6 of the biggest mistakes to avoid during job interviews, from a hiring manager

 In the current job market, job seekers may find themselves armed with optimized résumés and LinkedIn profiles but still struggling to land the elusive corporate dream job. Even if you get a response from a job posting and have years of experience, the interview process can be full of uncertainty.

I'm the head of marketing for a Series A tech startup, and I've played the role of both interviewee and hiring manager for companies of various sizes over the past eight years.

A headshot of a woman in a black T-shirt.
Maya Wald. 
Courtesy of Maya Wald

Here are the six most common mistakes I've noticed during interviews and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Not preparing enough

To stand out, do your homework — it's the first step to interview success.

Thorough preparation impacts both sides of the interview. As an interviewee, neglecting to research the company can be a fatal error. As a hiring manager, encountering candidates who haven't taken the time to understand the organization's mission and goals is not only disheartening but painfully obvious.

Go into your interview armed with (at least) an understanding of the product or service offered by the company, an overview of the market landscape and key competitors in it, and an idea of the target audience. Use the resources available to you to create a thorough study guide (you can even use artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT to help you); just be sure not to read from your study guide word for word during the interview.

2. Failing to include metrics in your story

While your résumé or even a networking connection may open the door, you can tell your story that leaves a lasting impression. I've come to appreciate candidates who go beyond listing achievements and instead share personal anecdotes with metrics demonstrating their skills and values.

As a hiring manager, I don't need an hour-long explanation of every role and project you've been a part of. The most impressive candidates can consolidate their experiences into a succinct and compelling narrative that demonstrates their expertise and drive, associated with key metrics pertinent to the role. This leaves me with a clear understanding of the candidate's past performance and what they're capable of.

3. Neglecting to ask the right questions

Asking insightful questions in your interview showcases your interest in and curiosity about the role and company. As a hiring manager, encountering candidates who have no questions, or only surface-level questions, can signal a lack of genuine interest or preparation.

It can be tempting under pressure to ask the common, "What is the company culture like?" But remember — you too are interviewing your interviewer. Ask the questions you need to know the answers to determine whether you'll be your happiest and most successful self in the role.

This includes questions regarding salary. While I recommend waiting to ask about ancillary perks such as free office food or volunteer days, you should always bring up your salary expectations in the first call. Then if the salary expectations are misaligned, time and bandwidth can be saved on both sides.

Leadership style, performance evaluation, team structure, cross-functional collaboration, and key challenges are other great areas to focus your questions on.

4. Overlooking nonverbal cues

Nonverbal communication is important during any interview (especially for roles within marketing, for which excellent communication in all forms is an absolute necessity).

As an interviewee, maintaining eye contact and positive body language can enhance your perceived confidence and credibility — even over Zoom. You should appear engaged through appropriate hand motions and maintain good posture. As a hiring manager, I pay close attention to these cues to gauge a candidate's professionalism and demeanor.

Your actions speak volumes — make sure they're saying the right things.

5. Ignoring cultural fit

Cultural fit is paramount for both interviewees and hiring managers. As an interviewee, take the time to assess whether the company's values and culture align with your own.

Burnout and work-life balance are hot topics. A big mistake I made early in my career was to ignore company red flags because a company name or salary felt too good to pass up. While some of these are certainly subjective, the main things to keep an eye out for are:

  • The interviewer can't speak to the company values and how the team and employee experience aligns with them.

  • The interviewer can't speak to how performance will be evaluated and at what frequency.

  • The interviewer doesn't have an answer to "When did you last take your paid time off?" which often indicates a lack of emphasis on mental health and employees avoiding burnout.

Associating my core values with the values of the companies I choose to be a part of has drastically improved my mental health. Remember, just because something looks good on paper, or feels good to someone else, doesn't mean it's the right opportunity for you.

6. Forgetting to follow up

Post-interview etiquette isn't dead, but in an increasingly remote world, people often forget this is the case. Sending a thank-you email or post-interview LinkedIn connection demonstrates professionalism and reinforces your interest in the role.

Having received and sent such messages, I can attest to their impact — they leave a positive impression and keep you top of mind during the decision-making process. Make sure to include at least one specific anecdote from the conversation that resonated with you.

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