If you have a job interview coming up, your preparation probably includes the reasons why a company should hire you. You rehearse answers to popular questions like your biggest weakness or why you left your former jobs. You might even role play the inevitable compensation discussion. These are all good things to prepare. But there are other, more subtle actions that trip up job seekers in the interview process. Here are five common interview mistakes you should watch out for:
- Treating small talk like a small thing
Small talk isn’t small. Developing rapport with the interviewer is important. A key criteria in hiring is likeability—i.e., will I enjoy working with this person? Don’t gloss over questions about this past weekend or what you did for the holidays. Take advantage of those moments to develop a more personal relationship with your interviewer.
- Treating any question like a lesser question
You may wonder why an interviewer asks you a particular question, or you may even think that the question is irrelevant, but keep your game face on and answer the question.
Often, candidates who don’t have detailed answers at hand get frustrated by such questions and give half-baked answers like, “I worked in that group five years ago, so I’m not exactly sure—but if I had to guess I’d say 10 or 12 people.” Not only does this candidate seem like they don’t know the details, but now they seem combative about the question. Just give your best answer and offer to follow up with an exact figure as needed: “As I recall the group was 10 to 12 people. I can come back to you with a firmer number if you’d like.”
- Performing a monologue instead of having a conversation
The best job interview is a conversation. So small talk is rapport-building. All questions are good ones. And the interview overall is a back and forth. Some candidates are so intent on sharing every last detail of their background that they launch into a monologue, and the interviewer can’t get in a follow-up question or comment. This is dangerous because you can’t assume that what you have prepared to focus on is what the interviewer cares about. Don’t steamroll your interviewer. Pause after each answer you give to ensure the interviewer has a chance to get in on the conversation
- Letting the quality slip before the interview
Just as an interview ends later than expected, it also starts earlier than expected. When an employer calls you to schedule, are you excited for the role? Are you organized with your calendar readily available? Are you coherent and articulate in coordinating the details? In some cases where the scheduling interaction clearly indicates poor quality, you might lose the opportunity to interview altogether. Don’t assume that scheduling an interview is not important.
- Letting the quality slip after the interview
The hiring process extends beyond any one interview. That one interview extends beyond the time you spending talking. How you follow up after an interview is just as important as the interview, sometimes even more important, because it’s the most recent impression of you. One candidate for a business development role had multiple typos in his thank you note. He was incredibly polished for the live meeting but sloppy in the follow-up, and it caused the hiring group to question his attention to detail. Don’t drop the ball at the very end.