The Six Most Sabotaging Job Interview Mistakes

Here are a few unexpected mistakes to learn from, and the best practices for avoiding them.

  • Not having an elevator pitch. I may have learned it the hard way, but the truth is that in every interview, you’ll encounter some variation of the “tell me about yourself” prompt. This is a direct invitation to outshine your resume, tell the employer what value you’re bringing to the table, and address any weaknesses or anomalies in your employment or educational record. Too many people think they’ll be able to “wing” this part of the interview, but scientifically, it’s just not possible: The average human attention span is five seconds, so if you aren’t ready to go when the moment comes, you’ll lose the interviewer’s interest in the time it takes you to craft a response. This completely defeats the purpose of the elevator pitch, which is to start – not conclude – the conversation.


  • Asking for feedback after being rejected.Requesting feedback or suggestions for improvement may demonstrate your humility and dedication to personal growth, but it puts the hiring manager in an awkward position. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that you’ll actually get a straightforward response, because most feedback can create a legal liability for the employer…Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, responding to requests for feedback takes up time the employer doesn’t have, which is often seen as intrusive and irritating. So, please, reconsider asking for it.


  • Being too proactive after you’ve submitted your application. I realize that defies the message most job hunters were raised with, but when it comes to applications, your stick-with-it-ness isn’t always appreciated. As a general rule, unannounced follow up phone calls are never a good idea, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take on a more strategic approach. If you’re looking to build a bridge (and not burn one!), send a cold email to the hiring manager, innocently following up on your application and asking if there’s anything else you can do to stand out as a candidate. This is non-threatening and allows the hiring person an opportunity to notice you, while still holding his or her own.


  • Not having questions for the hiring manager at the end of an interview. As with the elevator pitch, it’s best to have a smart, genuine question prepared before the interview. All too often, people to go into the interview with the expectation that a brilliant question will materialize somewhere between the hellos and the wind-down, but it just doesn’t work that way.More often than not, when the hiring manager says, “Do you have any questions for me?” the candidate feigns a thoughtful look for a few moments before replying, “No, you answered all of them for me.” Having a thoughtful question or two speaks volumes about your interest in the position.


  • Taking a one-size fits all approach to your resume. Job-hunting is an endeavor that exerts all of our capabilities, and crafting the perfect resume also tests our tolerance for tedium. Going through each line and word with precision and scrutiny, revision after revision, makes even the most seasoned editors want to pull their hair out. The idea of going through that process for every single job application is deflating, but once is never enough. If you really can’t rework the resume for each application, think about constructing a few different versions targeted to different jobs or industries. It will pay off: 71% of hiring managers prefer receiving a resume that has been customized for the job.


  • Letting the employer know you’re not local. A very close friend recently asked if she could use my Los Angeles address on her resume. She was gearing up to move across the country and was planning to stay with me for a few weeks while she job-hunted, so I obliged. If you can swing the travel and lodging logistics on your own dime, there’s really no need to let the employer know you aren’t local…as long as you aren’t outright about it when asked. Recruiters often disregard candidates who are not local, and thus it’s of huge benefit to list a local address if you have one. While your investment in job-hunting travel won’t always translate into offers, the muscle you build when you’re in the habit of saying “yes” to big opportunities will always bring you to the top of your career game. If you don’t have the means to cover costs, don’t despair: Take advantage of face-to-face digital tools like Skype and FaceTime to build a network in the town you hope to land a job in, even if you’re currently 5,000 miles away.

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