By: Elizabeth Summers, Summer 2018 Summer Intern

Interviewing is a cornerstone of the job search process— from interview etiquette to researching the company beforehand, interviews have the power to make or break your potential job offer. Although an interview opportunity indicates an employer’s interest, it is not a time for you to let your guard down—  it is an imperative moment to prove your worth. 

Statistics suggest 33 percent of employers know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether or not they are going to hire you. Let’s review some common interview mistakes to help you impress the hiring manager and nail your interview. 

1.   Neglecting to research the company

It is essential to research a company before interviewing for a position with them. Being aware of a company’s culture, values, mission and business allows you to more genuinely express how your skills will serve as an asset to them. You are most likely competing against a group of candidates, so be knowledgeable on the company’s recent news and activities to generate an interactive conversation to help you stand out from the rest of the candidates. To promote authentic conversation, you need to be able to competently discuss the company’s business. Plus, research will help you feel prepared for your interview, thus will calm your pre-interview nerves. 

2.   Failing to prepare an elevator pitch

Every interview you have will be unique, but all guaranteed similar in one way—the inevitable elevator pitch delivery. This question, also known as the “tell me about yourself” question, can be a make-or-break component of your interview. This is a chance, and possibly your only chance, to point the conversation in any direction you want. A common misconception is that you will be able to wing an elevator pitch. In reality, your elevator pitch should be crafted and rehearsed beforehand. An elevator pitch should address who you are, what you do, why you do it and why you are the best at it. Keep this short and to the point, but do not sell yourself short—use this opportunity to catch the employers attention. Most importantly, your elevator pitch should continually develop and transform. Tailor your pitch to fit the culture, values and necessary skills of the job you are pursuing. 

3.   Exhibiting poor body language

Body language makes up 55 percent of communication. Poor body language suggests a lack of interest. It is crucial to be aware of your body language, ensuring you are sitting up straight and maintaining eye contact throughout your interview. Always offer a firm handshake. It is expected to be nervous during an interview but try not to channel your nerves into body language by fidgeting and crossing your arms. Smile often and remain engaged in the conversation. 

4.  Speaking poorly of past employers

Prospective employers want to hire positive people who work well with others, regardless of hardships. Employers look for potential employees that persevere through difficult situations. Speaking poorly of previous employers or coworkers automatically reveals a bad attitude and a lack of respect. Prepare for tough and predictable questions such as “tell me about a time that you struggled with a coworker.” Do not resort to speaking poorly of previous colleagues. Instead, focus on how you handled the situation, how you could have changed and what you learned from the experience. 

5.    Not having any legitimate questions

Interviews are a two-way street. In order to have a successful interview, both the employer and interviewee should encourage conversation. When you are offered a chance to ask questions, do not turn this opportunity down. Naturally, people participate in conversations that interest them. An employer may feel you are not interested if you reject an opportunity to ask questions. Choose your questions wisely because questions can reveal your true intentions. For example, do not use this time to inquire about your salary or vacation days. Ask questions that imply your desire to be successful and work hard. For example, inquire about the company culture. This suggests your interest in the company and will help you assess if the company would be a strong fit for you. 

Like most skills, your interview skills will continually progress and develop. As you interview more, you will discover what works and your nerves will settle (hopefully). Practice makes perfect. Best of luck!