A job interview can sometimes seem like a final boss battle that stands between you and being hired. It's a daunting task that can lead to a lot of anxiety for you, which can impact how you perform during the interview.
In reality, an interview isn't as scary as it might seem. It's a chance to meet your prospective employers and introduce yourself to them. Yes, there are some things you can do wrong and some things you should never say, but if you avoid these pitfalls (and do the proper preparation), you should be fine.
If you have an interview lined up, take a deep breath, do some homework on the company interviewing you, and make sure you avoid the mistakes below:
1. Don't be late
Short of a major act of nature or a major disruption to traffic (one that's big enough to make the evening news), there's no reason to be late for an interview. And if you plan to use public transit, factor in extra time to allow for unexpected delays. Scout out the route the day before if you have to, or situate yourself at a nearby coffee shop to guarantee you will be on time. (And arrive 5 to 10 minutes before your scheduled interview time.)
2. Don't be unprepared
You should be ready to address anything brought up in the job ad. Sometimes that means explaining why you have a skill or can obtain one that's not clear in your background. You should be ready to explain why you are a good fit for the job and how you might handle common situations. It's also important to come in with some questions about the company and the position being offered.
3. Don't arrive empty-handed
Bring copies of your resume and a sheet listing your references. You might not need them, but you should not expect interviewers to have anything with them. It's always better to be ready with materials you end up not needing than to awkwardly discuss something that could easily be read on your resume.
4. Don't bring up money
If the interviewer asks you salary questions, you can certainly answer. A first interview, however, is not the place to discuss compensation or benefits unless the interviewer introduces the topic. There will be time to talk about those in a second interview -- or during a call in which you are offered the job.
5. Don't forget to follow up
When the interview is over, send a thank-you note within 24 hours. If you have been communicating via email, it's fine to send your note that way. And don't just thank the person (or people) for taking the time to talk to you; use it as an opportunity to reinforce or clarify any point you need to.
Relax, be confident
If you have prepared for your interview and avoided the mistakes above, then you've done your best, and the rest is out of your hands. Sometimes, that will be enough. In other cases, maybe someone else did a better job or had a qualification you lacked; if so, there's no shame in failing. Eventually, doing things right will pay off with a job.
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