The Right Fit
3 common interview mistakes technical professionals make
by Erin Urban
One of the biggest challenges my professional clients face in job interviews is connecting with their interviewers. Many organizations have an increased focus on their cultures. They want to ensure the people they hire are a good fit. Some professionals are so intent on sharing their expertise, skills and abilities that they are underprepared for cultural questions during the interview.
Your expertise isn’t everything
When talking to my client Mike about an upcoming interview he had, I said: “You know, Mike, what wins the interview isn’t just your skills and expertise. It’s common practice now for organizations to focus on their cultures. They’re thinking: ‘Is Mike someone we want to work with?’”
I could tell Mike was surprised—his eyebrows were practically hanging off the ceiling fan. He hadn’t put much thought into anything except his ability to do the job he applied for. But it’s not just about what you know—it’s who you are that makes or breaks the interview. This news can come as a big surprise to some professionals I coach (especially Mike).
In most cases, these same professionals are so incredibly focused on discussing their expertise and skills that they miss the point of connecting with their interviewers. Your skills are only half of the story.
- Body language blunders. Being considered likable is just as important as your ability to implement complex quality programs. Everything from a firm (but not stranglehold) handshake to your facial expressions to the way you walk into the room is under assessment. If you are solely focused on what you know, you might miss the boat on your body language.
- Deep technical jargon. If you bury a recruiter or HR professional in technical speak, he or she may be discouraged from passing you on to the hiring manager. Don’t assume that even your potential hiring manager knows what you’re talking about until you get an idea of his or her background. Consider how you can make your experience relatable to laypersons, as well as those with similar experience.
- Too much detail. Unless explicitly asked, don’t detail every job you’ve ever held and every project you’ve ever worked on. You also don’t have to tell the interviewer everything. Be relatable. What information, expertise and impact stories can you share that are relevant to the position you’re applying for?
How to make the best impression
Follow these tips for making a good first impression during an interview:
- Focus on your body language. If you aren’t sure how you come across to others, ask someone who will give you honest feedback. Your body language is a big deal. You could be unconsciously frowning when you think, slouching when you sit or holding inappropriate eye contact.
- It’s not just about what you know. You’re a person—you have hobbies and activities you like to do outside of work. If appropriate and asked, feel free to share your interests. Making connections with others is easy when you have something in common. And finding common ground is a big factor of being considered trustworthy.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the interview. Make sure you are giving the interviewers what they want to hear. Ask clarifying questions, let them tell you what they want to know more about and always keep position-relevance in mind.
- Be prepared for the soft-skills questions. Personality, conflict management, communication and leadership skills questions are all important. Many organizations want to know whether your personality will fit their culture. It’s taken a long time, but businesses are finally waking up and realizing that personality is just as important as experience.
Erin Urban is a lean Six Sigma Black Belt from Fayetteville, TX, certified career growth and leadership development coach, and a member of the Forbes Coaches Council. She is the founder of Urban Professional Performance Solutions in Houston. Urban has a bachelor of fine arts degree from Longwood University in Farmville, VA. She is a member of ASQ.