5 Ways to Steer Clear of Common Interview Pitfalls

5 Ways to Steer Clear of Common Interview Pitfalls
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You’re a job seeker and you’ve finally landed an interview. This is the most critical part of the job search: You get the opportunity to engage directly with the employer and seal the deal.


Interviews provide important insights that are not apparent in a résumé; as a result, they level the playing field. This is precisely why the candidate who appears to be the most qualified on paper isn’t an automatic pick for the job.


When the time comes, be ready! This is an excellent example of the maxim, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Prepare in advance so you can avoid commonly made mistakes. Don’t be fooled by how obvious they seem -- candidates make them all the time.


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A few pertinent pieces of advice to keep in mind:


1. Research the company. This sounds obvious, but many job seekers rely on what they think they already know about a company instead of taking the easy step to dig a bit deeper. Showcasing what you know about the company during an interview is an easy way to make a great impression. Bonus points for demonstrating an understanding of current impacts to their industry.


2. Know how your skills help them. It’s not enough to just talk about your strengths and skills – you need to offer ways to apply them that would benefit the employer. The more you can align your skills and experience with the employer’s specific needs, the better the employer can see your value to their bottom line. Use your research and your industry networking contacts to see how you can best apply your talents in support of the company.


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3. Avoid giving too much information. Be sure your answers aren’t too lengthy. You can provide a clear, comprehensive response to a question in two minutes or less. The interviewer will ask a follow-up question if they need to. You don’t want to be the overly talkative candidate who is consuming all the oxygen in the room.


4. Don’t criticize others. This is a lose-lose proposition. Saying something negative about someone who isn’t in the room, even if it’s true, never makes you look good – the interviewer will be imagining themselves as the other person. Avoid making negative statements about those with whom you’ve had difficult working relationships. Instead, try something along the lines of, “While my boss and I may not have always seen eye to eye, I still worked hard to do my very best to support both him or her and my team.”


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5. Ask good questions. When you are given this opportunity -- usually at the end of the interview -- take it. Asking thoughtful questions is an easy way to impress an interviewer with your research. If you fail to ask any questions, they will wonder if you are simply looking for a job vice being specifically interested in them.


These common pitfalls are easy to sidestep. Want to know more? Check out the MOAA archive of career transition topics. Want some visual aids? Premium and Life members can access all the materials in MOAA’s webinar archive, including how to avoid “Interview Quicksand.” Learn more about joining MOAA or upgrading your membership at this link.


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About the Author

Capt. Patricia Cole, USN (Ret)
Capt. Patricia Cole, USN (Ret)

Cole is MOAA's former Program Director, Career Transition Services