by Fatma Toufexief, Community Services Supervisor, The Elevate Project
Job interviews provide an opportunity for a candidate to convince the employer they are the right fit for the position. If you are lucky enough to be selected for a face to face interview, you want to do your best to prove that they should hire you over another candidate. Whether your interview is with Human Resources, the CEO of the company, or the person whose role you will be replacing, it is important to highlight your strengths and relevant experience. While most individuals are concerned they will talk for too long, or that their nervous habits will be distracting (Voice shaking? Sweaty palms? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one!), more serious but easily avoidable mistakes are often overlooked. Here’s a list of common mistakes you should avoid:
1. Assuming the employer has memorized your resume. Yes, your resume got you to the interview. The employer most likely reviewed your application, along with the many other candidates who are also being considered. But – they most likely did not memorize all of your accomplishments and work experience. Now that you’re in the interview, it is your responsibility to bring up the winning points from your resume and talk about them in context so the employer can understand your value to the company. Candidates often get overlooked in interviews because they fail to bring up their strengths in response to the interviewer’s questions. You put all that hard work in creating a strong resume, and now is the time to talk about those points out loud so your interview answers can be more impressive than the competition.
2. Speaking negatively about an employer, a co-worker, or a customer/client/patient. When you talk negatively about previous work experience, the effect is often the opposite of your intention. Your goal is to have the employer notice that you went through a difficult experience and survived. However, the reality is that the employer will most likely interpret your response as YOU being the problem. We cannot control other peoples’ actions, only our reaction to them. By speaking negatively about an experience, it shows the employer that you do not have the skills to overcome the challenge with positivity. Rather than speaking negatively about a person, try to focus on how you responded and resolved the situation.
3. Only answering a part of the question. Employers will often ask multi-part questions. If you only answer one part, you are missing out on an opportunity to highlight your knowledge, skills and experience. If another candidate being interviewed responds to all parts of the question, he or she has a much better chance of scoring higher than you on the answer. Don’t be afraid to ask the employer to repeat the question, and try to answer each part of the question in the order that it was asked to decrease your chances of missing a critical section.
4. Forgetting your skills. If you tell the employer that you “helped customers” – what does that mean? It leaves a lot open to interpretation. You could have “helped” the customer by sighing, pointing to the sign, and returning to your cell phone. Or it could mean that you greeted the customer in a friendly and professional manner, answered their questions with patience and consideration, and ensured excellent customer service was delivered. Highlighting how you did something, rather than just stating what you did, is a very important skill to master in an interview. The employer does not know you, or know how you behaved in your last position. It is up to you to highlight your skills so that the interviewer can easily understand how you will positively benefit their company.
5. Negative body language. We get it, interviews are stressful! Many candidates outwardly display their nervousness by having a very serious, solemn facial expression, or by crossing their arms. Employers may interpret closed-off body language and frowning facial expressions as an indication the candidate does not have positive social skills, isn’t interested in the role, or lacks confidence in their skills and ability. Positive non-verbal communication, such as smiling, body posture and steady eye contact will increase your chances of connecting with the employer and allowing them to focus more on the quality of your responses.
The most important thing is to be prepared. Avoiding these common mistakes will put you ahead of your competition, and hopefully land you your next job!
For more information on job search assistance, please visit our Employment Services page and contact the program location nearest you.
Fatma Toufexief has been working in the field of Employment Counselling for over 8 years, with extensive experience assisting Experienced Workers, Youth, New Graduates, Newcomers, Internationally Trained Professionals and Persons with Disabilities.