Interviews can be stressful situations, and you can’t beat yourself up about the odd slip up here and there. However, as part of your interview preparation, it is important to understand that a lot of the mistakes people make are both very common, and easily avoided. Put simply, the more prepared you are, the less likely you’ll be to make them.
Here are some of the most regular issues we see, along with some tips to avoid them:
Failure to arrive on time
Unexpected delays en route to the interview are remarkably common. Despite not always being the candidates’ fault, this still leaves a bad impression and is difficult to shake off during the rest of the interview. Whether fairly or not, a late arrival will create the assumption you have poor time management skills.
You can never be too prepared when planning your journey. It’s highly recommended to practice your route in advance, especially if the location is a place you have never visited before.
Aim to arrive at the building 40 minutes early – you can always sit in a nearby coffee shop or café and continue your prep, giving yourself enough time to look over your notes. Take this time to calm your nerves, firstly by breathing and then by putting yourself in positive and confident mind set. This will leave plenty of time and you can ensure you arrive at the reception relaxed, calm, and ideally around 15 minutes early.
Forgetting about the company’s impression of you
Have you ever thought about all the people you pass on the way to your interview? So often candidates are so preoccupied with their interview panel that they forget to acknowledge the other people they meet. Bear in mind that the receptionist, people in corridors or even those sharing your lift are all your potential colleagues, and any one of them could be asked about their impression of you.
Having a good impact – however briefly – on these people will essentially make a good impression to your hiring manager. They might not be the key decision makers, but if you come across well, even if just through polite conversation, this will work in your advantage.
Lack of research in advance
The most common question that is asked in an interview is “what do you know about the company”. Skimming the website on your way in is simply not going to cut it! Dedicate as much time as possible to learning more about the background of your chosen company. A smart list of bare minimum items to check off would be the following:
Company values, culture and atmosphere
Social media content and brand messaging
Past projects or case studies with big clients
Publications, press releases and marketing
Controlling your nerves
It’s normal to feel nervous, whether you’re afraid of that awkward silence, or just a build-up of anxiety before your interview.
Ahead of time, ensure you have structured your answers to the more predictable questions in your mind. For example on our career advice page we talk about using the STAR technique when answering competency-based questions:
Situation - describe a situation you were in
Task - tell them what you decided to do
Action - describe what you actually did
Result - explain what happened as a result of your actions.
By using this framework and practicing the answers to some of these questions, it will help you stay on track and allow you to cover your main points in a more controlled manner.
A lack of curiosity at the end
One of the biggest slips ups you can make is to not have any questions ready for the end of the interview. Questions at this point – from anything not covered about the company, to even asking about the hiring manager’s own challenges, will create an impression of curiosity.
Another great way to impress your potential employer is to bring note pad and jot down as they are speaking in case of any new questions that may arise as they speak more about the organisation and the role. This will show that you were paying attention and interested in the opportunity.
So – just remember that while mistakes are inevitable, thorough preparation in advance and an awareness of the common pitfalls will stand you in a much better stead to perform well. Don’t forget to check out our blog article on what to do when your interview is over too.
For more information or to discuss your employment needs, please contact your local consultant.
About this author
After a career in professional cricket Andrew joined Hays in London in 1987 as a trainee consultant within the Construction & Property business. He rose to the position of Managing Director of that business in the UK, a position he held until 2011.
Andrew was then appointed Regional Managing Director of the North West Region of Hays UK, responsible for 21 different businesses. This region has been one of the most consistently successful in the UK, in terms of both fee and profit growth. He has also retained responsibility nationally for the Construction & Property business and has both the national Finance and Education leads reporting into him. In 2017 he was also appointed Regional Managing Director of Hays Scotland, alongside his other responsibilities.