Congratulations, you've impressed with your application and landed a job interview. Whether you're a first-timer or a seasoned professional, it's surprisingly easy to trip yourself up in a job interview. Graduate careers experts Prospects tell us how to avoid the most common mistakes.
Never have first impressions mattered more than when interviewing for a job. Competition for vacancies is fierce and for every position you apply for you'll be up against a number of talented graduates.
It's essential to use this opportunity to showcase your best qualities, and ensure that you're memorable for all the right reasons. Nerves do play their part in the interview process and everyone has areas that they could improve upon. However, more often than not it's the most preventable errors that cost you the job.
To make sure that this doesn't happen to you, follow our advice and avoid these common interview pitfalls.
1. Arriving unprepared
Preparation before an interview is crucial to arriving confident and ready to tackle the interviewer's questions.
Read up on the company's background, its place in the market and its competitors, and familiarise yourself with its key members. Make sure that you fully understand the role on offer. Failing to do so will make you look lazy and uninterested.
Prepping for an interview can take a number of forms and research into the organisation is just one of them. Being prepared also means figuring out how you’re going to get to your interview, planning your route and factoring in any delays you may encounter. There are no excuses for tardiness when it comes to job interviews so show your enthusiasm by arriving on time.
Sometimes delays are unavoidable and as long as the circumstances are out of your control they shouldn’t take you out of the running. Take the details of your interview contact with you so you can let them know if you encounter any problems on your way.
2. Dressing inappropriately
Being well presented is a must so choose your outfit carefully. Knowing the type of company you have applied to should give you a clue as to the dress code for example, in legal or business firms dress is usually more formal, while in creative companies or IT the dress code is more relaxed. However, if in doubt always err on the side of caution. It's better to go too formal than not formal enough.
If you'd wear the same or a similar outfit on a night out or on the weekend you may want to rethink your choice. You need to make sure that you look the part and still feel confident.
3. Talking too much or not enough
Learning to strike a balance between talking too much and talking too little can be a challenge. Taking part in practice interviews with your university careers service can really help to ensure that you give the right amount of information.
Waffling is a common interview weakness and tends to be the result of nerves, but avoid talking about everything all at once. It's important to sell your skills and experience without rambling. Once the interviewer asks a question, pause for a couple of seconds, take a breath and gather your thoughts before responding. If you're talking too much or too fast you also run the risk of talking over or interrupting the interviewer.
Not giving enough information and forgetting to mention important points can be just as detrimental as waffling. To make sure this doesn't happen practise answers to common interview questions beforehand and make sure you have a number of examples from your studies and previous work experience to draw upon.
Employers understand that nerves play a part in the process so if your mind goes completely blank politely ask for a couple of seconds to gather your thoughts or ask if it's ok to come back to the question at the end, once you’ve had some time to think.
4. Criticising previous employers or colleagues
Complaining about colleagues, drawing attention to the negative aspects of your previous or current job or moaning about your superiors is a sure-fire way to blow your chances of success. This gives employers the wrong impression of you and makes them question what you'd say about them in similar circumstances.
No matter the reason for you leaving your previous or current employment, always be diplomatic. You don't want potential employers to think of you as disloyal or complaining. Instead of highlighting the mistakes of others, emphasise the positive steps you took in order to overcome them. This shows how proactive you can be.
5. Failing to ask questions
As the interview draws to a close the recruiter will ask if you have any questions you’d like to ask them. It’s never a good idea to say no. This is your opportunity to get answers to your queries about the role and the company so don’t waste it. Asking a couple of relevant questions shows your interest in the role. You could ask about any current major projects your team is working on, progression opportunities or where the company sees itself in five years’ time.
Avoid asking what the company does (you should have done your research), how much paid leave you’re entitled to and how soon you can book holidays, if you can work from home, or if you’ve got the job. Also avoid asking a question if the answer has already been covered during the interview.
Try where possible to prepare two or three questions; that way you’ve always got a backup.
How to succeed at interview
It's all well and good knowing what not to do at an interview, but not much use if you don't know what you should be doing to win the job.
Setting aside your nerves is easier said than done but learning to conquer job interview jitters is important if you want to give the impression of confidence. Try to relax and show your natural personality; the employer will get a much better feel of how you'll fit into their team if you do. Take comfort from the fact that if you're being interviewed the recruiter is already impressed with what you have to offer, and after sifting through countless applications they'll be rooting for you to do well.
Enthusiasm and a positive attitude also go a long way and instantly make a more appealing candidate. Throughout the interview, evidence and reiterate your motivation for the role and the company. Employers like forward thinking graduates who can commit so to really put yourself above the competition, talk about the future of the company and your role within it.
Another good tip is to observe the basics. It can be easy to underestimate the power of good manners, regular eye contact, a firm handshake or a smile. Be polite to everyone you come into contact with as you never know who might be on the selection panel.