Interview Mistakes You’re Making (+ How to Fix Them)

If you caught my most recent internship update post or watched last Wednesday’s Instastory (follow me on Insta here, if you aren’t already!), then you know that I was recently given the opportunity to interview potential candidates for the next intern who is going to replace me this summer at the company I am currently working for. It was such an amazing opportunity, especially because it means that I, for once, was on the other side of the job searching table! I was the one you had to impress, not the other way around. 😉

Are you making those basic interview mistakes? Click through to find out how to fix them!

I first reviewed all the applications we received and then had to narrow them down to choose the candidates that I thought would be the most qualified for the position (and I wrote an entire post about it here if you want to know more about it!). Then, of course, came the interviews. I was really excited for this part because I have always been the interviewee, not the interviewer. Being on the flipside of the coin made me understand things about job interviews that I had never really considered before. By seeing others being under the spotlight, I noticed some interview mistakes that I am pretty sure candidates are not even aware they are making – and, well, I probably made them too, at some point. Here’s what I’ve learned from being the interviewer for a day.

1. You’re trying too hard to sell yourself.

I get it. An interview is like a sales pitch. You really want to make a good first impression so you can get that job! But here, I think balance is key. We had this candidate that was really enthusiastic, but it was obvious that she was just trying to sell herself. For instance, she told us that she was a perfectionist and that she liked when work is well-done, but then we saw her grades and we found it kind of hard to believe. Would a perfectionist let herself get this GPA? Clearly, it’s not the only thing that matters, but when it comes to internships, grades are pretty much the only thing employers can base themselves off, as most interns normally don’t have much experience in their fields. Bottom line: don’t lie just to get the job. Most interviewers can see right through your sales pitch.

Instead, just be yourself. Easier said than done, right? But instead of just trying to show off and impress the interviewer, take this opportunity to show off your personality. Don’t just be in sales mode 24/7. If you got the interview, chances are, we’re already interested. Be honest in your answers and give us concrete examples to support what you’re saying.

2. You don’t seem interested.

I know that when we’re nervous, we tend to become this entirely new person. Some people are hyper, but some people become completely stoic. We’re all different. If you fall into the latter category, please, for the love of God, show us that you’re a least a little excited about this opportunity! We had a few candidates that just didn’t seem like they wanted to be there. That makes me ask, why did you apply? If you close yourself off and barely answer any of our questions, we will think you just don’t want the job.

Instead, show your enthusiasm! Smile, look us in the eye and sit straight. You need to exude confidence (just don’t overdo it), or at the very least, dynamism. Employers choose employees not only because of their skill set but also because of their personality. We want to know that you will be able to insert yourself within the team, and if we’ll be working with you a lot, it has to click between us.

3. You brought a drink with you.

Ok, this one is not a mistake per se, but I would still avoid it if I were you. Why? Because I think it makes you look unprofessional. A few of the candidates we interviewed brought their bottle of water with them, and while I understand why, I think they should have left it behind. Unless you’re offered a drink by the interviewer (and even then, I would avoid it), drinking during the interview is a no-no for me. Not only is it a potential accident-maker (you wouldn’t want to spill whatever you’re drinking all over yourself or the table where the interview is conducted!), but it can also be distracting for both you and the interviewer.

Instead, throw your drink away before you get inside the interview room, or just leave it in your bag. You can drink once the interview is over.

4. You didn’t do your research first.

Showing up to the interview prepared is important. It shows that you care and that you are excited about this opportunity. There is a good chance that the interviewer will go over the company’s history, its mission and its values, but in case they aren’t, make sure you are ready. We had people who didn’t really seem to know who they were applying for, and that shows that you aren’t really interested. Worse, don’t mix them up for someone else! There’s is nothing more embarrassing then getting the wrong company (especially if you are mentioning a competitor). Know your facts straight before you enter the interview room.

Instead, just do your damn research! I think the best way you can get prepared for an interview is by doing your research! Read more about the company, check out their social media profiles if they have any. Get a general feeling of what they’re about, their mission, and their values as a company. Knowing what they prioritize can help you answer the basic question “Why do you want to work for us?”. It can also help you figure out why you would be a good fit for the company.

You can read more about preparing for interviews in this post.

5. You are not elaborating.

Interviewers will more than likely ask you questions that require longer answers. Not everything will be a yes-or-no type of question (I’m not even sure if that exists in interviews, haha). You might get put in scenarios so we can see how you would react to certain types of situation. We had this candidate who gave us such short answers to questions where she could have elaborated a little bit more! This cuts the conversation short and makes you seem like you just want to get this over with (aka, no bueno).

Instead, don’t hesitate to tell me more than I am asking. Give me details, explain to me the why, give examples from past experiences to support what you are saying. For instance, we asked candidates what methods they used to organize themselves. As you might be able to guess, a lot of people said they used to-do lists and planners (as do I). But instead of just stopping there, go further! Tell us how you are using your to-do list or your planner. Do you just braindump all of your tasks into a list? Do you prioritize your tasks? Do you use a color code? Do you prefer electronic methods or are you more of a traditional pen-and-paper kind of gal? Don’t hesitate to give details, this will tell me much more about you than your actual answer!

6. You are asking the wrong questions.

Normally, at the end of the interview, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions for them. This is your time to shine! Asking questions shows that you care and that you are interested! If there’s anything you still need to be enlightened on, now is the time to ask! However, there are a few questions that I would avoid because they give a bad impression. For instance, we had this candidate that we really liked and that we thought was really qualified… and then she asked about the salary. Don’t get me wrong, it’s OK to want to know more about the financial aspect of a job. But for an internship, this is not what you should be focusing on. You are there to learn, not to earn money! That question kind of threw us off, to be completely honest. It made it seem like she was just after the money and that she didn’t care much about the job itself.

Instead, prepare a few questions beforehand. I tend to prepare some “generic questions” that can be used in just about any interviews.  Here are a few examples of typical questions that I normally ask:

  • What’s a typical day/week at work like?
  • Would I be working in a big team or a smaller one?
  • Would I be working mostly on my own or in collaboration with other people?

Sometimes the interviewer will cover that kind of information during the interview, so don’t make them repeat that if you don’t have any other questions! Just be truthful and let them know that they covered every question you had. Don’t make the interviewer repeat something for the sake of asking a question!

7. You’re missing out on opportunities to prove yourself.

Every question the interviewer asks normally gives you space to elaborate and add relevant examples from past experiences. The interview is the chance to prove yourself and show that you have required skills for the job. If you are not using past experiences to stand out, then you are missing out! We asked this question where we asked if candidates ever had to go through a change of priorities before and how they reacted to such a change. Some of us gave us examples of their past internships, but not all of them did.

Instead of just being general and tell us how you would handle certain situations, give us concrete examples! Even if you don’t have any “experience”, you can still use examples from your personal life or school! Always try to back what you are saying with evidence, just like you would in a research paper. Prove to us that you are not just trying to sell yourselves, you are actually qualified for this job!

Obviously, I am no pro and one experience as the interviewer doesn’t mean that I am a pro, but after being interviewed 16 times last year and getting two internship proposals in one day this fall, I think I am starting to get the hang of this whole job interview thing. 😉 These are just some of the basic interview mistakes we’ve all made at some point, so I hope my experience can help you kick ass at your next interview! If you want more tips to thrive, make sure to check out this post!