I’ve seen it happen to some of the best and most talented candidates: missing out on a great career opportunity because of a mistake made in an interview. Here’s how to avoid these common missteps and make the best impression on your next interview. 

Lack of preparation, not having good questions, and simple etiquette faux pas can cost you the job.  

Overprepare 

Research the company, know the key players, and bring questions about your research to the interview. This shows you’re thoughtful and serious about the role. 

Know your resume: anything on your resume is fair game- if there is a project or skill listed and you can’t speak to it- it raises red flags. 

“Tell me about yourself.” Or “Walk me through your career.” Keep it under two minutes and practice your response out loud.  This one trips up people all too often. 

Questions, questions, and more questions 

Be prepared to ask simple, open-ended, questions. Some people think that detailed, complex, questions like, “How does this role help fulfill the corporate mission statement, specifically tenant #2?” or “Please describe the corporate culture.”, make you seem smart.   

This is not the case and you’re more likely to get a canned, less informative, answer. Instead, ask questions like: “I saw that you recently launched a new product. Tell me more about that.”; Who will I be working with most closely?”; “Why do you like working here?”; “What’s most important for me to accomplish right out of the gate?” 

These types of questions will give you better and more sincere answers and help foster a good dialogue. Write them down and bring them with you: even the smartest candidates forget and miss out on opportunities. 

The lunch interview 

Brush up on dining etiquette. Avoid messy items and don’t order food that you need to eat with your hands (if possible) and remember that you’re there to interview, not fill your belly.  Common mistakes include seasoning your food before you taste it: people might think you make rash assumptions. Food that need to be cut should be cut, eaten, then cut again.  If you’re going to be in a role where you’ll be dining with important customers, little things like this make a big difference!  

A note about scents 

Yes- people will make unconscious judgments about you if you have a strong scent.  Lighten up on the cologne/perfume and wear freshly laundered clothing. If you’re a smoker, don’t smoke before your interview or in the car on the way. If it’s a close choice between two equally qualified candidates- no one will choose the smelly one. 

Get your interviewers’ names and contact information and always follow-up with a good thank you note promptly. Email is fine, handwritten note is better. Mention something specific that you liked about the interview, express your interest, and mention something that you bring to the table that will want them to choose you!