7 Interview Ending Mistakes Job Applicants Make

Roxanne Hale


Your Dream Job Is Up Ahead

“Do you really want to wake up a year from now in the exact same place?”

Over the past 20 years, I have interviewed hundreds of job applicants, both for Fortune 500 companies and small businesses around the country. I’ve met impressive candidates with accomplished resumes and plenty of job seekers lacking experience but with enthusiasm to spare.

It’s a tough job market out there right now, but it’s not impossible to nail down your dream job.

I’ll let you in on a secret about employers — big and small — there is always room on board for a game-changing employee. Anyone who can move the needle can find a great landing spot.

It’s not just about experience, although that’s a plus! When I’ve met a confident individual who “gets it,” (experience aside) I knew I had a promising candidate on my hands I wanted to find a place for.

This post isn’t about appropriate interview attire or being on time. I’ll assume you know all this already.

Here, I aim to fill you in on lesser-known mistakes interviewees make that end up being the difference between getting the job and getting passed over.

7 Mistakes Job Applicants Make in Interviews

The interviewee has done no research on the company.

I always assumed this was fairly common advice, but 8 out of 10 people I’ve interviewed failed to do any research on the company before interviewing. So, it bears the burden of being labeled #1 on my list of mistakes job applicants make.

Before going on an interview (and maybe before even applying), hit the internet. Search the company’s website for their mission statement, purpose, and processes. Learn about the people on social media. Get a sense of what they do and have to offer the world. Find out as much as you can about their goals and culture.

I knew I had a self-starter on my hands when I interviewed an applicant that had taken the time to learn about the company in advance. It also demonstrates interest and excitement. They scored extra points when they made a point to match up the company values with their own in the interview.

The interviewee does a poor job communicating their skill sets as it relates to the position.

Use the interview time to provide examples of how your skills can be employed on the job. In some cases, you may not know going into the interview precisely what the position and responsibilities entail. That’s ok. As you learn about it during the conversation, add in those details along the way.

When the position lines up well with your past experiences, call attention to it on your resume. When it doesn’t, find other life or personal experiences that relate well to it.

You may assume the interviewer has carefully reviewed your resume and knows what you have to offer. It’s possible but I wouldn’t take that chance. If they’ve recently reviewed dozens of applications, some of your important details could have been missed or forgotten by the time you sit down to talk.

Your resume may look amazing but don’t let it speak for itself. Use the interview to articulate what you bring to the table!

The interviewee fails to use specific examples of past performance to illustrate future success.

An interview is really no time for over glowing generalities and hyperbole. Get specific. Describe examples of past jobs that back up your case to take on the role they are offering.

I appreciate the remarks made to Monster.com from Todd Cherches, CEO of a leadership consulting firm, “Unfortunately broad declarations won’t blow an interviewer away. A better approach is to offer specific examples to your accomplishments from past jobs that back up your skills.”

General: “I get along well with others.”

Specific: “My last boss always complimented me on my ability to work well with my teammates. I’m hardworking and take my work seriously, but I also try to bring some humor and fun into the process.”

The interviewee provides no exhibits.

Bring along a portfolio of your work or, if digital, a device that allows you to show off what you’ve done.

Delena Bradley, job interview coach, and career-marketing coach makes her recommendation on the matter, “It helps the interviewer visualize what you could do for their company. The thinking goes that if you did something great once, you can re-create the success elsewhere.”

Once, I received over 200 applications for a graphic design position I needed to fill. After narrowing it down, I interviewed 10 people. Only two of those applicants brought any examples of their work.

In another interview, a salesman gave me a copy of all the awards he’d won over the years. He was definitely a smooth talker but that doesn’t always translate into tangible sales results. It can be hard to prove your sales acumen in an interview, but the awards left little doubt.

Wherever possible, put together proof of your talent. It won’t be a waste of time.

The interviewee fails to ask thoughtful questions that show understanding and interest in the job.

This is where you’ll need to think hard about the questions you plan to ask. Too many of the wrong types of questions can be a real turn-off. The right ones, however, send a message of interest and curiosity about the work.

For example, if you spend too much time talking about what the company can do for you — pay, benefits, vacation, equipment, etc. — you’ll come off as stingy or self-fish. Talk too much about all the exact specifics of what the job entails, and you’ll look like someone difficult to manage.

You’re striving for a balance of inquisitive and genuine interest.

The interviewee ends on a low note.

If you find the conversation focusing on your lack of a specific skill, you don’t want to wrap up there. Bring the dialogue back to the company goals or position expectations and the qualities you possess to help fit that need. Highlight your ability to learn on the job quickly if you lack experience. Use examples of a time you did that in the past to make your case.

I love this fun take on a popular interview question:

JOB INTERVIEWER:What are your strengths?”

APPLICANT:I’m an optimist and a positive thinker.”

JOB INTERVIEWER: “Can you give an example?”

APPLICANT: “Yes, when do I start?”

Your goal should always be to end the interview on a positive note. Express your interest in the position and ask about the next steps.

The interviewee forgets to follow-up.

If you don’t want the job, then, by all means, ignore this last bit of advice.

However, if you do, follow-up — not just once but regularly until you know the job has been filled. Not in an obnoxious way, pestering them daily. But in an intentional smart way! Vary the types of communication, sprinkled over a few days or weeks.

Send a hand-written thank-you note immediately. Follow-up again a few days later by email. Give them a call a week afterward to see if the position has been filled or if you’re being considered. Continue to follow-up until you know the results.

According to an Accounttemps survey of human resources managers, only 24% of HR managers receive thank-you notes from applicants. 80% of HR managers say thank you notes are helpful when reviewing candidates.

Thoughtfulness makes a lasting impression.

Final Thoughts

Sure, it’s competitive out there but there’s always room for a game-changing employee!

Come prepared with an understanding of the company and the job requirements. Line those up as closely as you can to your experiences (work and life) and personality.

When you are in the interview, make your case for why you’re the best candidate. It’s easy to be cocky when you have experience. When you don’t, you have nothing to lose by being confident — and prepared!

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Roxanne Hale, owner, and broker of Arthouse has spent over 20 years in the real estate business. Here you'll find a collection of stories about buying and selling real estate & home building advice, housing history, and architecture & design tips. Oh, and some fun personal stories every now and then!

Homewood, AL

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