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Five Common Mistakes


You're bright. You're qualified for the position. How can you maximize your chances of succeeding in your interviews? Many errors begin with misconceptions about the process. The following beliefs are among the most common and costly.

1. The interview begins when I shake hands with the interviewer.
NO. In the employer's office, it begins when you walk through the front door. Employees other than your interviewer may observe you from the time you take your first step. Don't slight anyone. While employment decisions are generally not made by receptionists, your potential boss may ask the receptionist for his or her impression of you. Be polite and friendly to everyone around you. Walk and speak with an air of confidence. Keep your posture formal when you are standing or sitting. Follow the same rules when interviewing with recruiters in the lobby of Career Services. Occasionally, an organization will send staff members to interview students in the rooms, along with one or two staff members who sit in the lobby and greet students before their interviews with the organization. These "greeters" may make small talk, but don't become too casual during this chat. You are already being assessed.

2. All I need to do is answer the questions correctly.
Dead wrong. Your mission is to sell yourself. The burden of proof is yours. The interviewer may not ask you directly the questions you want to answer, but don't leave the room until you have clearly expressed the reasons why you are an excellent candidate for the job. This means, of course, that well before the interview, you must first be able to answer this question of yourself.

3. Asking about promotions shows that I'm ambitious.
Wrong. It shows that you are putting the cart before the horse. You have precious few minutes in an interview, and the time you spend on this issue takes up time that you could be using to illustrate your selling points. You don't yet have the job. Furthermore, asking this question now may seem an indication of greed or of being focused solely upon your own desires. If you sell yourself well enough to receive a second interview, then you would have gained nothing by asking about this earlier.

4. The interview is over when the interviewer says so.
When the interview is winding down, the interviewer should invite you to ask question -- an invitation you should accept. After your questions about the position and the organization are answered, summarize your qualifications. The interviewer may then thank you for coming. However, it's still not over if you don't know what the next step is. Ask whether the organization will contact you, and when. Then thank the interviewer and go home to write a thank- you letter to him or her, sent to the address on the business card for which you wisely asked during the interview. (It is a good use of time, as you wait for your on-campus interview, to jot down the name and address from the business card which is posted in our Recruiting Lobby.)

5. If I mess up, I should play it cool and hope the interviewer doesn't notice.
Don't ignore what is probably obvious to the interviewer, who is there to observe you from every angle. The way you handle adversity can be more telling to an employer than the rest of your presentation, no matter how polished it is. Don't be flustered if you drop your briefcase, or hand your resume across the desk upside down. These are just minor mishaps. To recover from an interview gaffe, make a short, sweet apology. Don't dwell on it, and don't let it haunt the rest of the interview. We ALL make mistakes, from time to time, even your interviewer!