If you've been out of work for several weeks or months, you’re probably desperate to find work. You might be behind on your credit cards, utilities, and you might risk defaulting on your mortgage or auto loan. You need a job fast, so you comb the Internet day after day, hit the pavement and apply for every job you qualify for. The sooner you get a job interview, the sooner you can get hired and avoid financial ruin.
In the #1 Amazon bestseller, 15 Minutes to a Better Interview, Russell Tuckerton states you need to get the basics right first like dressing properly and grooming. But you can't stop at the basics.
Here are nine common mistakes when preparing for a job interview.
1. Knowing absolutely nothing about the company
As you prepare for a job interview, it's important to learn as much about the company as possible. You’ll have to sell your skills and explain why you're the best person for the job, but the employer will also test your knowledge about the company. If he asks a question about the company, and you return a blank stare or struggle to get your thoughts together, he’ll know you didn't prepare and most likely choose a candidate who did.
To learn about an employer, you can visit the company’s website and check out their “about us” page for information on branches, profits, and history. Or conduct a quick online search and check for recent press releases or news articles about the company. The more recent the news, the better.
2. Not getting your outfit ready ahead of time
It's also important to think about your outfit ahead of time. On the day of your interview, you might be rushing or unexpected events can pop up. You don't want to be late. So the night before, make sure you lay out your most professional attire. If you don't have business attire, borrow clothes from a friend or go shopping. You can use apps like Poshmark to buy used or new clothes from other people.
Even if you're applying for a job with a casual dress code, always dress professionally for the interview. Better to be overdressed than underdressed. You can wear slacks, a dress, skirt or a business suit — whatever is most appropriate.
3. Failing to map out your route
Even if you know how to get to the interview location, decide your route ahead of time and take a test run. Take into consideration the time of day for your interview. If your interview is scheduled for 9 a.m. you'll probably hit rush-hour traffic and will need to leave the house earlier. Also, have an alternate route just in case you hit traffic delays like an accident or road construction.
4. Waiting to get interview instructions
If you’re interviewing for a large company, the building might have several entrances, and the person conducting your interview might be on a different floor than where you’ll work. When scheduling an interview, make sure you get instructions. Which entrance should you use? Should you allow time to go through security? Where should you park? Ask these questions when you've scheduled the interview, not the day before or the day of the interview.
5. Dropping the ball on references
When submitting an application or cover letter, it’s customary to put “references available upon request.” Just know that if the interview goes well and the interviewer feels you're a good candidate, he will ask for references on the day of your interview. Bring at least three references, and contact these individuals beforehand to make sure it’s okay to use their names. Since you don’t know the employer’s preferred method of communication, provide the interviewer with the full name, address, telephone number and email for each reference.
6. Forgetting to practice interview questions
You might have the education, skills, and experience for a job, but if you fumble through your interview, you might not get the job. Never assume your charm and personality will be enough to wow a prospective employer and don’t think you can wing a job interview. Interviewers are looking for clear, specific answers to their questions, and candidates who provide the best answers have a better chance.
Go online and research commonly asked interview questions for your position. With a friend’s assistance, have a mock interview session and practice your responses. A few questions the interviewer will likely ask include: What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your career goals for the next five or 10 years? Why do you feel you're the best candidate for the job? How can you help my company?
And have a really good answer for: Why should I choose you over other candidates?
7. Winging it your answers for tough questions
Not only will the interviewer ask common questions related to the position, he might ask a few tough questions, such as: why did you leave your last job? This might be an easy question if you were laid-off. But if you were fired for insubordination or other problems, make sure you prepare a response that doesn't involve bashing your previous employer.
Again, prepare your answers and make them concise and thoughtful.
8. Having no clue about your salary expectations
Some employers know what they’re going to pay for a position and they include the salary in their job ad. On the other hand, other employers don't include salary information in a job listing, and this topic doesn’t come up until the interview.
Before going into an interview, think about your desired salary. If you’re not sure what to ask, go online and research average salaries for the position in your area based on your skills and experience. You can find this information on sites like payscale.com or the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This way, if the interviewer asks about salary expectations, you’ll be prepared to give an answer and explain why you deserve this amount. Researching salaries can be the difference between being underpaid and getting paid your worth.
One thing to keep in mind: the salary negotiation happens after an offer has been extended.
9. Leaving all the questions to the interviewer
The interviewer will ask the majority of the questions to assess whether you're the best candidate for the position. But you should bring your own questions as well.
Employers are impressed when applicants are engaging and participate. By asking questions, you show that you’ve done your research on a company, and you demonstrate a sincere interest in working for the company. If an interviewer asks whether you have any questions and you say no, he might conclude that you're not as excited as other applicants. As a result, he might offer the position to someone else.
Any question is better than none. You can ask the interviewer to clarify something he said during the meeting. Or you can ask other questions, such as: does the company offer a 401(k) plan or other benefits? Is there room for growth within the company? What is the company’s culture?
Remember, you can take notes but remain present during the interview. Make eye contact and be aware of your physical nonverbal cues.
The job market is tough and competitive. But if you thoroughly prepare before walking into an interview, you’ll have a better chance of getting a job offer.