So you have read my blog about finding your next opportunity, and now you have started to interview. I would like to share three common mistakes I see interviewees make that can cost them the job they are hoping to land:
1. Not doing your homework. Every interview situation is different, but most people would admit that interviewing is stressful. The best way to beat that stress is by being prepared. Being over-prepared is even better! The vast majority of candidates I help prepare to interview focus on only one thing: What questions will they ask me and how do I answer them? That’s a start, but let me give you a few more things to prepare for:
- Research the people you are meeting with on LinkedIn or Google to identify common professional connections, business interests or hobbies outside of work.
- This may sound obvious, but research fully what the company does. Do not know them only on the surface. Make sure you know every product, service offering and who their customers are.
- Show them you have done your homework by reviewing the company’s recent news headlines and reading their last Form 10-K (if publicly traded).
- Prepare concrete reasons you want to work for them and not their competitors. What sets them apart?
2. Not asking the right questions – or not asking questions at all. In my opinion, the worst thing that can happen is if an interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” and you say, “No, I think you answered them all!” You are planning to work at this company for years and you cannot think of so many questions there will not be enough time to cover them all? Uh oh …
Be over-prepared, with enough open-ended questions (think: how, what, why) to talk for double the amount of time allocated for the interview. You may have only two hours to prove to them you will be a contributor at their organization for years to come. Show them how interested you are by drilling down into the details of what they are doing and how they do it, and steer the conversation toward how you would make an impact if you were hired.
I often get questions about how to learn more about the benefits package during an interview. My advice is to leave out questions on any non-negotiable items until after you have interviewed. Make them want to hire you first, and then focus on getting the benefits details from HR at a later time.
3. Writing a bad follow-up letter. A poorly written and/or bland follow-up letter is one of the easiest ways to ruin an excellent interview. Auditors need to have strong writing skills, and you cannot afford to send a letter with a single typo, punctuation or grammatical error. Have someone proof your letter before you hit ‘send.’ Also, avoid a generic follow-up letter like, “Hi Mark, Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with me today. I enjoyed learning about your position. I look forward to hearing from you soon.” There is no meat to that, and you are missing an opportunity to make yourself stand out.
Be specific in your follow-up letters. Why did you enjoy meeting them? What specifically about the job interested you? Why do you want to work for their company? What part of your background do you think would benefit them the most after learning more about their position?
Bonus tip: Use the follow-up letter as a chance to clarify an answer you may not have communicated well.
Author’s note: I hope these three tips help you to successfully navigate your next career transition. There is a lot more that we can cover at a later time. Until then, I’d like to hear from you. What is your biggest interview mistake and what did you learn from it? What is the best question you have ever asked as an interviewee or best question you have ever been asked by a candidate?
Brad Owens, Recruiting Director, Duval Search
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