3 Scary Interview Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them!)

And you thought that new Stephen King movie was terrifying.

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-by Jaclyn Westlake, Founder of The Job Hop

Sure, monsters, haunted houses, and that creepy clown are all pretty scary, but making a fatal interview mistake can be downright petrifying. And trust us, there’s nothing worse than the ghost of interviews past haunting your future opportunities. So, in the spirit of Halloween, we’re creeping it real with a round-up of the scariest interview mistakes we’ve ever seen. Read on to learn how you can avoid being a haunt mess in your next interview. But beware, this might get kind of spooky… we hope you aren’t reading alone in the dark!

#1 Swooping in Like a Bat out of Hell

The thought of showing up to your interview without properly preparing in advance should send a chill down your spine. Don’t try to wing it. Whether you just rolled out of bed, your Lyft was late, or you neglected to research the company in advance, your lack of preparation will stick out like a sore, disembodied thumb – and that’s not a good look.

Setting aside ample time to prepare is the trick to making your next interview a treat! Here’s how to do it.

  • Do Your Research. We know you know how to use Google. Put those skills to work!
  • Get to Know Your Interviewers (Before You Meet Them). LinkedIn will be your new best friend.
  • Dress the Part. Regardless of whether the dress code is San Francisco professional or Silicon Valley casual, you’ll want to look the part. Treat yourself to a new outfit, a fresh manicure, or a blowout – whatever will make you feel polished, confident and boo-tiful.
  • Show Up on Time. Like, five to ten minutes early.
  • Prepare for the Tough Questions. Think about your answers to tricky questions like “why are you looking to leave your job?” or “what’s with the gap on your resume?” in advance. Especially if you’re re-entering the workforce after some time away.
  • Ask for Help. If you’re working with a recruiting agency, let them help you! Recruiters will likely have tons of juicy insights to share about the company, the team, and your potential future boss. This will be extra helpful if you’re looking for your first job ever or your next home!

 #2 Being a Total Zombie

Meandering your way through an interview like a mindless zombie in search of brains won’t get you anywhere. And it’ll really spook the hiring manager. Whether you’re suffering from serious job search burnout or just didn’t get a good night’s sleep, letting your exhaustion show is a big mistake. Companies want to hire candidates who are excited about the job they’re interviewing for – not just going through the motions.

Try combating your burnout with a little self-care. Treat yourself to a massage, squeeze in a quick yoga class, or settle into your couch for an evening of Netflix binge-ing – whatever makes you feel rested and relaxed. On the day of your interview, embrace coffee, a cold (or cool-ish) shower, and some loud, upbeat tunes to wake yourself up. If that doesn’t work, call your most no-nonsense friend for a tough-love pep-talk.

One of the best ways to show enthusiasm during an interview is to ask great questions. Brainstorm a few thoughtful queries in advance, thinking critically about what the company’s needs are, how you can help the hiring manager achieve her goals, and how your experience would translate into the role you’re interviewing for. And be sure to follow up with a personalized, thoughtful thank you note as soon as humanly possible. (See Don’t Forget the Final Step: The Thank You Note for tips!)

 #3 Acting like a Bloodthirsty Vampire

Vampires are the worst (no shade to Twilight). All they want is one thing, and they’re usually terrible at hiding their motivations. Being laser-focused on how a role can help you get what you want is a surefire way to turn your interview into a horror show. Sure, you have career goals (and we want you to achieve them!) but don’t lose sight of the fact that employee-employer relationships are a two-way street. It’s not all about you.

Be sure that you truly understand the job you’re interviewing for, and what you can realistically expect to get out of it. This may sound like a total no-brainer, but if you know that the opportunity doesn’t present much room for growth, don’t go on and on about how badly you want to get promoted. The same goes for what you can expect in terms of your salary, start date, vacation time, and work schedule. Don’t make ghastly demands that you know the company won’t be able to accommodate. If the company doesn’t have a work from home policy, you probably don’t want to ask to work from home three days a week. Be realistic!

 

We know interviewing can be scary. Whether you’re looking for your first-ever entry-level job, returning to work, or a seasoned pro, chances are you’re going to encounter some seriously frightful interviews. But, if you remember to avoid the most terrifying mistakes of all, you’ll be just fine. And remember, if you’ve got it, haunt it!