What an exciting time! You have just finished school and with all the enthusiasm in the world you create a resume and attempt to land you first real job! While that sounds like quite the adventure, I can remember not too long ago when that was me and what I ended up finding out is that adventure can be longer than anticipated. I have a unique perspective on this seeing as how I went through it not too long ago and I speak with entry level candidates all the time. Now don’t get me wrong, some entry level candidates come off sounding like experienced vets. Their resumes look perfect, their LinkedIn profiles fully optimized and they are networked well better than those five or even ten years their senior. However this wasn’t me and quite frankly it’s not most people. Even if you have had jobs before, it’s a totally different call game when you finally get to the big leagues. The questions are tougher and the reality is the competition is a lot stiffer. At the same time you find yourself graduating, a ton of other people with similar goals and ambitions are also ready to enter the job market. According to the National Center for Education Statistics during the 2015-16 school year colleges and universities will award 1.8 million bachelor’s degree and over 800 thousand masters degrees. Talk about competition. Knowing that, it only makes sense you would want to arm yourself with as much information as possible. Well today is your lucky day because I am going to share with you the 5 interview mistakes entry level candidates make so that you are able to avoid them. These are the mistakes I have noticed frequently occur when I interview entry level and early career candidates.
- Unfamiliar with the company
You would be surprised how many times I have someone say to me, “what does your company do?” during an interview. What does your company do? What does your company do? It is an absolutely terrible question to ask because it highlights several negative things to us. You can tell right away this person didn’t adequately prepare. It also gives us a sense that they don’t value the opportunity. If this was something that was really important to you, you would already possess this information. Going into an interview not knowing what the company does is literally the second biggest indicator possible that you didn’t prepare for this interview. Literally the only thing indicating it more would be if you didn’t pick up the phone when you are called at the pre-agreed upon time. The thing that is most frustrating about it is that this information is painstakingly easy to find. If you are reading this, whether it is from your computer or your smartphone, it is possible for you to find out what pretty much every company in the world does in virtually no time at all. Be prepared and know a good deal about the company you are interviewing with and if you can’t do that, at least don’t broadcast your lack of preparedness by asking this question.
- Failing to familiarize themselves with the position description
There is usually a significant gap in the time between applying for a role online and when you find yourself in that first interview. Given this gap it is natural for you not to remember details about the job description. Now, that doesn’t mean it is ok. Not knowing the details of the job description not only makes it looks like you aren’t prepared but it also puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to answering questions. If you are familiar with the tasks and responsibilities of a role you are better positioned to answer many of the questions that typically come up during a job interview. Job descriptions are pain points for companies. If they need someone to do something it is because they don’t currently have someone doing it. If you can incorporate components of the new role into answers about your skill set you start to make yourself sound like you are part of the solution. Even better would be to find a role you are interested, look at the responsibilities of the position and then customize your resume to match the duties of the role you are applying to. The fact of the matter is the likelihood of you being asked a question related to the job description is extremely high. If you are unfamiliar with the job description you are positioning yourself to potentially miss on questions that should be opportunities to sell yourself.
- Failing to ask questions
In most interviews you will be given an opportunity to ask hiring manager or the recruiter questions. All too often I have candidates have the opportunity but ask me nothing. There are so many good questions to ask at this point and so many things candidates should be curious about that it strikes me as odd when someone doesn’t take advantage. Most people view asking questions in a job interview as a way to obtain information. While that is true, what they are overlooking is that it is also a way to convey interest. Well worded questions citing information about the company can even be used as an opportunity to showcase your knowledge about the company. For example you can ask something the like this “In 2015 your company experienced a 8% improvement in international sales, what would you contribute that to and what does your company have planned moving forward to make sure those trends continue?”. A question like that not only gives you useful information about the company but it also lets the interviewer know that you did your homework. Make sure you go into every interview with questions to ask not only for yourself but for them as well.
- Not researching salary
This is a mistake a ton of entry level candidates make and quite frankly I get it. If you haven’t ever had a full time professional role before, it can be easy to not know what you should be making. However the fact of the matter is, any good recruiter is going to ask you a question or two around salary. The last thing you want to do here is throw out a number that’s too high and disqualifies you are throw out a number too low and had them low ball you when it comes time to get an offer. The solution to that is you need to go in there prepared. There are many websites that can help you with that but I personally like Glassdoor. Look at the pic below, by clicking on salary it will let you search by occupation title and geographic area.
Feel free to use this link to check out the tool and see how you stack up in your current role in your area Glassdoor Salary Tool. This is a simple way to find out what people who do the job you are interviewing for make in your area. That way when a recruiter asks you what you are looking for in terms of compensation you can say something like “My research shows me that an Jr. Accountant in Milwaukee, WI makes XYZ a year. I would be targeting a salary in that range but I am open to a fair and equitable offer”. In my book, Getting the Job, I have a great chapter on negotiation if you want to learn how I recommend positioning yourself for the strongest offer they are able to make.
- Not being prepared to expand on their experience
Entry level roles are the quickest phone screens I ever do. On one hand this makes a lot of sense, they don’t have as much experience to talk about so their interviews are shorter. However its often because they don’t really expand on their experience. Whenever I ask questions I get a lot of short, one word answers. Or I asked them to walk me through their experience during an internship and they finish telling me everything they did in a sentence or two. Not only does this leave me asking myself “is that really all this candidate did here?” but it is also selling yourself short. Most of the time there is a lot more that was done besides what the candidate is offering up. What has always helped me was writing down each role I have had on a piece of paper. The under that I write my tasks but more importantly I write a few things I accomplished in each of my roles. Usually there are a few questions asked during an interview that afford you the opportunity to share accomplishments from previous roles. If you have these already written down it is easier to recall them and use them as examples.
There you have it, those are my 5 interview mistakes entry level candidates make. Have you made any of these in the past and are brave enough to share them below in the comments? I know I have made a few. Now moving forward you can avoid these mistakes and nail the interview. I hope this helped and thanks for reading!