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3 avoidable interview mistakes

Learn some strategies from a recruiter on overcoming interviewing pitfalls.

Dani Baum, recruitment manager, Human Resources, University of Utah

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Congratulations! After working hard updating resumes, agonizing over cover letters and applying for multiple positions, you have finally been invited to interview for a job. Whether it is your first big interview or you have done this a hundred times before, an interview may seem like a minefield where you can easily make mistakes.

These are three of the most common interview mistakes I have seen in my 10+ years as a recruiter and some strategies for avoiding them.

Not doing your homework

You may have applied to quite a few jobs during your search, maybe even multiple jobs at the same organization. Your goal may be to find a job…any job. But when it comes to an interview you need to be able to articulate why you want that specific job. You will be expected to be familiar with the job duties and the basics of the organization you are interviewing with.

How to avoid this: As you apply for positions, save PDFs of every job you have applied for so you can reference the job posting. Have it in front of you during the interview so you can be familiar with what they are looking for.

Google the organization you are interviewing with and pay particular attention to the organization’s mission or vision statement and its values which are often listed online.

“Blanking” during the interview

It is easy to get nervous or lose your train of thought when answering interview questions. Often, we only come up with the perfect answer after the interview is over and regret not thinking of that response in the moment.

How to avoid this: Have your resume in front of you during the interview, compare it to the job description you’ve saved and make notes of where your experience lines up with what the organization is looking for.

Whenever possible, answer every question by telling a story using the situation/action/resolution model. For example, rather than saying “I have good customer service skills” you should share a story about a real situation that you have encountered.

Not asking questions during the process

This can be interpreted as not having an interest in the position.

How to avoid this: Take notes as you go. It is fine to have silence in the interview to pause and reflect on a question or take notes. Notate any areas you want to ask about. Prepare three questions beforehand. A couple of my favorites to have on deck are: “What questions/concerns do you have lingering about my experience that I can speak to now?” and “What do you like about working here and what do you find challenging about working here?”

Preparing for a job interview is a lot of work. By investing some time into organizing your thoughts before the meeting, you can feel more confident that the best version of yourself will show through to the hiring manager.

We often think of interviews as an opportunity to prove we can be what the organization needs. But you have to remember that you are also interviewing them as a prospective employer. If you get this job, you will be spending a lot of time with this group of people. It is important to find a place where you want to be.

To prepare for an upcoming internship or a job interview, schedule an appointment with a Career & Professional Development Center Career Coach here.