Three Mistakes Even High-Powered Women Make During Interviews

Mar. 29, 2018

Sara Garlick Lundberg

I sit in on hundreds of interviews with executives each year, and I’m struck by how frequently skilled and strong women exhibit these three diminishing habits.  And they do so regardless of age, years of experience and seniority.


Minimizing Accomplishments

Job hunting is a vulnerable place to be, and it’s natural for the minimizing reflex to kick in during high stakes situations.  Even the most successful female executives sometimes qualify their assertions and opinions, particularly when speaking about areas of work in which they’re less comfortable. A candidate might preface her achievements with statements like “of course I had a team of people working with me to do X,” or “I can’t take full credit for X…” or “technically my boss led X.” Reframe with “I lead a team to create a solution…” or “Collaborating with our board, my team did XXX.”

Another common mistake is answering a question with, “No, but…” followed by a long string of related accomplishments. It’s far more effective to frame your answer in the affirmative.  Beginning with “Yes, and…” changes the tone of the conversation and instills confidence. You aren’t changing the substance of your reply, but both you and your interviewer will view your accomplishments in a more positive light.

Be aware of the inclination to minimize and take time to develop your professional stories or anecdotes in a way that frames your successes accurately and positively.



It’s really simple but too many people talk themselves into opportunities that don’t make sense for them. If I ask you where you were the happiest, and you describe a position that’s the inverse of the one you’re applying for, you’ve just wasted your time, or worse, taken a step towards a job that won’t satisfy you in the long term.

Ask yourself when in your professional life you’ve been the happiest.  In what professional contexts have you thrived?  You’re likely to continue to thrive in similar environments. If you were happiest working as the director of a startup with a small staff where every day was a grind and thrill, look for similar features in your next opportunity, and steer clear of large organizations where you might feel like a cog in a machine.



Before answering a question, take a moment to frame your reply.  Too many people fear silence in interviews, lose sight of time and get lost in long-winded responses. I’ve watched more than my share of candidates respond to a first question with a 10-minute monologue.  This shows interviewers that you aren’t thinking about timing, lack focus, and worse, it may demonstrate that you don’t care about their inquiries or input.

Breathe, be mindful, and pause to allow interviewers to follow up and join the conversation. Show interviewers that you value their time and want to hear their questions.