Even the most out-going people get butterflies before a job interview. It can feel like a lot is on the line, particularly if you are seeking your first professional job out of college. But even experienced professionals face self-doubt as they head into (or log onto) an interview.
To help reduce the nerves, I’ve pulled together 5 common interview mistakes and advice on how to avoid them. As a Dev10 Recruiter, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people for our entry-level Software and Data Engineer positions. I’ve literally seen it all and know what to avoid!
Mistake #1: Being too vague
When you are asked to provide real-world examples of work you’ve done, I advise people to be specific. Too often interviewees use a lot of fluff or filler in their answers and fail to provide the end result of their efforts. Here are two responses to the prompt, “Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced at work and how you dealt with it.”
Vague answer: My last job was really fast-paced. I was busy, busy, busy. I never even had time to take a break! I ended up talking with my manager to make my schedule more manageable.
Specific answer: At my last job as a customer service representative, my workload piled up very quickly and I was falling behind on order entries. I worked with my manager to come up with a list of priorities and a schedule to keep my day moving efficiently. I was able to reduce the amount of time I spent on order entries by 10 percent and trained my co-workers so they could save time as well.
Do you see how the second answers provides details on what the individual did and then goes a step further to show how they helped spread the insight throughout their organization? If you can come up with a few concrete examples like these from your work or school experience, you’ll be way ahead of the competition.
Also, try recording yourself answering a few practice questions. Listen carefully to make sure you are being specific and providing the end result of your efforts.
Mistake #2: Misunderstanding the clothing expectations
The pandemic and working from home has wreaked havoc on dress expectations. It’s hard to know what to wear, especially in a remote interview setting! If you are unsure, you can always ask the recruiter or hiring manager you are working with what the dress code is. If you can’t ask that person directly, ask people in your life that do a similar job or work for a similar company. Finally, if all else fails, go ahead and dress up! Even for virtual interviews you still need to dress professionally! A dirty T-shirt is never a good choice, no matter how relaxed the employer may seem!
Mistake #3: Forgetting to do basic research
Never, and I repeat never, walk into a job interview without preparation. There is simply no excuse for not doing your homework. Here’s the baseline research you should do before every job interview:
- When was the the company founded?
- Who is the CEO and/or president of the company?
- Read the job description for the position you are interviewing for. Write down any questions you have after reading it.
- Does the company currently work in-person, remote or hybrid?
- Look up the LinkedIn profile of the person interviewing you. Make notes based on their background. Be prepared to ask them questions about what they like about working for the company.
- Read the company’s About Us page.
Mistake #4: Long-winded answers
When the nerves are coursing through your body it can be easy to start rambling. This is another reason why interview prep and practice is important! We recommend using the STAR method to form answers to common questions ahead of the interview. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. For many behavioral-type questions, you can fit your answers into this framework.
Make sure the detail you are providing is essential to your interviewer understanding your answer. For example, it is helpful for your interviewer to hear about tools or technology you used for a project, but they likely don’t need to know the names of the group members you worked with. This unnecessary detail can overshadow the more vital details and make your answer hard to follow.
Mistake #5: Bad lighting or a bad setting for virtual interviews
A job interview is important, whether it’s in person or online. Make sure you think about how you look AND how your surroundings appear when you are on camera. Lighting is crucial. You never want the light source to be behind you, because that will put your face in a shadow. If you don’t have a fancy ring light, try to use natural light from a window or place a lamp in front of you.
Also think about your background. You might look great in a suit and tie, but if your background looks messy you may not get the job. When all else fails, find a plain wall and park yourself in front of it for the interview.
Bonus advice for virtual interviews:
Your cat is cute, but she doesn’t belong in the room when you are participating in a job interview! And that goes for all pets. Dogs, cats and birds can all be very distracting. Make sure your pets are secured outside or behind a door. If that’s not possible in your house or apartment, find another location.
Those are the 5 most common interview mistakes! I hope you found this advice useful and I wish you well on your job search.
If you are interested in applying for Dev10, you can find more information on our Start Your Career page.