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5 big interview pitfalls and how to avoid them

Posted on 11/10/2017 by Peter Sanders


More than half of employers claim to know if a candidate is a good fit for a position within the first five minutes of an interview. In these early minutes, the impression you make has little to do with what you say - it’s about what you do.

93 percent of communication is nonverbal. Your body language and tone of voice convey much more than your words. Consequently, if you turn up to an interview feeling ill-prepared, your signals will be fraught with anxiety and apprehension, even if you don’t put the feelings into words. Clearly, these are not the attributes an employer is looking for.

Failing to prepare is the biggest mistake you can make before an interview. With that in mind, here are the five things you need to consider before you step into the room.

1. The basics: turn up on time.

Turning up late to an interview is a deadly sin: 96 percent of interviewers agree that timekeeping is a make or break issue when it comes to their first impression of a candidate. Before your interview, make sure you’ve planned your route, considered the journey time (including a buffer for traffic problems) and made arrangements for parking.

2. Look and act the part.

We’ve already mentioned the importance of nonverbal communication. Make sure the scent of alcohol or garlic on your breath doesn’t taint your impression, by avoiding booze and strong smelling food the night before.

Pay attention to the dress code, which will typically be full business attire. The devil is in the detail: ensure that any briefcase or handbag you take is smart, polish your shoes, tidy your hair, use aftershave or perfume sparingly and wash and iron your outfit.

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Positivity is the name of the game for winning over the interviewer. Talk about your experience with enthusiasm, exude confidence through your words and body language and never bad mouth your previous employer. When you speak, do so with clarity and brevity - waffling makes you sound disorganised.

3. Tailor your experience.

Employers will highlight the skills, knowledge and experience they are looking for in the job description. Prepare for competency based questions by matching your experiences to the qualities the job description provides - that way you won’t be stumped for an answer.

Anomalies on your CV don’t have to be a problem if handled correctly. People take time off from their careers for a number of reasons, and the fact you have been invited to interview shows that the employer is willing to look past any inconsistencies in your work history. However, it’s up to you to explain the situation in a way that is satisfactory. Be honest, but don’t overload with irrelevant information. Highlight what you learned from your experience. If you are coming back from a career break, explain why you are ready to return to the workforce.

Throughout the interview, apply the STAR method when asked about your competency in certain areas.

First, describe the Situation – the context in which you did a job or faced a challenge. Next, Task: describe your responsibilities in this situation. Outline the Action you took, focussing on your own behaviours as opposed to those around you. Finally, explain the outcomes or Results generated by your response, and outline what you learned from the process.

4. Do your research.

Conducting extensive research will put you ahead of the competition. Research allows you to speak with confidence about the issues, trends and opportunities affecting the company and their sector. Look at their website and social accounts for press releases and positioning statements. Search Google for news and recent events. Check out their competitors to confirm your understanding of the marketplace.

It’s also important to find out about the people who will be conducting your interview. The recruitment team will be able to help with this, and a look at their LinkedIn profile(s) will give you a feel for their history and experience.

5. Be security conscious.

Nowadays, for security reasons, most companies do not allow USB devices to be used - especially from external sources. Turning up with your presentation on a stick will seem careless, especially as an IT professional. Bring your own laptop, email your slides over in advance or use cloud storage that you can access from the company’s machines.

Additionally, do not discuss your previous company’s security procedures. Divulging sensitive information will force the interviewer to think twice about hiring you - if you’re willing to do this to your old employer, what will stop you from doing the same to them?

By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail: this old adage could not be more apt when it comes to interviews. Recruitment is a competitive environment, and in an age where access to information is available at the click of a button, there are no excuses to hide behind. The level of preparation demonstrated by candidates affects the ultimate hiring decision in 93 percent of cases - play the odds and do your homework.

Now you know how to ace your interview preparation, it’s time to find your perfect role. Check out our latest postings here.