Interviews can go poorly for a variety of reasons—you just don’t click with the hiring manager, you don’t have the right experience, or maybe the position just doesn’t match up with what you were expecting from the role. But other times, interviews go poorly due to mistakes that can easily be avoided.
So what interview mistakes do we commonly see that often have us put candidates in the “no” pile? Check out the 6 most horrifying interview mistakes below.
1. You show up late
We recognize that sometimes, things just happen. Maybe there’s an accident on the freeway, or you have a family emergency that’s keeping you from showing up on time. Often though, showing up late to an interview is a result of poor planning.
Showing up late to an interview sets a low expectation at the very beginning. So, try your best to avoid it. Map out the route ahead of time and give yourself plenty of extra buffer in case traffic or something else comes up. Figure out where you’re going to park – if the office is downtown in a business district, give yourself time to find street parking. If the interview is in an area you’ve never been during peak traffic times, consider showing up an hour early to a café or restaurant within walking distance! Hang out there and give yourself time to prep, and then walk over to your interview.
At the very least, give the hiring manager a call as soon as you realize you’re going to be late. They might be okay with it, or want to reschedule. The worst thing you can do is show up 15 minutes late with no notice at all.
2. You don’t know the job description or the company
For lack of a better phrase, we’ve sometimes had candidates “play dumb” when a hiring manager asks them what they know about the position. They’ll say something like “I don’t know much about it, can you tell me more about the role?” in hopes they’ll be able to spark up a conversation with the hiring manager about the position itself, or they want to compare what they’ve been told by a recruiter to what the hiring manager has to say.
Don’t do this! It makes you look unprofessional and unprepared, and it definitely is not a good conversation starter with a hiring manager. You should read the position in detail and come prepared with specific questions about the role if you have them, but more importantly with some great examples of how your experience fits into what they’re looking for. Do research on the company itself—get familiar with what kind of work they do, their organizational structure, and any current events associated with them.
3. You don’t know what’s on your resume
There are a few situations in which candidates find themselves unable to speak about what’s on their resume. One is a big no-no: they’re exaggerating or falsifying their experience, and when they’re in the weeds of an interview and being asked specifically about their capabilities, they start to fumble. This goes without saying: don’t lie on your resume. You’ll get caught one way or another, and it’s a long fall.
The other situation comes down to poor planning and a lack of organization—you have multiple versions of your resume and can’t remember which one you’ve sent to that particular company. That’s why staying organized in your job search is so important. Keep track of exactly what part of your application goes where! If you’re working with a recruiter (and you should be), you know that recruiters often send out customized versions of your resumes to different companies depending on the position. A good recruiter should make sure that you’re prepped ahead of time so that you know exactly what went to that hiring manager.
4. You’re speaking negatively about past managers, coworkers, or companies
When a hiring manager asks you why you’re leaving your current company, it’s not an opportunity for you to speak poorly about your experience there, or about other co-workers and managers. It makes you look unprofessional and causes you to lose a lot of credibility in the eyes of a hiring manager. We recognize that there are certainly cases where people who typically get along with others & are great team players find themselves in situations with horrible bosses and a toxic work culture—but that’s not something a hiring manager is going to be able to discern when they first meet you.
There are plenty of good reasons to leave a company. One of the most common ones is that you’re feeling underpaid, or underutilized. Maybe you’re ready for the next step in your career and this position that you’re applying for is a great opportunity for your advancement. It could be the case that there were some major organizational shifts at your company—it got bought, executives left, your original manager was replaced, etc.—that have created chaos or shifted the company culture in a way that just doesn’t suit you anymore. Those are all great reasons. Keep it professional and positive.
5. You speak to your inexperience in a way that maximizes your weaknesses
You’re experience and skillset is not always going to be a 100% match to what’s listed in the job description. Hiring managers know that—in fact, they’ll even take on underqualified candidates who seem like a perfect fit in terms of company culture and team environment, and they’re willing to learn. Fit is often just as important as experience.
But when you find yourself in interviews where you’re underqualified or don’t have the right experience, you need to bring enthusiasm and a willingness to learn to the table. Relay a desire to always grow and learn new things. Use your weaknesses as an opportunity to gain new skills and develop professionally. If you can’t do something, you should be a quick learner!
6. You overplay your strengths to the point of rigidity
Similar to the above mistake, this also comes down to a willingness to learn. If you’re further along in your career, you likely have cultivated a lot of experience and have a solidified skillset. You probably bring a lot of strengths to the table and know what you’re good at.
But are you conveying those strengths in a way that make you seem too rigid to take on tasks outside of your direct expertise? Sometimes, candidates will get married to tasks and procedures that they excel at, and not realize that they’re coming across as inflexible or unaccommodating. When you talk about your skills, make sure to also talk about where you see those skills going and how you’d like to grow, and that you’re always willing to learn.
Are these interview mistakes hitting too close to home? Get in touch with a VanderHouwen recruiter to help you knock your next interview out of the park.