I’ve conducted thousands of interviews over the course of my career as a recruitment professional. When friends, family, or someone is my network is looking for a new job, they often reach out to me for interview advice. “What should I be ready for?” “What exactly should I avoid?” Today I’m going to share with you the advice I’ve been giving one on one for years.
In my experience, there are three basic mistakes that applicants most commonly trip over. If you can avoid these three missteps, you’ll put yourself in a much better position at your next job interview.
During your job interview, your prospective employer will always ask you if you have any questions. Always. This may sound like an afterthought from your interviewer, but I assure you it’s not. I’ve seen senior candidates who are perfectly suited to a position with 20+ years in their field derail their interview because they didn’t ask any questions about the role they’re looking to win.
The best approach is to have a few prepared questions before going into your interview. It’s best to avoid general and generic questions. Instead, come armed with thoughtful inquiries that are specific to the company and the role. Good topics include responsibilities, tools the company uses and why, how they measure success, what areas they’re looking to improve, and what their specific goals are (with a smooth pivot towards how your skill set can help).
Better still is to ask organic questions that come up during the course of the conversation. A smart follow-up question to something your interviewer said demonstrates your ability to think on your feet and to be fully engaged. If your interviewer says that you’ve asked a really good question, you know you’ve made a positive impression!
Nobody Likes A Braggart
Name dropping is another classic misstep. Your interviewer can tell when you’re name dropping, and it almost always backfires. You’re at an interview to sell yourself. What does it say about your abilities – not to mention your confidence – that instead of selling your personal brand you need to rely on someone else’s?
Office politics are real, and you have no idea what your interviewer thinks of the person you just referenced. By dropping the name of someone who may not be universally well-regarded, you are hitching your reputation to theirs… possibly at your own peril.
The only time it’s acceptable to mention the name of a senior person is if it comes up organically in the conversation and adds real value. Still, it’s a gamble. The bottom line is that if you are as qualified for the job as your resume indicates, you’ll get hired based on your skills, not who you had a grande skim latte with last weekend.
It’s okay at the end of the interview to ask the interviewer what the timeline is, but keep in mind there’s a line between seeming eager and seeming desperate. As you express interest, you want to give your interviewer the sense that you’re running towards a new opportunity, not running away from something.
A follow-up email is essential – in fact it’s a professional courtesy that’s expected. Wait a day to give your interviewers time to discuss and digest how your interview went, then send a personalized note thanking them for their time. Be specific and keep it short. Consider mentioning a relevant detail that came up during the interview and driving home any point you would like to stand out in their minds.
Now comes the hard part – not losing your cool. Be mindful of how many follow-up emails you send or calls you make (and yes, companies have caller ID so please please don’t call your recruiter a million times and hang up on the voicemail). Try to temper your excitement. I know a week can feel like forever when you’re waiting on a job you’re over the moon about. If the feeling is mutual, don’t worry–I promise they won’t forget you! There are many reasons you may not hear back on next steps ASAP.
What kinds of reasons? Here are some real life examples I’ve witnessed as a recruiter: The company might have a series of candidates to still meet, the interview panel might be at an offsite, critical decision makers could be on vacation, or busy schedules just haven’t allowed the interview team a minute to connect.
Stop refreshing your email every 5 minutes…a watched pot never boils.