Some job interview faux pas are obvious. Showing up late or badmouthing your former employer are almost guaranteed to ruin a first impression.
But there’s one sneaky interview mistake that can cost you the job: Forgetting to provide specific examples in your answers.
Holly Lee, a former recruiting leader at Amazon, Meta and Google, says it’s “hands down, the number one reason” people tank a job interview.
“People are either overconfident and think that their resumes speak for themselves, that they only need to provide a vague, short answer, or don’t take the proper time to reflect on how, exactly, their work is benefitting a company’s bottom line — the who, what, when, where and why of it all,” says Lee, who is now a leadership career coach based in Phoenix.
For example: An interviewer might ask you, “What is the biggest impact you’ve made in your career at this point?”
“If you answer with a brief line like, ‘I saved my company $1 million on a project’ or ‘I made our onboarding process more efficient’ without providing specific context or details, it’s not clear how, exactly, you did that and who you helped,” Lee explains.
Neglecting to provide specific examples of your strengths, contributions and impact in previous roles can hurt your chance of getting an offer because it signals to a potential employer that you’re not thoughtful or trustworthy, says Lee.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, but you have to demonstrate what you’ve done in order to build trust and positively influence the person who’s interviewing you,” she examples. “Giving vague, clipped answers causes a lack of trust, it shows me that someone is unprepared and doesn’t have a deliberate approach to their work.”