5 Big Interview Mistakes by College Students and How to Avoi

by | April 21, 2011

By Deborah Federico

 As luck would have it, I didn’t hear my alarm go off…and it’s the morning of my dream job interview! What else could possibly go wrong?

Everything, it turns out. First, a delay on the subway. After I manage to board a car, I pack my way into a steamy, sweaty pile, squirming around to find a spot. Twenty minutes later, wilted and disheveled, I emerge into daylight keen to find hot java and a jelly donut. I dash through the streets of Manhattan, rehearsing my interview answers in my head, taking gulps of coffee and mouthfuls of donut in between. Great, an overzealous runner just knocked my coffee into me. Now I have a big brown stain on my white shirt. Finally, I reach my destination but accidentally get on the wrong elevator. No matter how many times I push the floor button, it won’t stop! Ugh, it’s ten minutes later and I’m sprinting into the HR department where I’m greeted with the receptionist’s icy stare. “You’re 15 minutes late!” she snarls. “I’m not sure if Ms. Anthrope can see you.” Thankfully, she can and she does. As I shake her hand, our palms lock together for a few embarrassing seconds, bonded by some wayward donut jelly. The interview is about to begin when my cell phone alarm decides to beep. I fidget to silence the thing as she begins. “So, tell me a little about yourself.” I try to speak, but nothing comes out. Frantic, desperate, I keep trying. No words coming out. I have a gaping fish mouth.

Most students will prepare enough to avoid this common interviewing nightmare. But some will stop here in their interview prep, leading them to mistakenly believe that they’ll ace the interview.  Not true! In my experience as an undergraduate career counselor who has conducted thousands of mock interviews, I’ve seen students struggle to answer some  tougher, more critical  interview questions. While they’re usually not at a complete loss for words, what does comes out of their mouths can be rambling and muddled.

Listed below are five reasons–cited by employers–as to why students don’t get hired after an interview. By reviewing these reasons and following the guidelines for overcoming them, you will have no reason to fear getting tongue-tied. You will ace the interview and give the employer every reason to hire you!

 

The candidate is not personable, enthusiastic and conversational.

First impressions count in an interview. Make sure you smile when you greet your interviewer. As nervous as you might be, let your personality shine through—personable and likeable! Companies are hiring people, not resumes, so make sure they get to know who you are. Show your enthusiasm for the job and for the company. This is critical. When candidates aren’t enthusiastic, interviewers wonder why they are there in the first place, why they’re wasting their time. 

Make the interview into a conversation. Ask questions during the interview or reflect on what the interviewer said. The goal is to get the interviewer to like you. Once interviewers like you, they are more inclined to view everything you say in a favorable light. Hiring managers, especially, need to like you: They’ll be spending at least 40 hours a week working with you.

Make sure to have an ‘Interests’ section on your resume. Why? I require that my students put such a section at the bottom of their resumes and, more often than not, students report back that they had a mutual interest with the interviewer. What a great way to make a connection! Usually, when students talk about their interests, they get excited. Enthusiasm follows.

The candidate doesn’t know why he or she wants the job.

Inevitably, on every job interview you go on, you will get the question, “So, tell me, why are you interested in this position?” If you don’t have a solid answer before you go into your interview, don’t even waste your time, or the interviewer’s. Obviously, interviewers want to hire people who really want the job. If you don’t really want to the job, it will be clearly evident to the interviewer. If you find yourself unable to come up with a good answer to this question, chances are you really don’t want the job. Then it’s time to go back to the drawing board to figure out what kind of job you really want.

The candidate doesn’t know anything about the company.

The rationale behind this reason not to hire should be obvious; it isn’t always with students, unfortunately. Here’s how it goes: Interviewers are investing a lot of time and resources in the interviewing process. If you’re not interested in the company, can’t show enthusiasm about working there, then don’t waste anyone’s time. Interviewers usually enjoy working at the companies they’re recruiting for (or else they wouldn’t be working there). So if they don’t see the same level of passion for the company, then they won’t want to hire you.

Showing your admiration for the company goes a long way as well. Do some company research by visiting their website, exploring online company databases and reading relevant news articles. Find something positive that is going on with the company and mention it during your interview. They’ll love it.

The student can’t articulate why they’re a good candidate for the position.

Before you go on your interviews, conduct a self-assessment to identify your key qualifications, skills and strengths. Then read the job description to see what qualifications they are looking for in a candidate. As much as possible, try to align your skills and strengths with the requirements for the position.

Sometimes students tell me that they are uncomfortable with promoting themselves in an interview. If that’s how you feel, get over it—at least if you have any hopes of landing a job. Self-promotion (not arrogance) is critical in getting hired. I often tell students that, while it’s not okay to brag and boast to your friends, an interview is definitely the place to promote yourself. If you don’t do it, who will? 

The candidate doesn’t have any questions to ask the interviewer.

At the end of every interview, the interviewer will always ask you if you have any questions for him/her. If you don’t, the chances are good that you won’t get the job. Why not?  If you don’t ask any questions, it show’s that you’re not really interested in the company. But what do you do if the interviewer has already answered all of your questions? I always advise my students to have at least five questions prepared so that there will be at least one question that wasn’t answered. 

Your questions should revolve around the job, the company/culture and the interviewer. A great question to ask the interviewer is, “So tell me, what do you like most about your job?” People love to talk about themselves and about their jobs. Studies show that the more people talk about themselves, the more they like the person who is listening! Avoid inundating the interviewer with too many questions, though. You don’t want it to sound like an interrogation. Stay away from negative questions such as, “What do you like least about your job?” or “What challenges are your company currently facing?”

 

By following the advice outlined above, you’ll increase your chances of getting hired and will soon be experiencing the reality of working in your dream career!

Deborah Federico is an Assistant Director of Undergraduate Career Services in the School of Management at Boston University. Prior to her career in higher education, Deborah worked in the corporate world, primarily doing marketing and market research. She blogs about career advice here and her LinkedIn profile is here.

[Photo: flickr/ƒяαиcєscα яσsє]

Filed Under: Interviewing


Earth Week: Cognizant Makes Good on 100,000 Tree Pledge MBA Alternative for Recent Grads Gains in Popularity

Vault welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our User Guidelines.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Become a Vault Basic Member

Complete your Vault Profile and get seen by top employers