Lately I have been surrounded by interviewing. From recruiters filling the office to mock interviewing I have become an interviewing aficionado. However, it wasn’t too long ago that I was a nervous student desperately trying to impress an interviewer. One internship interview, seven grad school interviews, and one career services interview later, here I am on the other side of the table. I have to say, the other side of that table feels pretty good.
Being on this side, however, gives me a unique opportunity to see the common mistakes almost everyone makes in interviews, including myself.
First, and foremost, stop using fake answers! Yes, an interview’s purpose is to talk yourself up, make yourself look fantastic. However, an interviewer still wants their questions answered truthfully. The two most common questions that provoke fake answers: What is your greatest weakness? Tell me about a time you failed at something/made a mistake. Let’s be honest, being a perfectionist is NOT a weakness, so stop using it (Yes, I used to use it too). This is, most likely, not your interviewers first rodeo, they’ve heard all the nonsense answers in the book and they’re looking for someone to have the confidence to tell the truth. Be careful though, there is a catch. Don’t just give them a weakness and end the sentence there. Continue on to note that you’ve addressed this weakness, and the steps you’re taking to improve upon it– that is the key. However, be careful what you choose. Make sure it’s a weakness that CAN be improved upon, being lazy isn’t really something you want to mention in an interview.
Second, answer the question. I’ve seen students who will give me one word answers and then look at me expectantly, and I have had students who give me 10 minute answers to “what’s your favorite class?” There is a happy medium. Listen to the question you’re being asked carefully, then answer thoughtfully, providing one or two examples from your experiences. You want to provide the interviewer with enough information to impress them, but not so much as to overwhelm or bore them.
Along the same lines comes our third mistake- don’t assume they’ve memorized your resume. Despite the fact that your resume is sitting right there in front of them, don’t feel like you shouldn’t mention it. Your experience is your number one weapon is getting a job- USE IT! More than likely you are not the only person interviewing for this job, therefore, the interviewer has not had the time to commit your resume to memory. Take examples from your resume and USE them. Talk about all the amazing things you learned at that internship, or the difficult situations you had to confront at that horrible retail job.
Lastly, know who you’re applying for. Every interview will NOT be the same. Do some research on the company, and position, and then USE that knowledge throughout your questions. And more often than not, you will specifically be asked why you want to work for this company, KNOW your answer. If you have unique information about the company, the interviewer will not only be impressed by your effort, they will remember how passionate you were about the position.
Overall, be prepared and be yourself and remember someday you might be on the other side of the table too!