Woo hoo! You’ve made it through the recruiter’s screening call and the interview has been scheduled. You obviously want to rock it, so you’re running through your checklist of the things you need to do to get ready. But sometimes it’s just as important to remember the things not to do. Even the brightest, most promising candidates occasionally flub this key part of the process on the big day.
Ahead, five mistakes you probably didn’t even realize you were making. Avoid these and you’re more likely to remain in the running.
1. You Don’t Know Why You’re There
When the search has been long, or when you’re dying for a change, it’s easy to forget the importance of a critical eye. Today’s methods of just clicking a button make it all too easy to apply on auto-pilot. Sure, that might get you the interview, but it won't get you the job. Going to that meeting without a clear understanding of why you’re interested and why you’re the perfect person for the available role will not end well for you.
So, in addition to researching the company (which everyone knows is a must), also research yourself. How does this position fit into your larger goals? What skills will you be able to develop at this company, and why do they matter to you? How have your previous positions prepared you for this opportunity? How does this role align with what’s important to you? Knowing the answers to questions like these will clarify what you like about the job and what you want out of it. In short, it’ll be a reminder that you are a deciding party in this game, too.
2. You Forget to Bring Your Energy
Show up as well-rested as possible. Yes, adrenaline can run its course for a little while, keeping you focused and on your toes, but when it wears off, it could leave you wilting. Employers hire people who are self-motivated and focused: They want to know you’ll bring energy and drive with you to the team. In fact, lots of companies even want to know that you can work hard and play hard.
Not only should you be awake when it comes to the conversation, but you should be fully engaged when discussing the company’s mission as well. If you aren’t feeling enthusiastic at the interview, it’s hard to imagine you’ll be excited about your work on a random Tuesday morning down the road. There are lots of ways to add some pep in an interview, including standing up (if it’s a phone interview) and smiling (if it’s in person). In addition, prepare to share an appropriate story that lights you up. Even if you’ve told the tale 1,000 times—make sure that it fills you with pride, happiness, or a feeling of success. Enthusiasm is contagious, and your interviewer will feel your drive and determination.
3. You Let Yourself Get Caught in a Trap
No matter what negative thoughts you might harbor about your current or previous employer, keep them to yourself. Letting them out of the bag will not only reflect poorly on you, but it’ll also make your interviewer wonder what you would say about her if things don't go perfectly. But sometimes even with the best intentions, you can get stuck with a question about what you don’t like about your current position or company.
When you get cornered, be honest—but also strategic. If you’re looking for a new job because you’re tired of the office culture, identify a concrete reason you’d love to make a move. For example, you want to specialize in a different area, or you want a new type of responsibility, or you’re ready for the challenge of learning a new area of the business. You’ll effectively answer the question without calling your character into question.
4. You Stare at the Wall
This one sounds obvious, yet it’s a problem for a lot of candidates. You have to connect to get the job. The easiest way to do this is to make eye contact. (Another reason to work on this: a lack of eye contact can indicate you’re uncomfortable and unconfident, or even that you’re lying.)
This simple gesture says “I’m listening to what you’re saying.” If this is challenging for you, practice with friends. Ultimately you want to stay focused on the person the whole time he or she is speaking, even if your interviewer isn’t so good at meeting your gaze. It’s always nice when good interviewing skills go both ways, but you can only control your own game. In addition, along with articulating that you’re the best person for the job, you also want to pay attention to what your body language is or isn’t conveying. Pro tip: Mirror what the hiring manager is doing—it works wonders.
5. You Can’t Stop Gushing About How Much You Heart the Company
It’s important to be enthusiastic, no doubt. But I’d rather have someone who is a little blasé than someone who is interested in blowing sunshine for a living. Know what’s going on, know what the company is all about, but don’t go overboard. Keep it real with a few comments about the aspects of the company you genuinely like. You can mention an article or two or piece of press you came across, but don’t regurgitate every minor mention in the hopes it’ll help you land the job.
While it’s true that a lot of organizations want to see that the candidate has a genuine interest in working there, most are not looking for an obsessive profession of love and adoration. Keep it real, and avoid laying on the praise too thick.
If you can get out in front of these mistakes, you’ll likely kill it at the interview and walk away knowing you did everything you could do—and nothing you weren’t supposed to. Even if you decide the position isn’t right for you, you’ll be better off having conquered this tricky part of the process, and you’ll be even more prepared for the next one. And before long, you’ll land at a company that is right for you.