Congratulations! You’ve landed an interview for what will (hopefully) be your first-ever full-time job. Now only one thing stands between you and that first gig: the ever-important interview.
If you don’t have much prior interview experience (or if it’s been a while since you’ve done one), an interview can seem a little intimidating. Whether it’s in person, over the phone, or via Skype, the best thing you can do to prepare is practice. Amanda Nell, senior student service coordinator at the University of Missouri’s Career Center, says many college campuses have mock interview programs that provide great opportunities for pre-interview prep, but something far more informal can work just as well. “Just look over a list of questions, or talk through them with a friend,” she says. “The more you can do that, the more comfortable you get.”
Even with plenty of practice, though, we know that interviews can be anxiety-inducing. If you’re still worried about doing or saying the wrong thing on the big day, study up on these six rookie interview mistakes—and how you can avoid or bounce back from them.
You’ve done the best you can to prepare for the interview, but when your interviewer opens with the typical “tell me a little bit about yourself” icebreaker, you find yourself telling her a heck of a lot more than a just “little bit.” It’s been 10 minutes and you’re still telling her your life story—so how do you bring your rambling answer back to the message you were really trying to convey?
Our expert’s tip for bouncing back: If you’ve taken your answer to this common question a tad too far, Nell recommends taking a moment to mentally bring yourself back to why you know you’re qualified for this job, and then communicating that to the recruiter. If you wrap up your monologue and you’re still a touch embarrassed? Don’t be afraid to verbally acknowledge your mistake—that is, if it feels right to do so. “I would be one to say something like, ‘Wow, I was really thorough in that response,’” Nell says. “But it depends on A) your personality, and B) the temperament of the recruiter and how things are going.”
Like we said, practicing for an interview is a great way to calm your nerves. But if you’ve practiced too much? Your answers to the hiring manager’s questions can come off as totally rehearsed—you’ve answered every question in your interview so far as though you’ve read your response straight from a script.
Our expert’s tip for avoiding it: Nell recommends practicing for an interview with a friend, family member, or someone else you trust (especially if practicing with a pro is going to make you feel too stiff)—and telling them to let you know when you need to loosen up. “Getting feedback from someone can be extremely helpful,” Nell says. “That can be a roommate, a friend, a parent—it doesn’t have to be a career services professional. There are probably things that you don’t even recognize that you’re doing.” Like, ahem, sounding like you’re reading from a script.
We all have our nervous habits—and you’ve spent the whole interview caught up in all of yours. You’re twirling your hair, avoiding eye contact, and trailing off into nothingness at the end of each of your sentences. How can you stop doing what you do so naturally?
Our expert’s tips for bouncing back: The first step? Knowing your natural tendencies and making a deliberate effort to counteract them. Know you tend to talk too quickly? Make a conscious effort to slow. things. down. during your interview. If you regularly let your sentences trail off into nothingness? Make an active effort to end your sentences strongly. With that said, though, Nell says to remember that you won’t be perfect: “You’re never going to get rid of that stuff completely. That’s okay. What you’re trying to do is minimize it so it’s not a distraction, and it’s not what the interviewer is left remembering.”
You killed it with your response to the “What are your greatest strengths?” question (you have so many of them, after all!), but you panicked when the recruiter asked about your greatest weakness and ended up giving her something of a pseudo-deficit. Read: You told her “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard,” and now you’re afraid she won’t take you seriously.
Our expert’s tip for bouncing back: Have no fear: This common mistake is totally fixable. You told the interviewer that you “just care too much”—now, take that idea and get a little more specific. “Talk about something that you actually need to work on,” Nell says. “More importantly, tell the interviewer how you are actively trying to correct it.” Whatever you do, though, don’t share a plethora of other weaknesses to make up for the pseudo-weakness you already shared—you’re not trying to convince your interviewer not to hire you, after all.
“Why would you be a good fit for our company?” It seems like a simple enough question, and it would be if you knew anything about the position for which you’re interviewing. You hadn’t heard of the company before you applied, and now you’re scrambling to come up with an answer that doesn’t embarrass you or offend your potential employer.
Our expert’s tip for avoiding it: Not knowing simple info about the actual position for which you’re applying, the company at which you’re trying to work, or the industry, in general, is a pet peeve of every hiring manager, so be sure to do your research well before the interview. “There are resources out there and a lot of good information online,” Nell says. “Do a little research ahead of time. That adds a lot of value to an interview.”
It’s not super likely that a hiring manager will present you with a money question on what she knows is one of your first job interviews ever. But let’s say salary did come up—and you gave too large of a range (think: a range greater than $5,000) or a number way higher or way lower than what you actually deserve, considering your education and experience.
Our expert’s tip for avoiding it: Chances are, as a newbie to the workforce, you won’t know exactly what you should be expecting to earn, but again, a little research can go a long way. Nell suggests logging on to your campus career center’s website, Glassdoor, or another online salary calculator to help you land on a rough estimate. Do your homework, and be sure to provide a (reasonable) range of options for your potential employer, given your background and other factors, such as the location of your potential job.
This article originally appeared on Levo and is reprinted with permission.