If you are interviewing for a highly competitive position or looking for a job in a down market, you can’t afford to make these common mistakes.
1. Insufficient knowledge of key job details
. At a high level, most people understand the key skills relevant for their target job (e.g. teamwork, communication, problem solving), but do you also know the types of analysis performed in the job, and the deliverables that are handed off to managers or clients? Do you know what other departments or constituencies you would interact with and why? It will be very obvious to the interviewer if you don’t understand the job well enough. Well before your interview, make sure to talk to someone with direct experience in that job. Make sure you can answer these questions about the job
before your interview.
2. No personal narrative
. Why do you want this job? Why are you a great candidate? Be prepared with 3-5 experiences from your life that answer those questions, and make sure to share them during your interview. It won’t be difficult, because the interviewer is asking you questions to try to get that kind of information from you. Don’t elaborate on irrelevant information about your projects, summer job, or extra-curricular activities. It might be interesting, but the interviewer needs to be convinced that you’ve got the right skills before they worry about whether you’re an interesting person to hang around. If you can, run your experiences by someone with relevant job experience. Ask them if you make a strong enough case for your interest in the job and your skill set. Take a look at What is an Elevator Pitch and Why is it Important
to make sure you are selling yourself effectively.
3. Talking about what the job can do for you. Focus on what you can contribute to the company, not what you’ll get out of it. Interviewers aren’t evaluating candidates based on who wants the job the most or who would benefit from the experience. They want to hire the people who have what it takes to be successful, preferably those who can hit the ground running. Spend your time focusing on communicating your qualifications. They already know you’d get a lot out of the job.
4. Not enough of the right details. This is the biggest mistake people make. They don’t go deep enough in their answers. When asked about something on their resume, they provide only surface level information. Compare these two explanations of the same project: Example 1 - We analyzed investment prospects in the retail sector. We looked at market share and the stocks’ performance, and projected growth for each company over the next few years. Example 2 - We analyzed investment prospects for the retail sector, looking at the competitive landscape, growth opportunities, and industry trends to identify the companies we thought best positioned to succeed. Then we built a comp table and compared companies in the sector on key metrics including market cap, growth rate, P/E and PEG ratios, and liquidity metrics like the current and quick ratios, which are important for the retail sector. Provide depth on the points that reinforce the skills, analysis, and terminology that are important for the job you’re interviewing for.
5. Generic understanding of the company
. Do your research and know what is truly distinctive about each company you interview with. As a rule, if you can substitute the name of the company for another in the industry, then you did not personalize your comment sufficiently. For instance, communicating that you are interested in the company because they are an “industry leader” is not good enough. I could substitute the names of any of the top companies into that slot. If you say you’re interested in the company because of something that is only true of that company, for example the rapid market share gains from their new channel strategy, or because they lead the sector in transactions in the emerging growth economies, then it’s clear that you understand and have a good reason for wanting to work at that particular company. Take a look at Researching the Company
and make sure you are comfortable talking about these topics.