5 Interview Mistakes Even Smart People Make

You always prepare for a job interview. But are you doing it the best way?

A job interview is seldom fun, but you know you've got to do it. So you write your two-minute pitch and your record of achievements then hope for the best. Actually, that’s just the beginning of what you should do to prepare. Make sure to check off these 5 rules, which are overlooked by even the smartest job seekers:

Put anchor text in your resume
More and more recruiters are reviewing resumes electronically. Furthermore, interviewers are often confirmed on the schedule last-minute, and your electronic resume is attached to the Outlook appointment. The interviewer only has a cursory look at your resume, so make it easy for them to get to know you. Put anchor text (the clickable text that links to a website) in your resume where you want to provide more information that the interviewer might otherwise need to search for. For example, maybe you worked for a company that is not well-known but is an innovator in its field. Yes, a text resume should have a brief description of the company, but using the company name as anchor text leading to its website gives the reader an invitation to click and find out more. Additional items to list as anchor text include: publications for which you have written; conferences where you have spoken (have the text link directly to the speaker page showcasing you); or samples of your work (e.g., link to a website that you built or a marketing campaign that you led).

     See also: Improve Your Interviewing Skills 300%

Prepare examples, not answers
The temptation is to rehearse answers to specific questions: What is your biggest weakness? What is your greatest accomplishment? Why should I hire you? That’s not a bad strategy because these are standard questions, but this approach breaks down when you consider how many ways there are to ask a question. Your biggest weakness may not be asked outright. The interviewer might ask what your boss would say it is, or s/he might ask about a project where something went wrong (indirectly trying to ferret out a weakness) or ask why you left a certain company (even more indirectly probing for problem areas). You can’t possibly rehearse for every question you might get, so set your examples in advance, rather than specific answers. Choose substantive anecdotes from your work experience – results, roles, projects, clients– that you are ready to discuss and that demonstrate your strengths, development areas, preferences, and of course, why the employer should hire you. By preparing examples instead of answers, you can more easily adapt to any question. You will already have the story in mind and just need to massage it to fit the interviewer’s question. You won’t be scrambling to answer a question and pull a story from memory. By having stories ready to tangibly and engagingly make your point, you don’t fall into the trap of telling, instead of showing.

     See also: The Secret Language of Job Postings

Practice out loud, not on paper

The interview is a conversation, not a monologue. You do not speak the same way that you write. I can always tell when a job seeker has written out his or her responses in advance because it sounds like a speech, rather than everyday speaking. Job seekers who make this mistake are by no means dumb. On the contrary, these job seekers smartly prepare, but just not in the most helpful way.

Prepare for the physical challenge of interviewing
Interviews are tiring -- sitting up straight for long periods, maintaining eye contact, remembering to look relaxed, returning to the same company for multiple rounds, remembering who you met and what they said, keeping track of what you said and what you still need to say. Whew! I’m exhausted just listing all of that. You need stamina to maintain the energy required of interviews. You need focused concentration and the ability to assume your game face at a moment’s notice. This requires good sleep, good diet, and regular exercise to stay competitive with the physical demands of interviews.

See also: Are You Ready for That Call-Back Interview?

Focus on connecting, not closing
Yes, you’re supposed to sell yourself at an interview. But you’re not trying to close with every single meeting. Business needs change, and you might be called in to interview for a job that disappears or is assigned internally. You’ll be overly anxious and aggressive if you think you need to close on the job every time. Focus instead on deepening the relationship with the interviewer – for this job or something else. Think about how you feel when a hungry salesperson tries to talk you into something. You don’t want to be that salesperson. To the interviewer, you want to show genuine interest and connect.

Smart job seekers prepare for job interviews. Make sure you do it the right way and across the multiple dimensions of the process. Don’t be pushy. Factor in the physical demands of the interview process. Remember that a job interview is a conversation, not a speech. Prepare your stories, not just talking points. Help your interviewer out with anchor text in the resume.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career expert with SixFigureStart®. She is a former recruiter in management consulting, financial services, media, technology, and pharma/ biotech.

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