The biggest mistake in a job interview (and always the only question you are asked)

Let’s face it, no matter how great your resume, it’s your interview performance that will get you the job. And the sad thing is, it is often the most avoidable mistakes that hurt your chances the most. In a survey of over 2,000 employers, nearly half (47%) said the most common mistake applicants make at a job interview is little or no knowledge of the company.

These days, when almost everyone carries a powerful computer in their pocket, there’s no excuse for it. In fact, we recently wrote about the different ways you can research companies that go beyond just googling. Start by reading their website and see if they are mentioned in articles on other websites or in the news. Talk to people in your network and on social platforms, who may have information about the company or industry. Think about the future of the industry and what the challenges of the job might be. Employers are more impressed with candidates who know their company well and can demonstrate why they want to work for them, especially if you can explain how your skills and experience can help overcoming these challenges.

The only way to do this successfully is to know as much as possible in advance about the job, the company and the industry. This way, you can personalize your responses, practicing describing past work experiences and achievements in a way that is relevant to the employer. Everything you say should be framed this way: “This is what I’ve achieved in the past, so here’s what I can do for you …”

But don’t just research the company

This same survey revealed that a third (33%) of employers know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether or not they will employ someone. In those first moments of the job interview you are all asked the most common question: “So tell me about yourself.”

This icebreaker question is your chance to introduce yourself. The thing is, it’s not really about you. It’s all about your application. Yes, they want to know if your personality is a good fit for their company, but most of all they want to know that you can handle the job.

Your answer should therefore focus on your professional experience and interests, and on anything that proves that you are the right candidate for the role. However, this is not the time to report your CV. Think of it as a quick summary of who you are in a professional sense – a career coder. Yes, it might be interesting if your hobbies include basket weaving and fan fiction writing, but that doesn’t apply here. Do your homework to find out what you think they want to hear, then continue to perfect your speech until you have a clear and concise answer.

Key takeaway: Get ready for your job interview

The biggest mistake in a job interview is not being prepared. You may be able to beat it successfully from time to time, but it’s best to know what you’re talking about. This will not only help organize your thoughts, but will also help calm any nerves you may have. So once you get the call for an interview, find out as much about the company as possible and use that research to your advantage, especially for that all too common question (you know that’s coming).


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