Top 10 most common interview mistakes

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Every job interview is important, of course, but when it comes to interviewing in the financial services field, the way you conduct yourself and the impression you make during the interview has a huge impact on whether or not you land the job. Keeping that in mind, here are ten mistakes commonly made during the interview process, and how to avoid them.


Mistake #1: Waiting until the interview to do your research

Before you arrive at the interview, be sure you are knowledgeable about the organization’s history, current financial positions, products and services, the market in which they operate, and their main competitors. In particular, you should have a thoughtful response about why you want to work there, specifically, and not just at any financial organization. You should also know all about the current regulations that will impact your new job and be abreast of current events as they pertain to your role.

“Nothing sets you back during an interview more than not being knowledgeable about a potential employer. Do more than a quick Google search on the company. Look your interviewer up on LinkedIn, read the latest news stories featuring the company, check the recent stock activity (if it is a public company), etc. Set yourself up to exceed expectations and have an informed conversation.” - Ed Hooper, Consultant at Robert Walters.

Mistake #2: An incorrectly calibrated level of confidence

Of course, no matter how prepared you are, there’s always a chance the interviewer will throw you a curveball. So go in confident, but be ready to handle anything that comes up. Along those lines, your prospective employer doesn’t want to know how great this job would be for you; he wants to know how you can help the company. The key to a successful interview is to find the appropriate balance between boasting of your accomplishments and coming across as modest enough to tackle any task that might be required of you in your new role.

Mistake #3: Playing it too safe

Look alive! Chances are your interviewer is talking to a lot of potential candidates during this process. He’s going to remember the one with a spark in their eye and something interesting and enthusiastic to say. Think of things to include in your backstory that will make you stand out. When the interviewer says “Do you have any questions?” that’s your cue to demonstrate that you’ve been listening and that you have a bright and inquisitive mind. Shrugging “Nope!” can make you come across as complacent or disinterested. You can prepare a few questions ahead of time to have in your back pocket, but it’s always better to come up with contextual questions during the actual interview.

Mistake #4: Focusing on the perks

A first interview is not the place to ask about vacation time, insurance benefits, and whether it's acceptable to knock off early every Thursday to get to your son’s little league game. First, find out if the job is the right fit. You can iron out these details later. In fact, don’t focus on salary at all during the interview process. Wait for a cue from your potential employer to discuss it.

Mistake #5: Paying attention to your phone

Answering your phone, responding to a text, or even looking at your phone during a job interview is a no-no. Put the phone away. If your phone happens to ring during an interview (not great, but not necessarily a deal breaker) simply apologize and turn it off.

Mistake #6: Hating on your last job

Never bash your last job, boss, or coworkers. If asked why you left (or are leaving) make sure to put a positive spin on it.

Mistake #7: Striking the wrong tone

No matter how friendly anyone is being, remember that finance is a conservative industry. Present yourself professionally with your dress, your manner, and your speaking style. The old adage always applies in banking: it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Never adopt an overly familiar tone with the interviewer; but do try to find commonalities, use warm body language, and adopt an easy smile. In other words, be sincere.

Mistake #8: Offering to break the rules

Never insinuate that you’d be willing to break the law, bend the rules, or steal in order to get the job done. In banking, this is the ultimate no-no. So when the interviewer asks how far you’d go to get the job done, “Whatever it takes” is not necessarily the right answer.

Mistake #9: Disregarding your internet presence

Even while you’re sitting in his office, your interviewer could be checking you out online. Before you step into an interview, make sure all of your social media profiles (your “private” ones, like Facebook, and your business ones, like LinkedIn) present you in the most professional possible light.

Mistake #10: Forgetting to follow up

And finally, no interview is complete without a prompt and professional follow-up email or handwritten note to say thank you. Make it short and sweet: 1. Thank you for the opportunity. 2. I really want the job. 3. I’m perfect for it. (Here’s why.)

Without a thank you email, you run the risk of leaving your interviewer with the impression that you're unenthusiastic, disorganized, or just plain unprofessional. Don’t make this mistake.

Avoid the most interview mistakes by memorising the most common interview questions.

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The key to a successful interview is to find the appropriate balance between boasting of your accomplishments and coming across as modest enough.

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For more information, please contact:
Ed Hooper, Consultant
212 704 9900