Congratulations, you landed an interview! Whether it’s for your dream job or one that will get you one step closer, interviews are your primary opportunity to getting the gig after making it past the initial resume screen. Here are 5 mistakes to never make with your next interviews:
Before the interview:
1. Not doing your research.
Even if this is your dream company, be sure to know as much as you can about it before the big day. If you were set up on a blind date, you would probably Google search the person, check out his/her most recent Facebook profile pictures and status posts or Twitter feed. Don’t make the mistake of doing less research on your potential future employer than you would for a date.
Who is on the management team? What are their backgrounds and specialities? Did they manage any other companies in the past? What does that say about the company? Who is funding this company? Will the funding last through your potential contract? Does the company have any satellite branches? Where do the alumni seem to work after their time at Company X? What is the average starting base salary for other people in the role you are interviewing for? Will the interview be technical or fit? Or both?
You want to be knowledgeable for two main reasons: I. It would appear sloppy, disrespectful, and irresponsible in the interview otherwise; and II. This job should be a good fit for you too. Make sure they meet all (or most) your requirements too, don’t settle!
2. Not rehearsing.
It is helpful to think of (or work with colleagues) potential interview questions and write your answers down to prepare. But be wary of writing scripts! You shouldn’t necessarily memorize responses and robotically regurgitate. There is a difference between scripted and unprepared. To accomplish a natural flow with structured and quantitative responses, I often practice answering interview questions out loud (alone or with a friend).
Two reasons to rehearse: I. You don’t want to look like you’re lying on your resume because you can’t effectively explain your background; and II. You may be nervous on interview day, practicing out loud answers will lay mental groundwork so it’s easier to remember.
3. Not answering questions effectively.
This is your chance to show off all of your hard work! Your responses should always:
Be accurate - The WORST is when I interview candidates and they tell me they worked for a previous company for 5 years and when I call their previous employers as a reference and the candidate worked for 3 years. Maybe it was a slip of the tongue because they were nervous or maybe they got it wrong because it happened so long ago and didn’t rehearse before the interview. Neither of these reasons are ok. To me, as an interviewer, this is a straight-up lie. Lying in an interview brings everything else about your interview into question as well. Whether it’s the amount of funds your non-profit organization raised or the name of the podcast you started or the reason you were let go from your previous role - don’t lie, exaggerate, or guess in an interview.
Highlight results-driven actions - Interviewer prompts, “In the executive summary of your resume, you use the word ‘entrepreneurial’ to describe yourself. What’s an example of your entrepreneurialism?”
“My junior year in college I started my own company” is not a good answer. A good answer is “My junior year in college I started a not-for-profit organizatinon that helps underprivileged high school students prepare for college. We worked in 3 local high schools with over 30 students and had an internal team of 6 other students from my college. X company is doing great now, I’ve moved on, but they’ve expanded and now work with 8 high schools, over 60 students and have a team of 15!”
The fact that you created an online library for your lab is awesome, but the fact that your lab still uses it today and that it inspired other cloud-based platforms to be utilized within your lab is even better. Proving that you created impact, from your scientific work to your extracurriculars is important to convey.
Be quantitative - “I spoke at a LOT of international conferences in grad school” doesn’t really tell the interviewer much… Is “a LOT” 100? 50? 10? “I presented my thesis work at 20 conferences throughout my 6 years of PhD work - 7 of those were international, 6 national, and 7 local,” paints a more clear picture. When you’re rehearsing, be sure to include numbers as much as you can. Remember, the interviewers (most likely) have never met you before, only read your resume and (maybe) looked at your LinkedIn profile - they need scales to get the best representation of your work.
4. Not asking your own questions.
Like I said earlier, this needs to be a good fit for both sides. Don’t accept an offer with a company you don’t feel good about. You’ll just be unhappy and end up producing subpar work if so. Asking questions in the interview will: I. Prove your curiosity and interest; and II. Help you to decide if this is the right job, right company, right team for you.
A few general questions I always want to know the answers to are:
- Who is my direct supervisor?
- How many people are on the team?
- Are you hiring others right now too?
- What training will be provided for me, if any?
- Is there any mentor/mentee program in this company?
- What opportunities will there be for me to be promoted?
- How long does it typically take for this role to be promoted?
- Will promotion come with a salary increase?
- How often does the team meet internally?
- What are exact expectations on quality of work?
- How often will deliverables be expected?
- What benefits are provided with this role?
- What’s the work/life balance of current team members like?
- Will my role require any travel? If so, approximately how much?
After the interview:
5. Not following up.
This may be a basic mistake, but it happens often. As a manager, I’m always surprised when interviewees don’t send a thank you email, it’s common courtesy and shows you are still thinking about the job after the interview.
Always send a thank you email to each individual person you interviewed with. If you worked directly with an assistant (coordinating flights, reimbursements for cabs, etc) thank that person as well. If your interview was with a recruiter and he/she asked for follow-on information, such as a publication list or references, the sooner you provide that information, the sooner he/she can get back to the job of finding you a job. Also, I always try to include something thoughtful or unique from our conversation in the follow-up email.
That’s all I have! Thanks for reading and if you’d like to learn more about Strik3 interview prep, resume makeovers, or booking Strik3 to host a workshop you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @hellostrik3.