Public speaking is a huge fear for many, with job interviewing being one of the situations most people prefer to avoid. In high school and college, I had a strong academic record and a long list of leadership roles. Even so, I still used to battle the same pit-in-my stomach feeling, sweaty palms, and negative self-talk before job interviews. In my early years in the workforce, my unsteady confidence would hold me back from applying to jobs that seemed out of reach. I often settled for staying in positions that I did not like very much to avoid the discomfort and stress of being evaluated in the hot seat.
While in college and graduate school, I began to notice many talented young adults not moving towards work that they enjoyed because of fear, self-doubt, or lack of support in figuring out their next step. I refused to let myself or others stay stuck in “just okay” work environments. I followed the calling I felt to help people discover their professional value and connect to work they enjoy. My quest to unlock more of the potential within others and myself led me to my vocation as an Interview and Career Coach, where I have thrived for over fifteen years.
The time saved, self-worth boosted, negative experiences avoided, and opportunities I see my clients gain never gets old. However, as the economy worsens in many places, I have found that the expectation of what impresses employers continues to increase. Even though it may only be a person’s first or second interview, there is far less room than there used to be for beginner errors.
The following are some of the most frequently made interview rookie mistakes to avoid before, during, and after your job interview. Knowing what not to do is helpful, but I also want to share with you what impressive moves I have seen teens and young adults take that helped them stand out in a professional way.
Before The Job Interview
- Not practicing answers to questions or sounding too scripted
- Lack of self-care and stress relief activities before interview
- Waiting until last minute to pick out best outfit and find directions
- Forgetting to clean up social media image and voicemail greeting
- Not bothering to put cell phone on silent
- Listening too much to doubt, worries, or other negative self-talk
- Uses flashcards to write down, learn, and review answers to common questions
- Prepares at least five key message points of how employer will benefit from their skills
- Researches company mission, values, goals and identifies two of the current challenges of the business
- Uses a variety of stress management practices to regularly decrease fear, doubts, and anxiety
- Records practice interview. Reviews and gets constructive feedback. Repeats process at least three times over several days.
- Instead of checking in on social media upon early arrival, checks to make sure breathing is deep and self-talk is positive
During The Job Interview
- No planning ahead and rushes to interview
- Misses opportunity in beginning to make small talk and connect personally
- Struggles in answers to connect how their strengths and qualifications can be of value to solving the company’s challenges
- Offers no humor or hint of personality, little eye contact, says a lot of “uhs” and “ums”, fidgets, or slouches
- Rattles off answers without taking pause to confirm question is understood
- Does not collect the name and contact information of interviewer
- Sees the interview as a two-sided learning opportunity for both parties to determine a best fit
- Engages interviewer with enthusiasm, positivity, and a relaxed confidence
- Clearly states how job connects to career plan for the future
- Seeks opportunities in interview to share key message points about their professional value
- Takes time to provide answers which give clear visual images to interviewer of how the candidate has been dependable, innovative, and adaptable in the past
- Asks purposeful questions about job responsibilities, company goals, and supervisor’s expectations that convey an eagerness to perform well and be of service
After The Job Interview
- Makes no time for self-reflection on how to improve
- Does not send a follow-up thank you email or card
- Blames only the bad economy for not landing the opportunity
- Vents on social media about company or their own poor interview performance
- Will not reach out to a professional coach for help on making progress
- Gives up when there is no call back or contact from employer
- Reflects on three ways the interview went well and three areas to improve on for future interviews and WRITES it down for reference later
- Sends meaningful and customized thank you email to interviewers
- Follows up after one week to remind company of brief highlights of interview
- Determines how best to continue moving forward instead of taking it too personally if not selected for the job
- Assesses what strengths, training, and qualifications are needed to further align with next opportunities available
- Continues to reach out and connect with experienced professionals in desired field of work to learn from their success
In a competitive labor market, gaining a job or internship may still not happen as fast as any of us would like to experience. Making too many rookie mistakes at the job interview will further prolong your job search, debts, and anxiety. How can you be more confident that you have done what is within your control to present your best professional image? The best tip overall is allowing yourself plenty of time to prepare and learning what helps keep you feeling your best self under pressure.
After shining at the interview and you land the job or internship, stay focused on demonstrating professional behaviors. This strategy will help you move more easily to earning a promotion or higher earnings. When you are seen as an employee who initiates solutions and maintains a service-oriented mindset no matter the challenge, you will help ensure that your first job performance evaluations will also be glowing.