If you’ve ever been on the job hunt, you know how big of a deal landing that first interview can be. At Startup Institute, we work with web development, digital marketing, web design and sales students to help them skill up, and ultimately find a job at an innovative company. In my time working with hiring partner companies and students at our bootcamp, I’ve seen some truly “unique” stories around how job interviews get bungled. Read on for some of the simple, but surprisingly common, mistakes I see people making that are worth being mindful of for your next big interview.
1. Not downloading the app
One of the first questions interviewers ask will always be "What do you know about us?" Being able to say “I downloaded the app” or “I subscribed to the newsletter” goes a long way in that it shows you’re not only doing research into the company, but openly interested in immersing yourself in the product or service. On the flipside, if you didn’t take the time to sign up for the service, you’re putting yourself at risk of not truly knowing how to adequately answer that question.
Related: 10 Interview Tips for Tech Companies
2. Being negative
With first round interviews, you really only get one first impression. It’s not uncommon to be asked why you’re leaving a job, so it’s important to think of a positive answer around it, and not fall into the easier trap of commenting on negative reasons you’re no longer interested in working there. It’s easy for interviewers to take a negative response and think, Will he be saying that about us in a few months? Positivity should always be the direction you take when interviewing with a potential future employer.
3. Actually just telling them about yourself
All interviewers are going to ask you to tell them about yourself. That's because they probably didn't have time to memorize your background, and it's a great way to let candidates position themselves and see how they do. Open ended questions are a great way to learn. The thing is, they don't want to know your life story; they want to hear about how your background is relevant to them. If you don't have a personal narrative, and you haven't customized it for the role and company, you're not addressing the question from the right angle.
Related: How to Master the Interview
4. Forgetting Google exists
Have you ever asked someone how her boyfriend is doing, or how a job is going, and been met with "oh, we broke up" or "I actually don't work there anymore"? It's painfully awkward. Well, the same can happen in interviews if you've missed big news about the company. Whenever we work with students and alumni, before a big interview we'll go down a checklist to make sure they've done due diligence, and this seems to be a common mistake that slips through the cracks.
5. Forgetting LinkedIn exists
LinkedIn has forever changed the job search game when it comes to equipping you with useful information about the people you’ll be interviewing with. It’s not just about looking up the company you’ll be interviewing at -- it’s just as important to get a better idea of the people you’ll be interviewing with. Look for things in common with your interviewer and try to identify talking points. Just ensure you avoid asking basic questions that show you didn't do any research.
6. Not speaking to your audience
Interviewing can often be a very nerve-wracking experience. Try your best to keep composure and avoid going off on tangents. Remember, you’re interviewing for a job, so all of your answers should be focused on how you can help the company. Keep your eyes on the prize. The interviewers will be doing the same.
7. Not preparing for the obvious
There are a handful of interview questions you're all but guaranteed to be asked. You should have already practiced your basic answers for these. There’s a certain confidence boost when questions you’ve been prepping for get asked, and that boost in confidence will help carry you through the whole interview. You got this!
8. Going too fast
A few seconds of silence isn't as painful to them as it is to you. Practice pausing before answering, giving you time to collect your thoughts, build composure and answer deliberately. This gives you a chance to form a headline for your answer, and then drill down on details.
9. Not being yourself
Counter-intuitively, being yourself takes practice. People can tell when you're not yourself almost immediately. Record yourself. Listen to your tone. Are you robotic? Are you suddenly three times as loud or energetic as you normally are? If interviewers feel you’re not being authentic, it can make them not confident in moving forward with your candidacy.
10. Not understanding the “next steps”
When we work with Startup Institute students who have gone through our courses and begin to hit the job market, we’ll help them land interviews, coach them leading up to it and follow up after to see how it went. One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s common for interviewees to forget to ask, “what’s next?” Leaving an interview with no idea of what to expect next can lead to unnecessary anxiety around when to expect a follow-up call, if you’re still being considered for the role, or even just how to best follow up if you don’t hear back in a few days. After the interview ends, don’t let nerves get in the way of finding out who your post-interview contact is and when a good time to follow up would be. Your sleep cycle will thank you!