My biggest job interview mistake

No job

There have been a couple of times on Thought Dump where I’ve written about my experiences of job interviews. These are mostly bad experiences.

For a long time, the process went like this:

A prospective employer would see my CV, and I’d get invited to an interview. Clearly they were impressed by something they’d read, and thought I could be the person for them. After the interview, I would find out I didn’t get the job. I’d ask why, and be told I didn’t have enough experience.

Hearing this always bothered me. My CV describes my experience, so the employer would know what this is before inviting me to an interview. Why give me hope when I had no chance of being the one in the first place?

It was as if I sounded better on paper than I did in person. When you’re after writing jobs, you’d think that’d be okay. 

Sounding epic

When I went to job interviews, I always aimed to answer questions as simply as possible. I thought using plain English and avoiding employment jargon would make me stand out.

During one of my freelance jobs this year, I had an employer who gave me good job interview advice. When I told her about some upcoming interviews I had, she explained how I should prepare to answer interview questions.

She made my experience sound so epic. The language she used sometimes bordered on corporate-speak, and to me, this made my experience sound untrue.

But this made me realise my biggest interview pitfall: I was being too modest. By describing my experience in plain English, it was getting lost in translation. I was saying what employers wanted to hear, but not in the way they wanted to hear it.

Right message, wrong TOV

By answering job interview questions without any employment terminology, I missed out on several job opportunities. If prospective employers were my audience, I had the right message for them. But I used the wrong tone of voice.


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