The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

Advice, tips and tricks on how to engage with the UK jobs market and commercial environment, from a female executive's perspective

Guide to Job Hunting – Common mistakes people make at interview

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Recently, I was asked to contribute to a PR piece for the IRP. I hope my answers to these questions make for good advice!

1. What is the most common mistake job seekers make at the interview?

They oversell! Sometimes, people are so hyped up about the interview that they forget about being themselves. Being too nervous can demolish a person’s ability to present their best attributes. They don’t listen to questions properly, they assume they know what must be said and they often pitch their approach at entirely the wrong level, because they are too nervous to pick up the non-verbal signs the interview gives. Taking it easy, one step at a time, breathing evenly and taking charge of our nerves is the best interview advice I can possibly give anyone.

2. What is the most annoying mistake job seekers tend to make?

Making assumptions about the role, and not preparing properly. Often, candidates attend interviews without so much as reading the job spec or looking at the company website and it creates the wrong impression at interview. I spend a lot of time getting candidates prepared for interviews but I am still amazed at how many would, when asked what they know about the company or role, answer : “Not much.” There is no excuse for not preparing properly for an interview. Flying by the seat of your pants is a risky strategy that often backfires in the interview context, resulting in wasted opportunities.

3. How big a mistake does the job seeker have to make to put you off hiring them?

It depends on what the mistake is. Most candidates only get one opportunity at every job role, because they are competing with other candidates and it is a game of comparison. If a person is perfectly suited for the role the process sight be a bit more forgiving. But if they are in a heavily contested recruitment process, then getting it wrong can be lethal if everyone else gets it right because it can result in them being screened out.

4. Have you ever employed someone who made a pretty huge mistake in an interview – how did that turn out?

I once had a senior manager totally blank out during an interview because he was so nervous. He wanted the job so much and tried so hard, that he wore himself out. He called back the next day and we managed to get him another chance to interview because there were very few suitable candidates in the process. This time around, he was a lot more controlled, did an excellent interview and eventually accepted the offer. Five years later, he is still with the same company regardless of the wobbly start.

5. Do you give feedback to job seekers if they make a mistake?

I always try to give constructive feedback to allow the candidate an opportunity to learn from his experience. It is not easy to accept negative feedback and sometimes candidates can be quite defensive and even aggressive about it, but it is all meant to help them in the long run.

6. If someone makes a mistake at an interview, do you try and turn that around to try and get the best out of a candidate – how do you do that?

If it is an honest mistake resulting from a misunderstanding or a practical issue, like getting the time wrong for the interview or going to the wrong place, then I am always willing to reconsider, However, if it is something that could have been avoided, such as not preparing a task that was required for the interview, or being rude or disrespectful to the interviewers, then it is unlikely that they might get another chance.

7. How much attention do you pay to things such as body language?

The non-verbal elements of the interview are of overriding importance. An interview is a discussion and positive non-verbal communication is a key part of establishing a positive impression and a trust relationship. I like candidates who shake hands confidently, look me in the eye and display confidence in their own abilities before the interview even starts. The candidate’s demeanor, how they engage, whether they smile and sit upright or cowl and slump in the chair – These are all crucial to the hiring decision and can be the key to being successful or not.


Written by Cathy Richardson

March 1, 2012 at 11:06 am

Posted in Recruitment

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