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5 Job interview mistakes to avoid

March 14, 2014

If you are an professional looking for new career opportunities in IT, you've probably had your fair share of interviews. Yet even employees with years of experience tend to make mistakes when meeting with hiring managers for new positions. These are stressful, critical interactions, filled with many possible pitfalls.

Here are five miscues that you must avoid as you interview for IT jobs, both this year and well into the future.

1. Underplaying your strengths and ignoring weaknesses
One of the most common interview mistakes that applicants make, according to The Huffington Post, is underplaying their strengths to a detrimental degree. This is an understandable reaction—after all, no one wants to come across as boastful or lacking humility.

Similarly, when asked to describe a weakness, many interviewees instead offer disguised strengths. For example, the news source noted that many candidates will say, "I'm a perfectionist," in this situation. While there are certainly downsides to being a perfectionist, everyone knows it is not really a serious weakness. Instead, interviewers will see this as the cop out that it truly is.

Honesty is the better policy. Don't be afraid to acknowledge both your strengths and weaknesses. And when it comes to weaknesses, always mention that you are taking steps to improve on this shortcoming, The Huffington Post recommended.

2. Lacking examples
As noted above, you should not be shy when it comes to championing your abilities and what you can bring to the company. However, in order for such efforts to prove successful, you'll need to back up your claims with specific examples, as career counseling expert Win Sheffield recently told Forbes. Sheffield asserted that job candidates should arrive at interviews with a collection of stories and anecdotes that reveal their value and expertise. Such specificity will come across as more genuine and reliable than vague claims.

3. Refusing to say 'I don't know'
This is another common and easily avoidable mistake. In most interviews, you'll eventually face a question for which you simply don't know the answer. In this situation, many interviewees simply refuse to admit their ignorance, instead throwing together a vague, haphazard response. As industry expert Lesley Mitler told the news source, this can create an extremely negative impression.

"If you're somebody who can't say 'I don't know,' you're probably somebody who's going to work there and try to cover up anything you don't know by pretending that you do," said Mitler, according to the news source.

She added that hiring managers sometimes intentionally ask questions that they know the applicant could not possibly answer, just to see if he or she is willing to say, "I don't know."

So if you are asked about your knowledge of a particular piece of hardware and software that you're unfamiliar with, don't lie. Acknowledge your unawareness, and emphasize your eagerness to learn, the news source suggested.

4. Taking notes
To many people, note-taking is a sign of professionalism and attention to detail. As a result, some IT jobs applicants take notes during their interviews. According to Mitler, however, this is a mistake.

"I think that's really off-putting, first of all because you're trying to form a relationship with the interviewer, yet, you're acting like you're in a classroom," Mitler told The Huffington Post.

Instead, Mitler recommended that candidates pay close attention during their interviews. If you have questions during or after the discussion, you shouldn't be afraid to ask later on, she said.

5. Curbing your enthusiasm
As business owner Cynthia Bragdon told Forbes, applicants frequently overlook or underappreciate the importance of enthusiasm. Perhaps aiming for a more professional demeanor, these individuals instead can come across as ambivalent or disinterested.

"If they [job applicants] seem aloof, I get very worried, because any job requires a full commitment," said Bragdon, the news source reported.

Addressing this issue, Sheffield noted that a big part of any job interview is demonstrating not only that you're qualified for a given position, but also that you truly desire it. If you are too laid-back, the hiring manager is likely to favor a more motivated applicant.

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