Interviews are easy, right? In theory all you have to do is dress appropriately, arrive on time, and say all the right things.
But add in a list of tricky questions fired at you in quick order, plus a big dollop of nerves and it can easily all go to pot. You may be perfect for the job but if you give the wrong impression through your responses and behaviour, you won’t get it. Read our useful tips on what not to say.
‘Nice suit/hair/tie’ You’ve got over the first hurdle by getting an interview so don’t sabotage your chances by blurting out something inappropriate when you greet the interviewer.
‘So tell me about the organisation’ Your interviewer will expect you to have done your own research not just into the company, but the market and its competitors too.
‘What pay and benefits will I get?’ Ouch. Never ask about holidays, pension and perks at a first interview. Save it for later. The employer wants to know you’re interested in the job, as well as the trimmings.
‘My boss is an idiot/I do loads more than I’m supposed to/the directors are lazy’ Don’t bad mouth employers or colleagues even if you hate the job, the people and the place with equal passion. It’s unprofessional, and very few organisations are hoping to recruit a Moaning Minnie. Focus on what you learnt from the job, and how a move will help you broaden your skills or move your career up a notch.
‘My biggest weakness – how long have you got?’ Don’t say, even jokingly, that it’s a large glass of red every lunch time or constantly checking Facebook during work hours. The interviewer expects you to choose a weakness that could be seen as a strength, for example if you’re an artworker you could talk about your attention to detail. Don’t stress over it – they’ve heard every clever answer in the book, but they probably just want to see how you respond when put on the spot.
‘In five years I aim to launch my own company/be the department manager’ This will never go down well, especially if you are being interviewed by the department manager. It’s common for creatives in the advertising, marketing, digital and design world to eventually go freelance or set up their own businesses but even if it’s true, don’t display your naked ambition at this point. Focus instead about how you see your progression in this organisation, and the difference you expect to make to it.
When the interviewer says ‘tell me about yourself’ he isn’t interested in hearing about your most painful tattoo ever, or your love of wearing Star Wars outfits at weekends. He’s looking for clues on how good a fit you are for the vacancy, so stick to professional topics and safe interests that reflect what a well-balanced, easy to manage individual you are.
‘I want the job because I’ve been out of work for ages’ Think about how to cover any CV gaps positively. It won’t put you in a good light if you explain how you lazed around sponging off your parents for two years and having a great time.
‘Yes. No. I don’t know’ Don’t give the interviewer one word answers, even if it’s a closed question like ‘Did you enjoy your last job?’ It’s your chance to really sell yourself and your abilities so show a bit of enthusiasm. Take the initiative but don’t gabble on – it’s OK to stop for breath and let them get a word in too.
‘What a rubbish piece of work’ Don’t be too opinionated if you’re asked for your opinion on a piece of marketing material. Give a balanced view by pointing out the good and the not so good elements.
‘No, I don’t have any questions’ By the time you get to this point your brain will have turned to mush. Prepare a couple of intelligent questions in advance, such as how success in this role will be measured. Or bring up an industry trend and ask what effect it’s had on the organisation.
Lastly, try not to let nerves scupper your chances. You’ve landed an interview so they are obviously interested in you. All you have to do is avoid making these common mistakes and your next interview could be your best.