IT careers: 5 common interview mistakes to avoid

Job interviews can be stressful, but with the right attitude and preparation, you can make a great impression and land the role you want. Here are some common missteps – and how to overcome them
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Even as employers scramble to hire amid “The Great Resignation,” landing a job in an interview starts by focusing not on yourself, but on the company and your potential boss.

Companies looking to hire any position, whether it is a CIO, a C# fullstack developer, a customer success manager, or a chief marketing officer, are recruiting due to need. And the need usually comes in two forms: alleviating pain and/or leveraging an opportunity.

The pain might be replacing a person who is not working out in their role. The opportunity might be growth and meeting new customer demands.

[ Also read IT careers: 8 essential tips for your first 90 days. ]

In either case, the interviewer wants to know how you can help solve their problem. But too often, candidates are not intuitive. Instead of thinking about how to solve the company’s issue or leverage opportunities, they think, “How can I answer questions to be considered a serious candidate or land the job?”

That misguided thinking leads to these five mistakes to avoid in an interview:

Mistake #1: Focusing too much on yourself

The details of your qualifications and experience are what your resume is for. As an interviewee, you want the discussion to focus on learning about the company and the opportunity.

As an interviewee, you want the discussion to focus on learning about the company and the opportunity.

Research the company enough to go beyond basic questions like “What does the company do?” Ask what specific problems the organization needs to address or how it leverages opportunities. Ask about the most significant risks and opportunities facing the company or what constitutes success in the role.

Mistake #2: Talking too fast

Many candidates think of the interview as a time to cram every detail about themselves into the allotted time. The result is that they become “fast talkers,” which can cause the interviewer to think they are nervous or a poor listener.

Keep in mind that people can’t comprehend or remember things when they’re overwhelmed with information. The work of German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, a pioneer in the experimental study of memory, led to the “Forgetting Curve,” which suggests that people forget about 50 percent of a presentation within one hour; 70 percent within 24 hours; and 90 percent within a week.

Assuming that most people have about a 10 percent recall after a meeting or presentation, what 10 percent do you want the interviewer to remember about you? If you overwhelm an interviewer with too much information, how will they discern what’s most important?

If you overwhelm an interviewer with too much information, how will they discern what’s most important?

Mistake #3: Not dressing for success

Dressing appropriately means different things at different companies. Many financial organizations and conventional companies may be more likely to expect traditional business attire. On the other hand, many startups and more progressive companies may view a traditional business suit as too conservative and question your cultural fit.

Do some homework to get a sense of the organization’s culture and how its employees dress.

Mistake #4: Not showing interest in the interviewer

Remember that you are interviewing with a person, not a company.

Try to identify who you’ll be interviewing with ahead of the meeting and learn a few details about their work history on LinkedIn or other online resources. Spend the initial part of the interview asking about their goals and interests. Ask why they joined the company. Consider why they are a suitable fit in the organization. Most importantly, try to gauge what makes people successful at this company.

Remember, an interview is a two-way street. Accepting a new job is a big decision, so make sure you are confident that you will be a good fit.

Mistake #5: Asking the wrong questions

We’ve all heard it: “There’s no such thing as a dumb question.” But that’s not necessarily true in an interview.

If you are unprepared and ask questions with obvious answers or that are not relevant to the role, it will suggest that you’ve invested little time researching the hiring company. And that will not leave a positive impression.

Asking thoughtful, relevant questions that address the company’s pain points or opportunities. Your goal is to stand out to the interviewer and make them say, “The person that I just interviewed can solve our current problem or help leverage an opportunity.”

[ Want more advice on leading hybrid work? Read What is a hybrid work model? and Hybrid work model: 5 advantages. ]

Marc Lewis is a co-founding partner and CEO of executive search firm Leadership Capital Group. He has three decades of experience in retained executive and board search nationally, and two decades internationally.