It is widely acknowledged that for a job interview to be successful, a candidate should arrive on time, be pleasant, cordial and professional, maintain regular eye contact with the interviewer and be ready to give precise examples of previous work experience that specifically relates to the target job role. However, there are many cases where professionals fail to impress enough to make the cut despite their glowing endorsements, great credentials and stellar professional pedigrees. With this in mind, here are five interview mistakes you may not realise you’re making, but which can easily be avoided:
1. Poor preparation
Employers have done their homework to find you and they expect you to do yours on them too. Candidates who arrive at an interview knowing little about the company, the industry or the role are in a poor position to compete with well-prepared professionals. Employers want to know you are curious, energetic, resourceful and inspired, and what better proof of that than arriving fully prepared and with keen insights into the employer and their news, views, products, positioning and so on.
2. Displaying a negative attitude
Poll after poll conducted by Bayt.com has revealed that attitude plays a crucial part in defining character and influencing the employment decision. Warning signs of bad attitudes that are sure to alienate a potential employer include speaking negatively of previous bosses, companies and colleagues; defensive or rudely evasive answers to key interview questions; or overtly aggressive answers, posture and demeanour. Dishonesty, inappropriate questions and comments, poor interpersonal skills and aggressiveness were all listed among the most common candidate mistakes that employers hate. Remember, people hire competent people they believe they will enjoy working with, and who will spread a good, positive vibe within the organisation and to clients and other external stakeholders. Employers are very cognizant that bad attitudes are highly contagious and will be far from receptive to candidates with a less than exemplary attitude towards work, life and themselves.
3. Lack of enthusiasm
Few things can alienate an employer more than a candidate who is lukewarm or disinterested about their company and its brand and objectives. The interview is not the time to doze off and deliver tired answers that smack of boredom with your audience, nor is it the time to wax lyrical about how much you genuinely prefer all the competitor brands (yes, some people do that). Employers are looking for nothing less than passion. If you cannot convince the employer that you will be as passionate about their company and line of work as they are, you will not be seen to possess the star quality they are looking for, nor will they place excessive trust in your long-term loyalty or staying power.
4. Vague, coined or misleading answers
The interview is not the time to practise your evasiveness skills no matter how expert you are. Employers can see right through a coined textbook answer, and dishonest answers are more than likely to be discerned sooner or later and to backfire. By all means, keep the conversation positive and constructive and don’t dwell over past failures or negative circumstances or events, but also be vigilant that the employer wants someone real – someone they understand and can trust – and they are likely to keep digging until they are comfortable they really understand who you are and what drives you and what your real strengths and weaknesses are. Actually, 84 per cent of employers in the Bayt.com “Skills and Hiring Trends in the Middle East and North Africa” poll (January 2015) said they conduct candidate reference checks before they make any hiring decision.
5. Lack of clarity on personal goals and strengths
If you are not clear about what you are bringing to the table for a particular job role in a particular company, chances are the employer will be even less clear. The employer is not a mind reader and your job is to make his/her life as easy as possible in mapping your key strengths, skills and competencies to the requirements of the role you are discussing. Be precise and articulate when it comes to spelling out what your personal strengths are, why you are competitive and what sets you apart and makes you uniquely qualified to add value in that specific context. Practice beforehand. Make a list of your strengths and find clear examples from your past experience that demonstrate each of them and which you can be ready to discuss in a professional and concise manner at the interview. Finally, remember to be relevant and to focus on transferable skills that are immediately applicable to the role being discussed.
Lama Ataya heads the marketing department at the Middle East’s leading jobs site, Bayt.com