6 Common Interview Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

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There are many phases in a job hunt from profile writing, to resume crafting to the art of the interview. Unfortunately so much time and effort goes into the first two that job seekers frequently fail to prepare for the interview, the key step where you get an opportunity to present yourself in person and, in sales terms, "close" the deal.

There are several different types of interviews from the phone screen interview to the new digital Skype interview and the traditional in-person, on –site interview. Each has its own set of challenges and tactics for success.Here are six mistakes I've encountered at in-person interviews and tips for avoiding them.

Mistake 1: Not preparing
Never go into a job interview cold and think you can wing it. That's a mistake I made early in my last job quest. Having given many presentations and been an interviewer, I was mistakenly confident that I could answer any questions well on the spot. I was wrong. In the heat of the moment, I forgot many of the things I had done. I was fuzzy on the facts and couldn't remember key numbers that proved why a project or endeavor had been successful.

It's hard to know what a hiring manager may ask, but there are some key questions that are more prevalent. You can find them by doing an internet search on interview questions such as the Free Sample Behavioral Interview Questions for Job-Seekers by Quintessential Careers.

Mistake 2: Literal answers
In today's litigious world, many hiring managers are given scripted questions to prove they treat all candidates equally. Unfortunately the questions can be stilted, or too precise. Rather than taking a question literally, it can be better to answer the real question behind the question. Here's an example:

In one interview, I was asked how I handled a disgruntled client. I answered that my clients never got to that point. I thought it was a good answer that showed how my clients were well handled, but the interviewer's demeanor immediately changed and the interview was effectively over. Why? By asking the question she was admitting that she had a difficult client and the perfect candidate for her would be one who could soothe a miffed client. She had a specific problem and needed someone with experience in solving that problem rather than someone who had not been in a comparable situation.

Mistake 3: Saying Never
Never say never in an answer. In a different customer service interview, I asked a candidate if she ever had experience in a toll booth. Few people have ever been in a toll booth, and many answered: "I have no experience in a toll booth." The conversation was over. There were no followup questions. Instead, here is the winner answer I wanted to hear: "I assume you want to know how I handle people face to face and, although I haven't directly been in a tollbooth, I have lots of experience handling customer questions and transactions in a time-sensitive situation."

Mistake 4: Answering Not Conversing
When asked any question, our knee jerk reaction is to answer. However, in an interview situation, it's frequently acceptable to use the question to start a conversation. This technique requires asking a question about the question. Using the tollbooth example above, it would have been appropriate for the candidate to ask: "Are you looking for direct experience in the tolls, or experience in dealing with the public face to face, because I have lots of experience with the latter. Would you like to hear about that?"

In that scenario, the interviewer would likely say, "Sure, tell me about those experiences." Since an interview is really an opportunity to get to know candidates better, the questions can be perceived as conversation starters rather than quizzes. They then become easier to answer.

Mistake 5: Identifying the Technique
Interview questions and techniques have changed dramatically over the years, with behavioral interviewing taking center stage in many current interviews. In the past, hiring managers would concentrate on questions about past accomplishments, goals reached and documented experiences. Today, hiring and HR managers are more likely to ask behavioral interview questions on how you handle specific types of situations. Here's a typical behavioral question that really isn't a question at all: "Describe a time when you were faced with a co-worker who didn't want to be on your team and give me an example of how you handled it."

When once asked a similar question, I made the mistake of smiling and saying: "Oh, a behavioral question!" It put the interviewer off and may have made me appear glib. The results was that she lost interest in my subsequent answer. If asked a behavioral question you can silently identify the technique in your mind as you craft your answer, but don't say it out loud as I did.

Mistake 6: Not Dressing the Part
Years ago I interviewed a graphic designer who came dressed in funky purple. She was perfect for the job. Another young graphic designer came in for an interview years later with a nose ring. Both outfits may not have been perfect for an accounting interview, but they were great for designer interviews.

In a similar way, I worried about what to wear on an interview at a young, casual internet company where most people went to work in jeans. I didn't do myself any favors when I showed up in a neat, conservative pants suit. Jeans with a blazer would have been more appropriate as I clearly didn't look the part and seemed too conservative for the young team.

>> Related Article: Why a New Shirt Could Land You A Job

Every interview is different. If questions seem too daunting, or the atmosphere too uncomfortable, it's all part of realizing the job isn't a good fit. When the right job comes along, the interview generally goes easier because the chemistry is right Remember in any interview, you're interviewing the company as much as they're interviewing you.
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