We’ve all made our share of interview mistakes, no matter our age. But according to some hiring managers, there may be a pattern of certain types of mistakes falling along generational lines.
Below, here are five interview mistakes that the hiring managers we heard from say, in their experience, millennials are likelier to make — and how to avoid them.
1. Asking too many questions that focus exclusively on company culture.
“I’ve interviewed hundreds of millennials over the years, and one of the biggest mistakes they make is spending too much of an initial interview probing on company culture,” Sean Campbell, CEO of Cascade Insights, said. “While culture is critically important, you also need to show the interviewer that you are a good fit for the job. I’ve had interviews where a millennial spends 20 of the 30 minutes asking questions about the company’s culture and very little time telling me how they are a good fit for the job, or asking questions that prove the same.”
2. Turning the interview into a recitation of every bell and whistle on your CV.
“One consistent mistake I’ve noticed from millennial interviewees is overemphasizing the value of certifications and tangential experience. As a hiring executive it’s tiresome to sift through the hype to nail down a prospect’s actual skill set,” David Cusick, Chief Strategy Officer at House Method, said. “As a millennial, however, I understand this impulse. We’re an over-educated generation constantly offered new degrees, certifications, programs, academies, workshops and ‘opportunities’ that are meant to be a ticket to career success. We can get so involved in trying to spin our educational record that we end up hiding our actual abilities.”
Rather than spending too much time rattling off a litany of accreditations, Cusick recommends shifting the focus to the bigger-picture aspects of what you’ll bring to the company.
“These diplomas and titles look good on a resume and on LinkedIn,” he said. “Beyond that, hiring managers want to know about you. Where do you see yourself working best, and on what kind of team? Where do you want to build your skills, and where do you know you’ll struggle?”
3. Overusing “I.”
“Millennials sometimes focus too much on themselves during interviews. They talk a lot about their expectations, career plans and how the new job can help them gain valuable experience and skills,” Jessica Lim, HR Manager at LiveCareer, said. “I appreciate when job candidates know what they want and act confidently during the interview. However, it’s essential to align your profile with a specific position. We don’t want only to see how we can help you achieve your goals. Think about how you can bring unique value to our organization and focus more on our potential partnership rather than your gains.”
4. Not showing enough confidence.
“The biggest mistake I’ve seen millennials make is a lack of confidence,” Rhiannon Moore, a hiring manager at Evopure, said. “Hiring managers don’t want overconfidence and arrogance, but a lot of millennials downplay their experiences and qualifications, even when they’ve got exactly what we’re looking for.”
A fear of coming off as egoistic is something Georgina Davies has seen from millennials during interviews, too.
“Throughout my experience hiring as both a business owner and hiring manager, I’ve found it’s common for millennials to be more modest and reserved when speaking of their own strengths and skills in fear of coming across arrogant or conceited throughout the interview process,” Davies, Global Team Founder, Director and Marketing Manager of Little Ripple Marketing, said. “Although oversharing or blatant boasting won’t be well received in an interview, underselling yourself also has the ability to hinder your interview success. It’s important millennials take the adequate steps in order to prepare themselves for confronting questions in interviews to help them more successfully find a balance between confidence and egotism.”
5. Thinking they have to know the answer to every question.
Dan Fugardi, a Managing Partner at VantageBP, says that some millennials may struggle with the idea of saying “I don’t know” in an interview setting. But there are other options for expressing that same sentiment in a way that comes off more authentically, he added.
“When you are being questioned, simply speak to whatever it is that does sound familiar to you, regardless of what that is,” Fugardi said. “For the parts that don’t sound familiar, the in-between is to say: ‘I’m not extremely familiar with what you’re referring to, but I did use X at my last company’ and talk about that, or ‘I imagine it may work like X, but in either case, I’ll make it a point to get up to speed on that out of the gates.’ No matter what, don’t attempt to pretend like it is familiar to you by filling in holes with hot air you make up on the fly. It is extremely transparent to interviewers and it screams fear and doubt. It also appears that you may attempt to BS your way out of everything in the future.”