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A face-to-face interview is the most stressful part of the job search for many individuals, but it is also a critical component of the recruiting process.  Up until this point, you have been able to hide behind your resume and cover letter.  As the selection process starts to draw to a close, though, it’s time to impress the hiring team.  A large part of a successful interview is avoiding potential pitfalls that can undermine your ability to impress the hiring team.  

The top ten critical mistakes that people make when interviewing for a position are:

Arriving late to the interview

Arriving late makes a strong negative first impression and will raise questions in the interviewer’s mind about your reliability and punctuality.  Always ask for directions to the interview site and double-check a map so that you know where you are going.  Don’t forget to allow extra time for traffic and other unforeseeable events.

Poor dress attire and grooming

Remember that professional companies are looking to hire professional individuals, not the beach bum who just shook the loose sand from his hair.  Dress conservatively in a well-fitting suit and keep jewelry, makeup, and fragrances to a minimum.  It’s also important to always take a shower, brush your teeth, and comb your hair before an interview as well to present to clean, polished image.

Failure to do research about the company prior to the interview

Show you are interested in the company for by doing some outside research before the interview.  This attention to detail sends a clear message to the interviewer that you are serious about the position and are willing to go the extra mile.  This research will also help you determine if the company’s industry, products/services, and culture are a god match for you.

Failure to give specific examples of your experience and measure your skills against the position

Interviewers want to know more than just the bare bones of your experience.  They are interested in the specifics of task how you performed, challenges you have faced, and the methods you have used to overcome those challenges.  This is especially true of behavioral interviewers.  Take the time to give the interviewer specific examples of how you have performed and how these collaborate to the duties of the position.  If you can draw a clear parallel between your work experience and the position you are interviewing for, you have a much higher chance of being successful in the interviewing process.

Not taking the opportunity to ask intelligent questions about the company and/or position

The interviewing process is not just an opportunity for the company to evaluate your fit for the position; it’s also your opportunity to evaluate how well the company and the position match your ideal job.  Asking questions not only helps you determine how well-suited you are for the position (and it for you), but also clearly indicates that you have done some basic research about the organization.  Don’t ask questions just for the sake of asking questions.  Intelligent, poorly-worded questions can frequently do more damage to your reputation than remaining silent.

Failure to practice

Even the best public speakers need to take the time to practice delivering and answering detailed questions.  The more you practice, the more comfortable you will get with your answers and the material, allowing for a much smoother delivery.

Talking too much (or not at all)

The best answers are succinct, but detailed.  Interviewees who ramble on and on come across as trying to compensate for some weakness, while those individuals who just sit there and stare appear as though they are in shellshock (and maybe in over their heads).  Neither of these scenarios is ideal in an interview situation.  Choose your words carefully and sparingly, but don’t be a mute.

Bad-mouthing previous managers or companies

One of the fastest ways to turn off an interviewer is to bad-mouth your current or previous employer.  This raises questions about your loyalty and integrity, and labels you as unhappy and a complainer.  Even if you worked in a sweatshop with no lights, running water, or meal breaks for 18 hours a day, keep all negative commentary to yourself.

Fail to explain why they are a good fit for the position (and the company)

If you leave it up to the interviewer to evaluate if you are a solid fit for the company, then you risk the chance that they might not make the decision you’d like to hear.  Make it easy for the interviewer for hire you by connecting your experiences, talents, and strengths to the job description.

Don’t state that you want the job

Once the interview has concluded, if you want the job, let the interviewer know that you are still interested in the position.  Since the interview is as much about your  evaluation of the company and the position as it is them evaluating you, don’t assume the interviewer knows you still want the job.  Reiterate your interest and inquire about the next step in the hiring process.

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