4 Common Interview Missteps and Their Fixes

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You just left a first-round job interview and you can’t shake the feeling that you didn’t rock their proverbial world. We’ve all been there, and lucky for you, I’m here for a quick post-mortem.

Of course, it’s possible that you nailed it and you’re overthinking it. But just in case, I’ve taken the liberty of throwing together this handy list of interview missteps. See a familiar interview faux pas in the list below?

Interview Misstep #1: “I don’t have any questions.”

Yikes. When an interviewer asks if you have questions, they’re setting you up for the ultimate slam dunk (if you did your homework, that is). While you may not have any burning questions, use this prompt as a chance to show an interviewer you know what the organization is about and what you can bring to the team.

Drop a little knowledge on the interviewer in the form of a question. For example, “I know your organization rebranded in 2014. Has this positively impacted your visibility?”

Or perhaps you want to take this opportunity to show a little interest in the interviewers, especially since one of them may be your future supervisor. Try something like, “What brought you here?” or “What’s your favorite thing about working here?” or be bold and ask “What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a team?”

Drop a little knowledge on the interviewer in the form of a question.

Whatever you choose, remember that “I have no questions,” generally comes off as “I have no interest.” Prepping some killer questions is an easy way to impress, so go ahead and grab that low-hanging fruit!

Interview Misstep #2: “What’s the salary?”

Would you ask a first date how many babies they’re interested in churning out? I hope not! Asking anything related to salary, benefits, office hours, etc. comes off as inexperienced, overeager, and a little cocky. While these are critical questions, there are very few instances in which they’re round-one appropriate. Get to round two before you start on the compensation line of questioning.

PRO TIP: While you shouldn’t be asking any salary questions in your first interview, always be prepared to answer them. There’s a chance that your interview will dive right in, so have a response rehearsed and ready to go.

Interview Misstep #3: You’re asked to share your biggest weakness and you respond, “I’m a perfectionist.”

Don’t. Just don’t. If you truly are a perfectionist, good for you! But, we have it on good authority that “I’m a perfectionist” holds a coveted position at the top of many a hiring manager list of most-hated responses.

So, what to say instead? Let things get a little real. If you’re more comfortable with the details than you are with strategy, share that you’re detail oriented and working to find a balance between focusing on bigger picture items and the details.

We have it on good authority that “I’m a perfectionist” holds a coveted position at the top of many a hiring manager list of most-hated responses.

Have you perhaps recognized your meetings don’t always result in an action item or a next step? Hint at the weakness, but also share your action plan to address the issue—something that you’ve already implemented and was a proven fix to said weakness would be best.

Interview Misstep #4: I’m sorry I’m late.

An interview should be treated like the launching point for your career that it very well may be, so do yourself a favor and don’t be late, no matter what.

The night before your interview, know exactly how you plan to get there. On the big day, check the traffic and transit details and arrive early. I’d recommend walking into the office no more than ten minutes early, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be in the neighborhood beforehand. Find a coffee shop nearby, grab a tea, and go through your notes and resume one last time.

If you’ve been wondering why you didn’t get a call for round two, keep these interview mistakes in your back pocket as a lesson-learned for the next time you’re in the hot seat.

Have you committed any of these interview sins? Do you have another cringe-worthy example that we left off the list? Share with the Idealist Careers community here.

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About Author

As a seasoned communications professional with 13+ years of nonprofit experience and 5+ years of experience creating engaging content and copy, I love the idea that an expertly crafted piece of content has the ability to spark meaningful social change. Here at Idealist Careers, I'm eager to offer jobseekers, game changers, and do-gooders actionable tips, career resources, and "social-impact lifestyle" advice.

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