In other words, hold off until you have more of the ball in your court.
4. Curb arrogance
Mustering up confidence, especially in an interview setting, can feel like a Herculean task. That said, there are some who take the effort too far and end up expressing arrogance instead. It's a given that in an interview, you want to talk yourself up; that's why being cognizant of your tone and word choice is so crucial — so that you do so without being boastful. "Confidence is attractive, but arrogance is a turn-off," says Augustine. "Employers consider how you behave in the interview to be an indication of how you will interact with colleagues, vendors, and clients on the job."
Similarly, when discussing your experience, avoid being so emphatic that you come off as elitist or as if you know everything. Ron Humes, VP of Operations of Post Modern Marketing (Southeast Region), has a helpful take: “Be confident in your ability AND willingness to learn. It is fine to highlight relevant experience you have in the field, but be careful that your confidence does not cross the line to arrogance.”
5. Use a positive tone
It's easy enough to put a smile on your face when entering the interview and exchanging pleasantries. But as minutes pass and the questions get harder, that positive energy becomes difficult to maintain, and it is common for candidates to slip into attitudes that show tiredness and negativity — especially when certain questions are asked: “When asked about the tasks they did not enjoy, many qualified applicants will spend the majority of the interview complaining about all the ways their last company disappointed them,” says Amy McCord Jones, owner of Flower Moxie. “These rants convey they will be a negative team member and overall possess a victim mentality.”
Keeping up the positivity applies to how you behave outside of the interview room as well. For example, if you were rude or dismissive to a receptionist, that information will often get back to the hiring manager and taint your overall performance. To ensure a positive attitude and avoid any downfalls like this, it's best to think that the interview starts as soon as you leave your front door — and it doesn't end until you've come back home.
6. Share appropriately
Whether you're a nervous rambler or just long-winded, another common interview blunder is to share too much information. It's important to be honest, but tangents and detail overload will not do you any favors. "Don't over communicate: Answer succinctly (practice!) in one or two sentences and ask if the interviewer has any further questions,” says Marjie Peterson, President of MACRO.CCS.
Trimming your responses to express the most important details in the most effective way will demonstrate your communication skills. It'll make you appear more confident as well!
7. Listen to the interviewer or hiring manager
Remember: An interview is a conversation, not a monologue. Sure, most of the questions will be directed toward you, and you'll have quite a bit of talking to do. However, that doesn't mean you should disregard the interviewer. Humes spoke to this as well:
“Many job candidates are so nervous about what they are going to say, they forget to showcase their excellent listening skills. Be attentive while the employer is talking, and be interactive and genuinely interested in what they have to say. This will go a long way in demonstrating your listening and learning capacity, as well as your ability to work with others.”
8. Be honest on your cover letter or resume
We all know that lying on your resume is wrong, and that goes for a job interview as well. Exaggerated or fabricated qualifications can mislead a hiring manager and put you in a position you're not prepared for. Dishonesty is more than made-up skills, however. Ciara Hautau, Lead Digital Marketing Strategist at Fueled, points to a trend in job interviews where candidates lie about smaller, less consequential things like reading certain publications — likely in an attempt to impress the hiring manager or express compatibility.
Hautau condemns this though, pointing out that the small question would not be a deal-breaker, but the lie would: “As a hiring manager, I want to make sure that the team members I hire are honest and straightforward in their work ethic. I expect to see that come through in interviews as well.”
9. Prioritize hygiene
"It is a sensitive subject, but many job candidates fall short due to grooming and hygiene issues,” says Ruth Leslie, Director of Recruiting at NuGreen Staffing. And it makes sense — job interviews are all about first impressions, and hygiene can affect how people see you.
As you get ready for your interview, take the time to prepare yourself thoroughly, not cutting any corners. Then, do a quick check before you walk out the door for the basics: Is your hair neat and in place? Have you remembered deodorant? Is your morning coffee still on your breath? Fix anything that isn't quite right.
Avoid using strong-smelling soaps, moisturizers, cologne, and perfume on interview day as well. As Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D. and career coach points out, "A scent you find pleasing can be repellent to someone else. The interviewer will be trapped with you in a room for an hour, so it's much safer to wear [no scents] at all."
Quick tip: Those miniature flosses you receive at the dentist that end up tossed in the back of your medicine cabinet? Those are perfect to toss in a purse, backpack, or wallet. It may seem like an excessive precaution, but believe me, when you eat a quick snack and something gets stuck, you'll be glad you have it on hand.
10. Dress appropriately for the company
Not dissimilar from hygiene, the clothes you wear to your interview play a significant role in the first impression you make. An important note, though: Dressing appropriately is not an exclusively superficial concept. Rather, it demonstrates your ability to observe and adapt to different work cultures.
The definition of “appropriate” varies from company to company. What is expected in a traditional corporate workplace, for example, would likely be way off kilter for a startup. If you walk into an interview wearing a full suit while everyone else is in sneakers, you show that you do not match up with the culture of the company. So it's not about looking 'good' enough to land the job — it's about looking right.
As with many interview concerns, your answer here is conducting thorough research on the company.
Closing thoughts for your job search
Interviewing isn't easy, and you're sure to make a few mistakes along the way. That's why feedback from the other side of the table is so valuable. If you're struggling with any of these blunders, enlisting the help of a professional interview coach may be your solution. Click here to learn more about how TopInterview's team of expert coaches can help you master the interview and land the job.
Ready to put these interview mistakes behind you? Work with a professional interview coach today!