Interviews can feel equal parts exciting and intimidating. After all, talking about yourself isn't necessarily easy, and you don't want to say the wrong thing.
At the end of the day, you're only human, so there's only so much preparing and studying up you can do before the interview to make it go as smoothly as possible. If you want to err on the side of caution, here are some common mistakes you should avoid in order to keep the interview on the right track.
1. Badmouthing your current or previous employer.
First and foremost, you should never speak poorly of your current or previous employer. You don't want your prospective employer to think you're unprofessional, question your motives and/or ability to get along with others in the workplace, or worry that you'll speak poorly of them in the future, too.
2. Not doing your research on the company or the hiring manager.
It's your responsibility to do your research on the company and the hiring manager before you get to the interview. You should know all about the company and the person interviewing you so that you can keep the conversation a two-way street. You can better answer questions about why you're a particularly ideal candidate for the job at hand because you know exactly what the company needs and the ins and outs of the position. You can also ask intelligent questions of the interviewer in return because you know enough to ask them about your curiosities.
3. Not preparing an answer to questions about your negative traits and experiences.
Some common interview questions include "tell me about your biggest weakness" or "tell me about a time you made a mistake and how you handled it." These questions are tough to answer because you don't want to make yourself look unprofessional, irresponsible or worse. That's why it's important to take the time before your interview to make sure that you have answers to these kinds of questions in case they're asked of you. You always want to make sure you come up with an honest response that's not too bad and frame it in a way that suggests you've learned a lesson, grown from the experience and have become a better employee for it. If you're not sure how to possibly respond to a question like this, don't worry, we have you covered here with the best ways to talk about your weaknesses and a three-step formula for talking about your failures!
4. Not preparing an answer to a time you disagreed with your boss.
Another common interview question is "tell me about a time that you disagreed with a boss." It's difficult to answer, of course, because, again, you don't want to badmouth your previous or current employer or show any disrespect for authority that might make your interviewer think you'll disrespect your new prospective manager. That's why it's important to be able to answer this question wisely. Not sure how to prepare a solid answer to this question? Don't worry, we have you covered here, too!
5. Leaving your resume and supporting materials at home.
It's always wise to bring copies of your resume and other supporting materials like letters of reference or your portfolio with you to job interviews. While you may not end up passing out your resume or other documents, it's best to have them on hand in case your interviewer introduces you to someone else in the office who doesn't already have your information and wants it. Besides, having your resume with you as a reference point to guide you through the interview and refer to throughout the conversation can be really helpful. Likewise, having your portfolio to not only tell your interview about your work but also be able to show them can also be invaluable.
6. Focusing on the money.
Sure, maybe you really need the money, and the salary is sweet. It's exciting to land an interview for a job that'll pay you well — especially if it'll pay you more than your current job or even better than you'd ever expected to earn. But you can't go into an interview focusing on the money. Rather, an interviewer wants to know that you're actually focused on the job at hand. They want to hire someone who cares about the company, shares similar values, understands the mission of the job and fully backs it up. So focus not on why you need the job (the money) but instead on why the company needs you (your skills and experience).
7. Forgetting to follow up with sending a thank-you note.
You should always follow up every interview with a thank-you note to the hiring manager and anyone else who'd interviewed you. This shows them that you are not only thoughtful and appreciative of their time and consideration, but also that you really want the job. You can include any message inside that you really want to drive home, as well, so that it remains a lasting thought in their mind when making a decision about whether or not to hire you for the position.
Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about interviews.
How do you tell if an interview is going well?
It's not easy to tell if your interview is going well because most interviewers will keep the interview short and strategic, without filling your head with false hope. However, if the interviewer asks you to schedule a follow-up call or interview or inquires further about some of your experiences that seem to interest them throughout your conversation, these are good signs. Here are also some other ways to gauge if your interview is going south, which could help you determine if it's going well instead.
What are some common errors that managers make during interviews?
Managers make mistakes during interviews, too. It's not uncommon that they won't have time to do their research on you, so they may not come fully prepared, having read your resume and supporting materials in depth. They may end up asking you repetitive questions or talking too much about the company and job instead of hearing from you about your skills and experiences. It's up to both of you to make sure that the interview is a conversation that's a two-way street. This way you both make sure that you get the information you need from the other.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.