5 Mistakes I Made at my first job interview (that I hope you never have to make)

I remember my interview for a full time job. It was actually for the position of an Equity Analyst at Deutsche Bank, London. Before the interview I had made all sorts of preparations. I read up on things about the Company, I practiced answers to questions I thought the interviewer would ask and prepared myself for any test they would make me do.

I went for the interview the next day in my suit, CV in my hand and it went terribly. Unsurprisingly I didn’t get the job and I never really thought of why.

When I started Netccentric, we hired a lot of people and I sat in the chair of an interviewer. I began then to understand what interviewers look for. Having personally interviewed and hired probably a hundred candidates or so in the past years, I began to reflect on my first interview and cringe at how bad it was.

So I thought I’d share my mistakes here so nobody would ever follow me and make the same ones. Here they are:

1) I didn’t show ENERGY!

When you read tips on how to ace a job interview online, they always talk about how you must be confident and how you must smile. The truth is… YES… you have to do just that. But doing that alone IS NO LONGER ENOUGH. It’s almost as if it’s a GIVEN and it’s EXPECTED that an interview smiles or at least appears as confident as he or she can be.

What these articles don’t tell you is the other MORE important thing you must have:

That’s ENERGY and ENTHUSIASM. Energy and enthusiasm attracts people and rubs off on them! A lack of energy and enthusiasm does the exact opposite: it repels them.

Put yourself in the shoes of an interviewer. Two candidates, both of equal qualifications and skill sets come before you. Both also appear confident and smile at you. However one of them is VERY VERY enthusiastic about his job or living life in general… and the other is rather normal. Like what you would expect from all other candidates.

Which one would you hire?

2) I didn’t REALLY know enough about the company

The other preparation tip that people often give you before you go for an interview is to prepare for it. To learn about the company you’re interviewing for. So what I did was Google up the company’s corporate website and read up on it. When asked about what I knew about Deutsche Bank I recited almost word for word whatever was on their website… making it a point to even remember key numbers and statistics.

Wow I thought… I totally aced that one.

I was wrong!

The interviewees in the past who had really impressed me told me things about my company that wasn’t on our website. Some of the things were from articles they read online about us and some… even more impressively was from what people in my industry had said about us.

That’s what tells an interviewer that you’ve REALLY done your homework. Not because you went to www.db.com or www.netccentric.com. But that you asked around about them and did your own research.

3) I didn’t ask the right questions

“Be Interactive! Ask questions… show you’re smart”. That’s one of the other tips I was given. So before I went for my interview I prepared some questions I would ask if they were to ask me what I wanted to ask.

The question I asked was “Is there a Chinese Wall in my department vs the sales?”. The short answer any banker would tell you is YES… (you can google up what a Chinese Wall is). While I thought it was a smart question at the time, when I look back it’s really really… not just an elementary question but worse.. a TOTALLY IRRELEVANT one.

Don’t just ask questions for the sake of asking. Ask them because they MATTER. Questions like “What’s expected of me when I take on this role?” or “Who would I be reporting to? What he or she like?”.

These are the right questions to ask. If you want to ask questions about salary… well you can too but that sometimes backfires because the interviewer can think you’re too money minded. Besides there’s always a right time and place to ask about salaries and that’s when they give you an offer and show they want you. Not during the interview when they’re still deciding.

4) I didn’t TELL STORIES

The way I answered my interview questions was the way I would answer questions in an exam. Question then answer question then answer. Straight to the point.

Yes many questions warrant direct answers but there are questions that give you the opportunity to tell a story. Interviewers are people too and people are generally more engaged by stories than they are just facts or figures or statements. The key though is finding a relevant story.

For example if you’re asked “What makes you think you can do well in this equity research role?” (equity research is really a role where you study stocks and you write analyst reports that recommend whether to buy or sell a stock).

Instead of answering “Because I’m well-qualified, good in math and have done lots of research before in my previous jobs”.

It could be:
“I picked up a very keen interest in equities since I was age 15 because my family was all involved in the stock markets. I started by reading books and how to analyze stocks.

Then at university I decided to put this interest to test. With my knowledge and research I started virtual trading accounts and bought and sold stocks based on my own recommendations with virtual money. My virtual portfolio did well. Getting me over 30% returns in a year. So I think I’ll be really good in this job”.

Note that the story above is my own story and it’s true. Everyone has their own personal story that relates to their own job. So tell that story. A story that tells of your past personal success or explains why you’re so interested in this.

5) I didn’t show them that I was hungry 

Hunger, motivation or ambition is what many people look for. When I answered questions about the company I didn’t show that I really wanted this job. Perhaps it’s because at the time… well I didn’t really really want it. I had many options available and even if I didn’t get this one I had another one.

But that’s not necessarily how we should portray ourselves to interviewers. We have to show we want a job! (because really if we don’t really want a job then why even bother going for the interview). And yes you don’t want to appear too desperate such that they think they can offer you less. At the very least though if you know your worth and know how good you are then I think there’s nothing wrong with saying

“Listen… I have some other opportunities waiting for me out there but I really like this company and I really want this job. You guys are at the top of my list.  If you decide to hire me, please help me make this decision a no brainer for me by offering me a decent package and I’ll be happy to see you here on Monday!”.


So that’s my two cents. Feel free to share this article of my own mistakes and feel free to leave comments if you have any of your own experiences to share.

Subscribe to the mailing list to get updates on new articles and giveaways that I may get from brands. I promise no spam!