Nobody likes going on job interviews. But if all goes well, a great job interview can really set you apart, and can help you land your dream job with a great salary and people you actually like working with. However, if it goes poorly, it can also set you apart for the wrong reasons. According to career experts and hiring managers, women tend to make the same job interview mistakes over and over — because of social conditioning, sexist examples we see in media, and a million other reasons.
The good news is, once you know what these job interview mistakes are, you’re more likely to avoid those them in the future.
Before we get to the specific mistakes that tend to happen in interviews, Dr. Carol Leary, author and president of the American Women’s College of Bay Path University, tells HelloGiggles that it’s important to prep yourself beforehand.
“More than what you *do* do within an actual live interview — whether via phone or in-person — it’s what you *don’t* do ahead that can be the biggest interview mistake women make,” Leary says.
Preparing for your interview in advance is key to preventing any mistakes you might make. “If you put the due diligence and planning in ahead, interview gaffes will be much fewer and farther between,” she says. “Preparation is actually the deciding factor in whether interview mistakes happen at all.”
So what exactly are these mistakes women tend to make in interviews? Here are nine of the biggest ones.
1Not knowing anything about the company you’re interviewing with.
This is a mistake many people make, not just women. But it happens so often it’s worth sharing on this list.
It might seem obvious, but Jennifer Schwab, founder of ENTITY Academy, a mentorship program that trains young women who are entering the workforce, says not learning enough about a company is a problem that crops up more often than you’d think.
This is a mistake that’s easy to avoid: All you have to do is do your research. Understand the company structure and where your position falls into that. Who are the investors? Who’s the CEO? What are their values? Do they align with yours? “It’s all about understanding the key players and how you and your skill set can connect,” Schwab says.
2 Not speaking with confidence and authority.
One mistake Schwab sees entry-level candidates make is not speaking with authority or confidence during interviews, something women often aren’t trained to do. It’s understandable.
“Some of the best advice I’ve heard to combat this insecurity comes from Julie Schoenfeld, a veteran entrepreneur who told our students to always ‘live in their strengths,'” Schwab says. “I found this very compelling advice both for young women and for myself because it reminded me that using the hand I’m dealt can actually be a very positive thing.”
So instead of walking into an interview and focusing on what you’re not, focus on what you are.”It’s all about knowing what you have to offer and conveying it with confidence,” she says.
3 Lying on your resume.
Again, this is an issue that plagues people of all genders, but it bears repeating. Lying in general is a pretty big no-no. But lying on your resume can really mess you up during interviews.
According to Schwab, this happens more than you think, especially in the “upper echelons of top-tier companies.” Even if you think a tiny lie won’t hurt anything, there’s a good chance that your interviewer will ask you about it. If you happen to lie about a skill that you don’t have, it will become clear very quickly.
“As an employer I would rather have someone say, ‘I don’t have direct knowledge of that, but I’m a very quick learner, here’s an example of what I can do,’ than lie and lose their trust,” she says.
4Not dressing appropriately.
There is nothing wrong with dressing cute for a job interview. If you look good, you’ll feel good. But candidates’ outfits can come across as being “flashy” and unprofessional if not chosen correctly, and unfortunately, this is an problem that’s especially real for women, since men dress pretty much the same in every workplace (and women are often viewed in interviews through a sexist lens, consciously or not).
“Outfits can often show too much skin, even when this is unintended, and too much makeup can also give the wrong impression,” Sophia Bland, co-founder of interview coaching company Mock Interview, tells HelloGiggles. You might even find that you’re over dressed for a job interview if you’re headed to a tech company or other, more modern, workplace, if you’re wearing something formal.
When in doubt, she says, try to play it safe. You can even try copying the company’s dress code. “If you’re really unsure, go to the company office a few days before the interview and look around to see what other women are wearing so that you wear something similar,” Bland says.
5 Underselling your achievements.
“Interestingly enough, I’ve noticed a pattern where far too many women undersell themselves,” Harrison Brady, a communications specialist and hiring manager, tells HelloGiggles. Honestly, this isn’t too surprising.
As Brady says, female candidates will often have great experience with incredible accomplishments under their belt, but will hold back when it comes time to actually talking about it. Their male counterparts, on the other hand, tend to be more assertive even when they’re less qualified.
“My best advice for women is to be bold and proud,” he says. “When it comes time to answer the question, ‘Why do you deserve this job?’ there’s no need to venture into arrogance or boasting. But you should feel empowered to confidently own your successes.”
6Being unprepared for “pushback” questions.
“Surprisingly, women are often under prepared for the ‘pushback’ that is common in virtually every interview, and they have a tendency to personalize these interactions and view them as almost hostile,” says Roy Cohen, career coach and author. “But it’s inevitable and not necessarily a deal breaker to be challenged.”
These are the questions that are asked when we talk about ourselves or the resume is “dissected” for gaps, unusual moves, or missing information. According to Cohen, it’s usually the “why” question or more often than not, the “why not?” For instance, “Why weren’t you employed for a year and a half?”
Again, this all comes down to preparation. It’s important to anticipate these type of questions and have a response or two prepared. Also, don’t take pushback questions too personally. Chances are, the hiring manager isn’t out to get you. The reality is, they barely know you. So use that opportunity to make a great impression.
7Failing to ask questions that actually matter to you.
Another one of the biggest job interview mistakes women tend to make is not asking questions that are actually important to them.
“A job interview is a two-way street,” Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist with FlexJobs, tells HelloGiggles. “Once you’ve built a solid case for your qualifications and fit for the job, it’s time to make sure the job will be the right fit for you, too.”
For instance, if flexible work options are important to you, ask about that. Even with all the research you’ve done, you can’t know everything about the company, the position, or their expectations just yet. So be curious and ask.
8Undervaluing your worth.
It’s no secret that equal pay is a huge issue today, and one of the biggest mistakes women make in interviews is failing to negotiate a proper salary.
“When given an offer, many women simply take the job and don’t press for more money. Yet, with the wage gap that exists in most industries, this only hurts women’s earning potential,” says Carolyn Birsky, certified life and career coach.
If you don’t negotiate, you could start off at a lower rate than your co-workers. Over time, that will make it harder for you to get the same salary as them. You don’t have to ask for something outrageous, she says, but it’s valuable to negotiate the offer during the interview process. “Worst case scenario, they say no and you can then decide if you want to take the offer as is or pass on that job.”
9Letting your nerves get in the way of your wonderful personality.
“Many women are so passionate about a job that their nerves get the better of them in their interview,” Steve Pritchard, HR consultant for The London School of Make-Up, tells HelloGiggles. “It’s often the case that instead of looking keen to explore the role, they appear disinterested and keep their cards too close to their chest, instead of being transparent and open to discussing the role.”
Interview nerves can be really difficult to overcome, but as Prtichard says, your personality is just as important to securing the role as your qualifications. If nerves get the better of you, try turning them into a conversation topic rather than an awkward silence. For instance, say something like, “To be honest, I’m kind of nervous.” It won’t make you seem weak.
“Being nervous for an interview shows to your potential future employer that you are eager to work there,” he says. “The more you care, the more interested in the role you seem.”
Job interviews are the worst. But if you can avoid these big job interview mistakes, you’re sure to do great.