When it comes to job interviews, first impressions really matter so make sure you plan ahead to avoid making these common interview mistakes
It's essential to use this opportunity to showcase your best qualities, and ensure that you're memorable for all the right reasons. Nerves do play their part in the interview process and everyone has areas that they could improve upon. However, more often than not it's the most preventable errors that cost you the job.
1. Being unprepared
Preparation for an interview is crucial to arriving in a confident mood and feeling ready to tackle the interviewer's questions. Read up on the company's background, its place in the market and its competitors, and familiarise yourself with its key members. Make sure that you fully understand the role on offer. Failing to do so will make you look lazy and uninterested.
Being prepared also means figuring out how you're going to get to your interview, planning your route and factoring in any delays you may encounter. There are no excuses for tardiness when it comes to job interviews so show your enthusiasm by arriving on time.
Sometimes delays are unavoidable and as long as the circumstances are out of your control they shouldn't take you out of the running. Take the details of your interview contact with you so you can let them know if you encounter any problems on your way.
For virtual interviews make sure all your technology works and is set up properly, have any log ins to hand and make sure all distractions are removed.
Find out more about how to prepare for an interview.
2. Dressing inappropriately
Being well presented is a must so choose your outfit carefully. Clothes should be clean and freshly ironed. Turning up in ripped jeans and a pair of trainers hardly gives a professional impression.
Knowing the type of company you have applied to should give you a clue as to the dress code. For example, in legal or business firms dress is usually more formal, while in creative companies or IT the dress code is more relaxed. However, if in doubt always err on the side of caution. It's better to go too formal than not formal enough.
If you'd wear the same or a similar outfit on a night out or on the weekend you may want to rethink your choice. You need to make sure that you look the part and still feel confident.
3. Talking too much or not enough
Learning to strike a balance between talking too much and talking too little can be a challenge. Taking part in practice interviews with your university careers service can really help to ensure that you give the right amount of information.
Waffling is a common interview mistake and tends to be the result of nerves, but avoid talking about everything all at once. It's important to sell your skills and experience without rambling. Once the interviewer asks a question, pause for a couple of seconds, take a breath and gather your thoughts before responding. If you're talking too much or too fast you also run the risk of talking over or interrupting the interviewer.
Not giving enough information and forgetting to mention important points can be just as detrimental as waffling. To make sure this doesn't happen, practise answers to common interview questions beforehand and make sure you have a number of examples from your studies and previous work experience to draw upon.
Employers understand that nerves play a part in the process so, if your mind goes completely blank, politely ask for a couple of seconds to gather your thoughts or ask if it's ok to come back to the question at the end, once you've had some time to think.
4. Criticising previous employers or colleagues
Complaining about colleagues, drawing attention to the negative aspects of your previous or current job or moaning about your superiors are all likely to blow your chances of success.
This gives employers the wrong impression of you and makes them question what you'd say about them in similar circumstances.
No matter the reason for you leaving your previous or current employment, always be diplomatic. You don't want potential employers to think of you as disloyal or complaining.
Instead of highlighting the mistakes of others, emphasise the positive steps you took in order to overcome them. This shows how proactive you can be.
5. Failing to ask questions
As the interview draws to a close the recruiter will ask if you have any questions you'd like to ask them. It's never a good idea to say no. This is your opportunity to get answers to your queries about the role and the company so don't waste it. Asking a couple of relevant questions shows your interest in the role. You could ask about any current projects your potential team is working on, progression opportunities, or where the company sees itself in five years' time.
Avoid asking what the company does (you should have done your research), how much paid leave you're entitled to or whether you've got the job. Also avoid asking a question if the answer has already been covered during the interview. Try where possible to prepare two or three questions - that way you've always got a backup.
Find out about 7 good questions to ask an interview.
How to succeed at interview
It's all well and good knowing what not to do at an interview, but not much use if you don't know what you should be doing to win the job.
Setting aside your nerves is easier said than done, but learning to conquer job interview jitters is important if you want to give the impression of confidence. Try to relax and show your natural personality - the employer will get a much better feel of how you'll fit into their team if you do. Take comfort from the fact that if you're being interviewed the recruiter is already impressed with what you have to offer, and after sifting through countless applications they'll be rooting for you to do well.
Enthusiasm and a positive attitude also go a long way and instantly make a more appealing candidate. Throughout the interview, evidence and reiterate your motivation for the role and the company. Employers like forward thinking graduates who can commit so to really put yourself above the competition, talk about the future of the company and your role within it.
Another good tip is to observe the basics. It can be easy to underestimate the power of good manners, regular eye contact, a firm handshake or a smile. Be polite to everyone you come into contact with as you never know who might be on the selection panel.
This webinar featured in the Prospects Future You: Live event in November 2020.