Three interview fails you definitely want to avoid

Interview Fails You Want to Avoid.jpg

Ahhhhh, the dreaded job interview.

It’s funny isn’t it, how we interview so rarely yet it's a critical skill in terms of landing your next big role and getting it right can add 10's or 100's of 1000's of dollars to your career over time?

Investing in interview planning, strategy and role play for those serious about their career, is not just a necessary evil, but a superbly smart play.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, I was taken aback by a particularly memorable interview performance.

  • Me:  "Tell us about a time when you've had to handle a difficult customer situation - what did you do and how did you handle it?"

  • Candidate: (standing up, dramatically thrusting their hand out towards me like a stop sign) "Talk to the hand!"

Later during the course of the interview the candidate reflected that maybe they were interviewing for the wrong role.


I didn’t disagree. 

We might not all make that particular mistake. But nerves are cunning, and the stakes are high, so anything could happen. Here are three of the most common mistakes I see, yet I know they are difficult to nip in the bud.  

  1. Treating the interview like a performance.

    You’re so rehearsed, polished and slick that you come off as inauthentic. There are no stumbles (unless deliberately and dramatically placed) and you sound as though you've learned rote responses off by heart. Pauses for dramatic effect, the over animated facial expressions or hand gestures, or the bigger than Ben Hur "presence" as you command attention from the panel are dead giveaways. A dramatic talk to the hand might get you laughs in a drama class, but was really inappropriate in the context of the interview. While rehearsal or role play is good, you aren’t a performing seal. People want to know they can work with you, not necessarily that you have dramatic flair. And while a certain polish and a panache can go a long way, this is not the opportunity to give the performance of lifetime. Keep it real people. Keep it real.

  2. Feeling as though you need to prove yourself.  

    So you end up coming across like an Eager Beaver or a People Pleaser as you jump through hoops to answer questions - leaning forwards, speaking fast, asking if you gave enough information, or alternatively providing far too much information as you try and demonstrate how great you are for the role. This makes others feel uncomfortable and as though you don't believe in yourself.  Instead, bring some executive equity into the room with you, some confidence, some self belief and a willingness to back yourself as a peer.

  3. Behaving as though it’s a test - enter the Energiser Bunny! 

    Signs you think it’s a test?

    - You respond so fast after you’ve been asked the question, that you barely had time to think

    - You take a deep breath, then grin in a self congratulatory manner at the end of each response

    - The answers come out in a rehearsed even pace, they are word perfect with business speak more suitable for a written report

    - Yet if someone asks you a question that you've not prepared for, you don't know which answer to give, because you didn't prepare for that question

    - You’re poised on the edge of your seat with a bring it on attitude, and

    - Finally, when you provide a particularly good response you then finish with an arm pump and a #nailedit comment. And you’re incredibly scary. (Okay I'm over exaggerating here, but you get the picture.)


  • Back yourself

  • Sell yourself and

  • Express your expertise in language the panel values and understands

Treat the interview like it’s a conversation. The quietly, confident candidate leans back slightly in their chair - they converse, connect, reflect and ask questions that demonstrate their interest in return. They use the three "feminine" super powers of emotional intelligence, active listening and clear communication to find the Goldilocks sweet spot of energy - not too much, not too little, but just right. They provide real and specific examples of where they've done something similar before - based in fact, grounded in context and backed up with impact. This helps them to not only look and sound credible and believable, but also helps the interview panel feel secure in their decision making.

A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers
— Helen Keller


In case you're feeling bad about yourself, don't.  I once heard a story of a super smart candidate wearing a onesie to a corporate job interview and bringing his mum into the interview room with him to help him negotiate.  But that's a story for another day. 

However, if you identified with any of the three above, the easiest way to improve is to practice with someone who is prepared to give you feedback. The interview might not be a performance, but it is a skill you can develop. And the more you interview the better you'll get.

Thanks to everyone who completed the 2018 Career Strategy Survey last month. I've been working through the responses and will contact you shortly if you asked for more information.  Drop me a note if you missed out and would like to take part.

Feeling frustrated and overlooked?  
Know that you do awesome work but others are taking you for granted?

Why not book in a 30 min one on one  phone call to learn more. 1st in best dressed rules apply.

#interviewfails #interviewpreparation #womenofimpact


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