The job-search mistakes we’ve made: Interviews

Even here at CareerBuilder, we've had to learn some lessons the hard way.

Mistakes just happen. Like spelling something wrong in your cover letter. Or sending the wrong résumé. Or going to a job interview smelling like a wildebeest.

Before you start to beat yourself up over a few job search snafus, there’s one thing you should know: We’ve all been there. And in this case, I literally mean we – the members of our team here at CareerBuilder.

That’s right, we’ve made the same common goofs, gaffes, and blunders most job seekers make during their first few job searches. Hopefully, these stories will prevent you from repeating our mistakes. Below are just a few of the harrowing tales my co-workers shared with me – and, today, they’re all about job interviews:

1. During a job interview, I had the opportunity to meet with the CFO of the organization. He was a highly decorated Navy Seal veteran with impressive business credentials. In a light-hearted way to get the interview going, he made chit chat warning me that he was a Packers fan. I replied that I was a Bears fan through and through, but had to admit Aaron Rodgers was an excellent quarterback. He seemed to appreciate this and inquired if I was a big football fan. I nodded enthusiastically and for some reason added, “Plus, he’s not that bad to look at” referring to Rodgers. There was a moment of awkward silence and I fumbled to change topics. – Jessica W., Marketing Product Manager

Lesson: Finding common interests to show off your personality = good.Any comments about anyone’s looks, celebrity or not = not so good for an interview.
Don’t get carried away with banter that’s irrelevant to why you’re there (to get a job).

2. I received some bad interview advice from a relative who hadn’t been on an interview in over 25 years. I had a third interview set up with a company and I was sure I was going to get it. I was very nervous and it was 2008 so there were not a lot of opportunities at the time. The third round involved a group interview with people I was going to be working with if I got the job. I was advised to ask everyone in the room what school they attended, because I was told ‘People like talking about themselves.’ I went ahead and asked everyone in the interview; one by one where they went to school and instead of interested, I came out sounding super weird, condescending and dumb. I didn’t get the job. – Erin D., Graphic and Web Designer

Lesson: Don’t listen to someone who hasn’t had an interview for multiple decades – they won’t know what’s up. Focus on asking meaningful questions rather than making small talk. Above all, you’re selling yourself and your skills. Make friends after you get the job.

3. When I would get called in for interviews, I would try way too hard. I didn’t know my value and felt that I was just spewing back terrible, generic jargon that a robot would come up with. I didn’t act like a real person (or human). I didn’t let any of my personality, charm, or workplace savvy come through in my interviews. Eventually after bombing all the time with this over-rehearsed method, I decided to start being myself – flaws and all. Wouldn’t you know it, I got hired immediately after the switch.– Justin T., Senior Manager, Consumer Insights and Strategy

Lesson: Show you can be yourself within the professional setting. Show you can think and act on your feet, and don’t simply recite information about yourself. Your personality will come through and you’ll set yourself apart from the crowd. Oh, and don’t rehearse your answers to the point that you’re just reciting a monologue in front of strangers.

4. During my senior year of college, I was invited to a recruiting event to meet and interview with some of the top ad agencies in New York.

I was fortunate enough to meet with the Human Resource Manager of my dream agency and I knew they had worked on a spot in the most recent Super Bowl. When she asked what I thought of the ad, I completely blanked! I totally forgot which commercial they ran, but I was honest and told her I was so nervous that I couldn’t remember. We both laughed it off, but I was crying inside the rest of the interview because I knew I was done. Surprisingly, I was called back for the final round of interviews at the agency in the following weeks. – Jessica G., Engagement Strategist

Lesson: It’s always better to be honest than say something and pretend to know what you’re talking about. The best way to do avoid that situation? Research, research, research so you can have informed discussions during your interview! And don’t be afraid to say, “I’m not sure” or “Let me think about that for a minute” during the interview so you can prepare your thoughts.

The moral of the story: There’s no way to avoid a goof but there is always an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and constantly improve what you’re doing so that you can put your best foot forward with potential employers.