Today I continue my discussion of Dave Kerben’s article on job interview mistakes with a category I call: “Was I supposed to prepare for this?”
• Not preparing anecdotes. Just the other day I was talking with a friend about the importance of building a repertoire of anecdotes that demonstrate your skills. You need to be able to answer questions with brief stories about your experiences. You are likely to be asked several questions that start out something like “Tell me about a time when. . .” or “What would you do if. . .” To answer those questions, you need to be able to tell about a specific experience—from a class, an extracurricular activity, an internship or job—that shows how you have handled yourself (and, perhaps, others) in specific situations. (For advice on how to formulate answers to these questions, see my book’s Appendix K: Typical interview questions.)• Being unprepared. This one specifically focused on doing the necessary research about the organization and the job. You need to walk into that interview knowing as much as you can, and with all the resources available to you today, there’s just no excuse for not knowing. You don’t have to memorize the annual report, but you should know about their products or services, their overall structure, the size and make up of the organization, their mission, and how you would fit into their operation. (Two other mistakes covered in the article are pretty similar: “Lacking company research” and “Asking what the company does.” I won’t address them separately as I think they’ve been covered here.)
• Not having an agenda. This is another one of those “being unprepared” mistakes, but it goes a bit further. What Kerpen and I are saying here is go in knowing how you’re going to demonstrate your knowledge of the company, the way you can contribute, and what experiences you have had that will help highlight your skills.
• Making a pitch on autopilot. Every job, every organization, every interview is going to be different. If you give a canned opening statement, or your answers aren’t connected to the specific organization where you’re interviewing, the employer will recognize that you’re not making much of an effort.
• Not having any questions. Almost every interview will end with an opportunity for you to ask questions, and you must have questions at that point. Think about it ahead of time, write them down, and take them with you to the interview. Some of them may have been answered along the way, so be sure you have several prepared. (For some suggestions, see Appendix A Formulating questions for the information interview, many of which are just as relevant for job interview.)