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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

4 Surprising Reasons You Blew That Interview (and What to Do Next Time)

One of my favorite ways to prepare for an interview is to come up with a list of 10 potential questions, give that list to a friend, and ask him or her to interview me.

At the end of a recent faux-interview, I asked my friend how I’d done. I was pretty sure he was going to say, “Fantastic!”

But instead he responded, “Hmm…I wasn’t very impressed.”

Have you ever experienced the same discrepancy between your evaluation—and the interviewer’s? (And found out when you never got a call to come back in for another round?) Here are the four reasons you might think you knocked it out of the park—when you actually blew it.

1. You Weren’t Enthusiastic

This was my friend’s number-one gripe: Even though I had clearly done my research, I didn’t seem like I was super-pumped about the company or the position. While I thought I was being calm and collected, he said I came across as “meh.”

Since it’s so obvious to you that you really want it, it can be difficult to remember you still need to express that enthusiasm. And not just by saying, “I really want this job.” Make sure you’re physically proving it as well by leaning forward, smiling and nodding, speaking animatedly, showing interest in what the interviewer says, and asking lots of the (right) questions.

2. You Said What They Wanted to Hear

And it was obvious. I’m not saying you shouldn’t predict what the interviewers are looking for and give it to them. However, if your answers are blatantly designed to please them, they’ll catch on—and then they’ll probably distrust what you’ve said.

For example, if they ask, “Why do you want to work here?” and you recite the company’s “About” page word-for-word, you’ll look (at best) unoriginal, and (at worst) fake.

Instead of delivering the “right” answer, look for the skills, experiences, and interests you possess that align with this job, and talk about those. (For more on how to do that, check out my article on how to prove you’re the perfect fit.) Your answers will sound both genuine and natural.

3. You Didn’t Develop a Rapport

As much as a job interview is about proving you can fill a need within the company, it’s also about making your interviewer like you. At the end of the day, everyone’s human—and we think more of someone’s professional abilities when we like him or her.

Muse writer Katie Douthwaite Wolf has some fantastic tips for forging an instant connection with your interviewer, including:

  • Subtly mirroring his or her body language
  • Creating a conversation-like feel by asking questions throughout the interview, rather than solely at the end
  • Framing your answers the same way your interviewer does (i.e., with plenty of examples, in a story format, or using data)

These techniques will subconsciously make your interviewer feel closer to you.

4. You Didn’t Use Examples

My friend critiqued me on this as well. Although my answers were solid, I wasn’t backing them up enough.

For example, I’d said:

“I’m extremely organized and reliable. If I say something will get done, it does.”

What I should’ve said:

“For the past two years, I’ve been taking a full course load and maintaining a 3.9 GPA while simultaneously interning, acting as editor-in-chief of a 70-person campus magazine, tutoring other students, participating in two clubs, and pursuing a freelance writing career. Having so many obligations has taught me how to be extremely organized and reliable. Without extensive systems in place to make sure I complete everything well and on time, I’d never be able to do everything I was interested in.”

As my friend pointed out, the second answer is way more convincing.

Do any of these sound familiar? The good news: You don’t have to wait until your interview to find out. Grab a friend, run through your questions, then review how you did. Not only will you catch potential mistakes, but you’ll feel ready for the real thing.

Photo of no courtesy of Shutterstock.