I’ve been working since I was 13 years old (and wearing an onion in my belt, as was the style at the time). I’ve been interviewed for all kinds of positions and despite being successful overall in my career, I’ve definitely made interview mistakes. I’ve also been on the other side of the table and done the hiring. Here are three interview mistakes you can avoid.
1. Not Knowing Your Resume
I once interviewed for a part-time job teaching horseback riding lessons. I was really excited about the job, but because I had been out of the industry for nearly eight years, my grasp on the dates and timelines of my relevant experience was fuzzy at best. I struggled to remember the dates and total number of years I had been teaching and riding.
Interviews are stressful for everyone. However, if you’ve been offered the interview, you should have one big leg-up: your resume. You have already done the work of thinking about your skillset and experience. Now, you had better know that resume backwards and forwards. Being uncertain about simple information like how long you’ve been doing something makes it seem like you are at best unorganized and at worst, lying.
2. Not Having Questions Prepared
In my first “real job” interview, I spent a lot of time preparing to talk about myself, but I was completely thrown when they asked if I had any questions for them. I have also been on the other side, and candidates with thoughtful, relevant questions come off as being genuinely interested and invested in the position. And that’s the secret about the entire hiring process – hiring someone is like asking someone to go on a first date. The hiring manager is in a vulnerable position, so help them feel confident that you are the right person for the job by putting a little effort into customizing your questions. Think about:
- What does a typical day look like in this job?
- What is the goal for the business in this area over the next five years?
- What does success look like in this role?
3. Not Preparing Your Elevator Pitch
This is the fundamental reason you’re being interviewed – to prove that you are the best candidate for the job. It’s called an elevator pitch because you’re supposed to imagine you are in an elevator with the hiring manager and you have the length of the ride to convince them. Take this to heart. If you’ve done a good job on your cover letter, start there. Go over your resume, which should already be a distilled version of your best assets, and start highlighting the most impressive parts that are the most relevant to the job you’re applying for. Between the two documents, get your red pen out and rewrite that information into the most concise, convincing 400 words you can. Know that distilled sales pitch cold – not necessarily word for word, but all your best highlights should be on the tip of your tongue.