A new survey shows that job hunters may want to do their homework about a prospective employer before heading to an interview. Forty-seven percent of executives polled in a survey for Accountemps say that having little or no knowledge of the company is the most common mistake job seekers make during interviews. Seventeen percent felt that being unprepared to discuss skills and experience was another huge mistake. Officials say successful applicants will have a beyond-the-basics understanding of a firm, including its history, chief competitors and business objectives.Executives were asked, “What do you think is the most common mistake candidates make during job interviews?”
The Job Interview: The Ten Most Common Mistakes
- Not knowing enough about the company, its products, its industry, or the present market conditions in which it operates. “I’ve seen guys who said ‘I really want to work here and what you guys do is great’ and then when asked what we do that interests them, they can’t answer. They haven’t read your Web site and they don’t know your product and then they’re shocked that someone tried to quiz them on it,” says Josh Coates, founder and CEO of software company Berkeley Data Systems, based in American Fork, Utah
- Inappropriate dress and/or attitude. Prepare yourself for the interview. Think about the position you are applying for and try to find out something about the person who is interviewing you, even if all you can find out is their age, title, level of education, and years of experience. “I see a lot of people way overdressed for interviews, wearing a three-piece suit or even strong cologne. It’s important that you dress for the culture where you are interviewing,” said Coates.
- Arriving late. Always make a point of arriving fifteen minutes early for the interview. Brian Gabrielson, national practice director for Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professional services in Mountain View, Calif., said that interviewees sometimes forget that when the competition is tough, it often comes down to the little things like punctuality. “All things being equal, I’m going to pick the person who showed up on time, looked me in the eye and had manners,” said Gabrielson. Showing up on time is more than the icing on the cake, however. It conveys to potential employers that you will be equally punctual with deadlines, and that you will be organized enough to keep projects in line.
- Not shaking hands with the interviewer and not maintaining regular eye contact with the interviewer during the course of the interview.
- Misrepresenting your skills and experience. Remember, you are looking for a “fit” and so is the interviewer. The more details you can give about your experience and abilities, the better off you are in the long term. Be sure to review your resume carefully prior to the interview and be prepared to discuss in more detail your experiences detailed therein. “When I was an IT recruiter, I used to see a lot of overstating of qualifications. For example, people would say they had Java experience but they meant Java script. People would often have quickie or dumbed down versions of the technologies we’d requested,” said Galler.
- Not appearing enthusiastic about the position. As a rule, you can never appear enthusiastic enough. Whatever you do, do not appear aloof or distracted. Appearing a bit nervous is in most cases more acceptable than appearing overly relaxed. Heather Galler, CEO of JobKite, a Land O’ Lakes, Fla., national job site said: “A client told me about someone interviewing for a help desk position, and when asked what kind of work they wanted to do, he said ‘I sure don’t want to get stuck answering phones all day!'” While Galler attributed this comment to the risk that sometimes comes when a more senior person says that they are willing to do simpler work, needless to say, this individual’s chance at getting the job was immediately nixed.
- Asking for more money than you are worth or for more than the position is paying. Find out what the industry-wide standard is for the position you are seeking and for the experience you have. Salary surveys and search agencies can be very helpful in this regard.
- Making negative remarks about your previous employer. As a rule, stick to talking about the things you enjoy doing in your present or previous situation. Show the interviewer your enthusiasm for the work you do. When asked why you are leaving your present employer, talk about the new challenges and opportunities you are seeking. “Negativity is not going to get you a job—at all. Even if you’ve been laid off, bitterness is never going to make you seem like an appealing candidate,” said Galler.
- Asking what the company can do for you instead of emphasizing the kind of contribution you can make to the company. Don’t be afraid to mention concrete examples of the contributions you have made in previous situations and/or your academic achievements (if appropriate), in addition to your skills and experience. Appear confident about your abilities.
- Asking prematurely about salary. Salary should be one of the last things you inquire about, after you have asked intelligent questions about the position and the company. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to ask about salary. If you don’t the interviewer will wonder why you didn’t.