2. Application and Interview Advice

Most commonly made interview mistakes

Not preparing

You’re not expected to know the company’s full history in depth, but not being able to portray knowledge of their key products and/or services is a crucial mistake. So do your research – what examples of their work have particularly impressed you? What have been some of their recent successes and who are their main competitors in the market?

A common error is not saving the job description before it’s taken down from the site and therefore having nothing to refer back to it if invited for an interview. You need to analyse the required skills and knowledge, drawing examples from your own experience.

Also be aware of the potential and significant differences between a first and second interview to ensure that you’re able to offer the right information at the right stage. The first interview is likely to be broad and shallow, referring to much softer skills and testing your personality and engagement. The second stage will then dig deeper and test your specific knowledge, skills and experience.

Arriving late

Turn up late and you might as well not turn up at all. After all, if you can’t even turn up on time to an interview, how are you going to be able to manage other tasks and organise your time as an employee? If something truly out of your control comes up and is going to prevent you from getting to the meeting, phone up as soon as possible to try and reschedule.

Arriving too early

Arriving at the interview location half an hour early is good. However, presenting yourself to reception at this time is not. You don’t want the interviewer to feel rushed or give the impression that you’re desperate and have nothing else to do before the meeting. If you arrive early, find somewhere to sit down and get a coffee – use this as a last minute opportunity to read over your notes and make sure you’re prepared.

Speaking too much

Take a deep breath before you answer a question. This extra second will give you the needed time to better consider what they’re looking for in an answer and how best to make your point. You’re then less likely to launch into a lengthy rant about something vague and insignificant. Be concise, to the point and don’t drift off the subject. Although you may have lots of things you want to get across, giving your full life story will not do you any favours.

Making a poor first impression

In many cases 80% of a decision on a candidate is made in the first 20 seconds. Be confident and polite and consider your body language, dress code, eye contact and that all-important first handshake. Give yourself the best chance of securing the job from the outset – the decision won’t entirely be based around skills and experience.

Not setting yourself apart from other candidates

Other candidates will be as qualified as you are for the job, if not more so. Otherwise they wouldn’t be at the interview. So don’t just focus on the general job description but also be confident of what you can offer the company above and beyond the requirements that others can’t. You’re not always expected to be a 100% match for the roll, but what you lack in skills and experience you need to make up for in energy and enthusiasm. If you’re not able to persuade the interviewer that they need to pick you over other candidates, they won’t.

Talking negatively about past employers

Regardless of how your last job ended or why you’re leaving, stay respectful to your current and/or previous employers. If asked why you’re leaving, avoid bringing up any issues. If you’re had bad experiences, be vague and simply say it was time for you to pursue a new challenge. Being disrespectful to your previous employers will make the interviewer think you’re just as likely to be disloyal to them.

Failing to ask questions

All interviews will conclude with the interviewer asking if you have any questions you would like answered. The worst thing to say is that you don’t have any – it comes across that you’re not prepared and you’re not interested. Come up with potential questions that you may be able to ask at the end of an interview. However, avoid these being about salary, holiday, sick pay, or anything that suggests you’re more interested in the benefits of the job rather than the role itself.