We get it, interviews can be stressful. They are your main chance to determine if you are a fit for the job. While there are lots of things you should do, there are plenty more that you should avoid! Here are 7 of the big ones to NOT do.

  1. Rambling. Make sure that your answers are short and to the point. In fact, make sure you have a point! Often a story has a clear connection to the question in your head, but is foggy at best to your interviewer. Practice identifying the main point about what you learned or how you solved a problem in each story’s summary.
  2. Overstating Your Qualifications. Make sure you are honest about your accomplishments and have details to back up every claim that you make. Interviewers are skeptical (for good reason) about vague claims like “I launched a new product” or “I have leadership experience.” If you have truly done those things, be specific about your role, contributions, challenges you overcame, and lessons you learned. Give numbers when you can. Quotas, size of teams, increases in revenue, ROI, open rates, increases in traffic, and conversation rates are all tangible numbers that hiring managers can hang their hat on.
  3. Going Negative. Always stay positive. If you have a particularly traumatic experience in your career, which we all have, practice describing it in a way that casts you in a good light. Focus on what you learned, not how awful it was. All challenges are learning experiences.
    Also keep in mind, the situation might feel more relevant to your career than it truly is — at least in the context of this interview. Just because a challenging situation is top of your mind, doesn’t mean you want it to be how you are remembered by your interviewer.
  4. Failing to Review Public Information. Read the company’s website. Look them up on Crunchbase and in the news. Know the major players, their key successes and failures, their marketing message, and their origin story.
  5. Over or Underdressing. Know the dress code and dress one step above it. If they are in shorts and t-shirts, you should be in jeans. If they wear sports coats, you should wear one with a tie. In many startups it is worse to overdress than it is to underdress. You will not feel like a good culture fit if you dress drastically different from your interviewers.
  6. Missing Social Cues. Make it your goal to engage everyone. People who are not engaged with you, will not hire you. If you are on the phone, lack of engagement sounds like they are reading email. If you are in their office, they might keep getting distracted by their phone.
    If they seem disengaged, especially if they are asking questions that don’t seem relevant or the conversation becomes disjointed, pull back and shoot for a direct connection. Reestablish and reengage. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t ignore the social cues and keep going like nothing is wrong.
    Speaking of social awareness, always send a thank you note (email is fine) to your interviewer within 24 hours of the interview.
  7. Ignoring Explicit Instructions. If they ask for a 10 minute presentation, don’t deliver a 20 minute presentation. If you are scheduled for a 15 minute get-to-know-you call, be satisfied with that and know you can’t possibly get in every story. If you ignore instructions you run the risk of appearing disrespectful of others’ time or disorganized. Pay close attention to the details of their expectations and you will inspire confidence in your professionalism.

Bonus Tip:

Don’t think of the interview as something you undertake to prove that you are qualified for the job. Think about joining a band. Yes, you need to know how to play your instrument — that’s the price of entry. But what they care about is how you fit and how well they can make music with you. Similarly, when you are thinking about a job, it is not about the qualifications and checking all the boxes. If you walk into a job feeling like you are the most qualified for that job, there is a good chance you will not get that job. Make some music!

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