I've always been fascinated by American Idol because it's like watching one really long job interview unfold over several months.
The panel of judges are a lot like the series of peers and managers that many face in a corporate interview. In both cases, it's not enough to impress just one person; generally you need to achieve consensus or at least have more people on your side than against you to move on to the next round. Every season contestants make the same classic mistakes and they aren't far removed from the ones job seekers perennially make during interviews.
Here are a few of the more painful ones to watch.
Expecting enthusiasm to make up for lack of experience
How many times have we heard a contestant say "If you just put me through to the next round, I won't disappoint you. I will work hard and I know I can meet your expectations." But instead of promising to flourish in the future, these contestants, like job seekers, should focus on proving that they have the skills and know-how to succeed in the round they're in.
Failure to research the company
One of my favorite questions that Simon Cowell asks is, "Have you seen this show before?" He asks this to people who appear clueless about the high-level of competition and the expectations winning "idols" have to live up to. Likewise, job seekers need to have some sense of the history and culture of the organization they are interviewing with so that they can convey their ability to fit in and meet expectations.
Disregard for the job role
Every year there are always a few wanna-be contestants that are dancers, comedians or actors, but not singers. They basically ignore the job description and go into the audition showing off what they can do even though it's incongruous to what the judges are looking for. I see the same tactic used in the business world when a too desperate job seeker applies to any and every position, regardless of whether his skill set fits. This strategy rarely works and it can damage your credibility as a legitimate candidate for jobs that would suit you. If you are applying for specific opportunities, you should only apply to those where your skill set matches numerous requirements as specified on the job posting.
Last season one girl showed up for the audition in a bikini. She did it to be different, garner attention from the judges and possibly distract them from her mediocre voice. While it's true that she got through (Randy and Simon couldn't say no), she didn't last in the competition for long. During an interview, you want to be remembered for what you said, not for the outlandish thing you wore.