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The mistakes that could sabotage your interview

The mistakes that could sabotage your interview

Last month, we covered how to answer interview questions in a way that will help to paint you in the best light possible. But what are the things that you should never do in an interview if you want to get that job? We asked professional recruiters about the biggest mistakes they see at interview and how you can avoid them.

For many people, the interview is the most stressful part of the job-seeking process. It’s one thing to spend time crafting a carefully thought through CV and quite another to come face-to-face with your potential future employers and know that you’re being judged on everything from your handshake to your employment history. But forewarned is forearmed and knowing the biggest and most common mistakes jobseekers make will help get you a nose in front of the competition.

Lack of research into the company and/or interviewer

Not knowing anything about the company, its market, its products, its ethos or its competitors is the number one mistake that is guaranteed to see an application filed in the bin.

To make sure that your research is as detailed as it needs to be, most recruiters recommend doing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. For more information, see where we have an in-depth article on how to do a great SWOT. Include some analysis on the company’s competitors and make sure that you visit the brand’s website as well as one or more of its stores.

Also, find out and remember the name of the person or the people who will be interviewing you and never shorten their name inappropriately. For example, if your interviewer introduces himself as Peter, don’t refer to him as Pete.

Body language/attitude

A lot of the cues interviewers pick up are not anything to do with what you say and there are few things that create a bad impression faster than a jobseeker with a negative, bored or even aggressive attitude. All too frequently the feedback from interviewers is  “their qualifications were perfect, but they just didn’t seem that interested in the job”.

Whether it’s the result of nerves, a bad journey to the interview or generally being flustered, a negative attitude will very quickly influence someone’s impression of you. Remember, you only get one shot at this!

Your aim is to come across as enthusiastic, confident and positive without seeming overbearing or arrogant. Stand straight, make eye contact and connect with a firm handshake. Most importantly, no matter how bad your day has been so far — smile, be friendly and do your best to act as naturally as possible.

Having said this, don’t be too friendly or overfamiliar. Match you behaviour to that of the interviewer when it comes to judging how formally or informally you should act.

Not listening to questions

If it appears as though you can’t concentrate during an interview, your prospective employer will rightly assume that you won’t concentrate should they give you the job.

Make sure that you’re well rested the day before to keep yourself focused and make sure that your body language shows that you’re paying attention. If something comes up that you haven’t anticipated or you need more response time for any reason, it’s a good idea to ask the interviewer to repeat the question in order to buy yourself some time.

When you do answer a question, make sure that you keep to the point. It’s tempting to go overboard and try to incorporate as much information as possible into your answers but try to keep to a shorter, more succinct answer if you can.

Inappropriate dress

In retail, one of the most important things an interviewer is looking for is a candidate who is a good brand fit for the company. This means you should try to wear something that the company sells, within reason. If you can dress head to toe in that retailer’s products, so much the better but make sure that you always err on the side of formal rather than casual.

Just over 70% of hiring managers have ranked inappropriate dress as one of the top interview mistakes, according to Forbes. If you can, try to check what you will be expected to wear before the interview.

Badmouthing anyone

This includes former or current employers, other companies you’ve interviewed with, the receptionist who gave you ‘a look’ on the way in, the taxi driver who got you there…literally anyone. It’s only ever going to reflect badly on you and you don’t want the interviewer seeing you as a complainer.

Acting as though it’s an interrogation

One thing that puts interviewers off is short, clipped answers that don’t reveal anything about the jobseeker and make the interviewer do all the hard work. This isn’t a police station interrogation; it’s a conversation with your future employers about how suitable you are for the job and how well you’d work with the other employees. Try to relax and let the conversation flow.

Not knowing your figures/KPIs

In an interview with a retailer, you will be expected to know your KPIs and figures for your department/store and to be able to discuss them. Brush up on your numbers before you go into the interview and be prepared to field questions and highlight how your personal efforts contributed to the success of the business.

Not having any development points

One of the most common interview questions is “what are your weaknesses?” If you don’t have an answer for this, you will come across as either unprepared or arrogant enough to think that you don’t need to improve.

Also, don’t think that you can get away with answering this question with “I’m a perfectionist”, “I push myself too hard” or another cliché; chances are the interviewer has heard it all before and they’ll be looking for honesty. Choose one of your genuine weaknesses, but one that you’re actively working on improving.