Securing a job is never a foregone conclusion.

When I moved from suburban Pennsylvania to New York City in early 2015, I was confident my experience, knowledge and skills would enable me to get a position within three months of arriving.

I was wrong. It took me a year.

My hope is that you will learn from my mistakes so you don’t have to repeat them in your next job interview.

Being an excellent resume writer, scheduling interviews or Skype interviews was never an issue for me. I averaged at least one interview per week for every ten applications submitted.

But getting an interview was only a small part of the battle. The real problem was inside the interview room.

Essentially, my interviewing skills were letting me down. I realized if I was ever going to overcome this, I needed to analyze the entire process, investigate my shortcomings and truly understand the mindset of a hiring manager.

Going into the process, I was banking on the law of probability working in my favor. If I was scheduling so many interviews, surely one of them would come through, right? Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, which forced me to reexamine my expectations as well as my approach.

For the rest of the job hunting process, I maintained a spreadsheet which included in-depth notes, in which I recollected the interview, and any interesting actions or statements made by myself or the interviewer. After reviewing the notes and doing some research, I found my top 4 job interview mistakes.

  1. Lack of Eye Contact

During an interview, I have to strain my eyes to make contact with the interviewer. As hard as I try, my eyes break connection and move in other directions. After doing research online, I found out I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

On average, people hold eye contact for ten seconds before veering slightly and then returning their gaze. But during interviews, I would glance at the hiring manager only briefly before panning away, seeking out objects in the room for the majority of the time. Only when I could sense confusion from the hiring manager would I return my gaze to him or her.

Lack of eye contact gives the perception of disinterest, anger, or emotional distance and is an immediate red flag to any hiring manager.

To improve on this area of weakness, I stared at a large mirror when practicing question responses. This gave me the confidence and ability to hold eye contact with my interviewer, without searching the room for something interesting to look at. 

  1. Failing to Sell Myself

I quickly discovered that interviews in New York City are more stern and direct than I had previously experienced.

I made the error of only answering the questions asked and volunteered no additional information to help my cause. For this reason, many of my interviews were mediocre at best. However, in interviews you must strive for perfection.

Mediocrity in this instance is failure as you’re competing with other candidates who are striving for the same position.

Some hiring managers want you to do most of the talking. Not necessarily biographical information; but your accomplishments and what you contributed to your previous jobs and your field. In such interviews you are there to do one thing; sell yourself. You must be able show why you’re the best candidate for the job while exuding confidence in yourself and your responses. 

  1. Incorrectly Answering the Question: “Tell Me about Yourself”

This question is a popular one with hiring managers, but is quite difficult to properly answer.

My biggest mistake was incorrectly answering this question; I would simply reiterate my résumé, running down my list of positions and duties, unaware of the fact that I was providing no information to set me apart from other candidates.

The most important thing you can do in an interview is to be memorable.

If you just list your qualifications and experience, you’re not much different from the next name on the list. The best way to be memorable is to tell a story. Your own brand story. This question poses the chance for you to create a compelling brand story that speaks to your values, passions and strengths. Doing this gives you the chance to include some personal information about yourself, such as why you work in your chosen field and what you love about it.

Also, adding a type of ‘ah moment’ or turning point within your story and ending with specific reasons why you will add value to the organization will help set you apart in the interviewer’s mind. 

  1. Confidence

Going into every interview, I prepared and rehearsed my answers out loud. You can do this in the mirror or with a friend. This method relieves the pressure of thinking up the answer on the spot, but make sure your answers sound natural and not stifled or rehearsed.

Before going into the interview, speak positive affirmations to yourself, such as, “I demolish all negative thoughts and feelings and declare that this job belongs to me.”

Positive thinking can help to extinguish anxiety.

Imagine the interview going well, picture yourself seated in front of the hiring manager, see nods, smiles and engaging reactions. Early on in the interview begin to build a rapport; interviews are more about connecting with people than the performance.

As I became more knowledgeable about the organization and identified my specific qualifications for the position, I gained more confidence in myself and was able to exude it during the interview.

After considering and correcting these mistakes, I managed to secure a position in the field of work I love by sheer determination and acceptance of constructive criticism. In addition to the above mentioned tips, always remember the basics; a good handshake, warm smile, eye contact, don’t fidget and dress your best.

Good luck!

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