What you’re doing wrong in a job interview – and how to fix it

Are you on the interview treadmill? You’re going to interviews but you haven’t been offered any of the jobs. It’s frustrating, and if you think your interview technique is OK then what could be going wrong?

It can be hard to analyse your own interview performance, and it can be rare to get feedback. What you might not realise is that you’ve developed some bad habits that may be setting your interviewers’ teeth on edge, and stopping you getting that important job offer.

Don’t panic – there are some easy fixes that can get you back on track. Here are some of the more common mistakes and what you can do to improve:

Practicing your answers too much

Everyone knows preparation is key to interview success. Practicing your answers, especially for competency based interviews is one of the cornerstones of preparation. However, when can preparation be too much?

Some candidates ‘learn’ their answers off by heart because they think that they will know exactly what to say when asked about a particular competency. The downside to this is that it discourages flexibility and doesn’t allow you to reply effectively to the question you are asked. There is nothing more frustrating to an interviewer than for someone to roll out a rehearsed reply which doesn’t demonstrate the competency.

If this is you, take your preparation down a notch. Collect evidence of the competencies required for the job but think about how you can be flexible with your answers. For example, you have a great communication skills answer for a question about influencing or persuading but which wouldn’t be effective for a listening and empathising question – that might require a different example. Make sure you listen to the question so you really understand what they want from you.

Being Too Honest

A key piece of interview advice is to be yourself in an interview but beware, interviewers do not want you to pour out your whole life story, share your terrible weaknesses or explain why you hated your last boss. It can be tempting to tell all when you are nervous but that can sound the death knell for your possible success.

If you are guilty of this mistake then get a grip and be mindful of what is and isn’t appropriate to share with your interviewers. If you’re tempted to give them your life story you risk them switching off and not engaging with you. Think of 5 points about yourself, relevant to the job, that you could share if asked ‘Tell me about yourself’.  With weaknesses don’t give them a reason to be concerned about your ability to do the job. Keep it to one weakness and provide a coping strategy. Don’t be honest about the negatives from your current or previous role, you will come across as a potential disruptive influence on the team – no one likes a moaner. Instead process your negative feelings in private and let them go.

Not doing the Research

It’s easy when you’re pushed for time to forget about researching the company thoroughly and understanding the role. However, there is nothing more off putting than interviewing someone who clearly doesn’t ‘get’ the role or their company.

Make sure you know what the company’s vision and strategy is, most company websites cover this, and know how your role contributes. Consider how you can link your experience and prepare some strategic questions to ask. You can also research your potential boss to understand his/her world view enabling you to connect with them more effectively at interview.

This requires you to do some work and if you can’t be bothered then maybe the role and/or the company is not for you, so rethink your application.

Turning up too early

All the interview books tell you to arrive early for your interview – but how early is early? It can be a pain for the interview panel if you arrive more than 15 mins earlier than your allotted time. They will be running a tight schedule and don’t want to feel under pressure from candidates backing up. Plus it’s not good for your nerves to be sitting in the corridor looking at all the other candidates.

If you do arrive really early, go for a walk around, it’s a chance to get familiar with the location, or go to a café, and arrive a maximum of 10mins before your invited time.

Now do an audit of your interview habits, good and bad, and change those which are hindering rather than helping you. Hopefully a job offer will then be on its way!

This article originally appeared on Guardian Careers site.

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