Congratulations! You’ve managed to land yourself an interview which means that your resume and cover letter caught the eyes of the recruiter or hiring manager.
Now, they want to learn more about your educational background, work history, and capabilities so they can decide whether you’re the best candidate for the job.
The best way to increase the odds of you making a positive impression and getting an offer is to prepare for the interview and identify common interview mistakes that candidates make.
Knowing what missteps to avoid and which ones you might struggle with will help you decide on strategies to tackle them in advance so you can nail your interview when the time comes.
In this post, we’ll walk you through some of the mistakes that can mar your interview and show you the steps you can take to prevent them from happening.
Also Read: Most Asked Interview Questions & Answers
The bare minimum that interviewers expect from candidates is for them to do their research and familiarize themselves with the company ahead of time.
If you’re showing up to an interview without knowing what the company does or understanding what the position you’re applying for entails, you’ve basically disqualified yourself.
You’re saying to the hiring manager that you’re not diligent, organized, or even interested in the company and the work it does.
To avoid falling into this trap, ensure you carve out time to visit the website of the company you’re interviewing at and learn as much as you can about it.
If you haven’t even gotten the job yet and you’re already displaying tardiness, why should the interviewer believe you’d behave differently on the job?
Whether it’s an in-person or virtual interview, arriving late will be interpreted as a sign that you’re unorganized and unreliable.
In the case of in-person interviews, make sure you leave home on time and account for possible delays like traffic jams on your way to the venue.
For virtual interviews, sign in early to test out the video conferencing software and troubleshoot any issues that might affect the interview.
Ideally, you want to be at the venue or logged into the chat room fifteen minutes before the interview is scheduled to begin.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Body language is more important than you think. It’s the main way by which we receive information and we tend to pay greater attention to it than the words being spoken.
One of the biggest interview mistakes you can make is not caring about your body language or taking the time to adjust it to create a positive impression. To project confidence, sit up straight and avoid slouching.
Maintain eye contact with the interviewer when listening to them or answering questions. Always give a firm handshake and wear a warm smile throughout to give the impression that you’re friendly and approachable.
Appearance matters a great deal. Interviewers will form opinions about you based on the way you present yourself so you need to be sure that your clothing is sending the right message.
A good way to avoid being inappropriately dressed for an interview is to go with a formal attire or according to the company’s dress code.
Most companies embrace casual or semi-formal attire, while others in the creative industry are more accepting of casual dressing. However, for conservative industries like law, finance, and medicine formal attire are the only suitable outfit.
You’ll also want to avoid wearing strong perfumes or colognes and flashy jewelry.
Photo by Yan Krukov
There are certain questions that you will probably get asked during interviews. Some of them will touch on your skills and experience, while others will be aimed at generating insights into who you are as a person.
Either way, you should be prepared to answer these questions or you’ll risk making a bad impression. Think about your answers ahead of time and practice them in front of a mirror or with a friend.
The point is not to cram these answers but to have an idea of how you want to answer certain questions so that you’re not taken by surprise and left scrambling for words.
Also Read: Signs That Your Interview Went Bad
Even if the company isn’t your top choice and the position is not your dream job, not showing enthusiasm is an interview mistake that will likely cost you the job.
Employers don’t just want to hire people who are qualified to do the job, they want people who are excited to work for them.
To avoid making this mistake and signaling to the interviewer that you’re not all that interested in the job, you must demonstrate that you’re enthusiastic about the opportunity.
Ask questions about the company, talk about your passion for the role, and the value you can bring to the organization.
Photo by Zen Chung
It is never a good look to use your phone during an interview. Constantly glancing at or reaching for your phone even if it’s to stop it from ringing will be seen as a red flag.
It suggests to the interviewer or hiring manager that you are rude and distracted, that the interview is not a priority, that you’re unprepared, and that you’re lacking in awareness.
Ideally, your phone should be placed in silent mode and kept beyond your reach before the interview commences.
This will help you curb the temptation to glance at notifications, check your messages, or interact with your phone in any way mid-interview.
A lot of people make the mistake of giving very short answers or rambling on forever in response to questions they get asked in an interview. Doing either will lose you points.
The trick is to find a balance between being succinct and providing enough details to sufficiently answer the question.
Always take a few moments to arrange your thoughts and decide how you want to approach the question and the important points to include in your answer.
To help you stay on track, you can review common interview questions and practice your answers beforehand.
Photo by Edmond Dantès
Chances are you will be asked questions like: what do you dislike the most about your previous/current job or why do you want to leave your current position?
Thinking this is an opportunity to get all the negative feelings about your horrible bosses or workplaces off your chest is a huge interview mistake.
No one wants to hire a complainer or someone who only has bad things to say about a previous work environment, so don’t go down that road.
Be honest and highlight the organizational issues you noticed, how you wish they were handled, or how they didn’t align with your values, and move on.
Your resume is meant to highlight your experience, qualifications, work history, and capabilities.
So during an interview, the hiring manager will ask questions not just to learn more about your professional background and achievements, but to verify that the details listed on your resume are accurate.
This means that when they ask a question, they’re expecting you to tie your responses back to your resume by providing context and examples, and elaborating on the information you wrote there.
If you are struggling to describe your skills and experience without consulting your resume, that’s a red flag.
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You might be thinking there’s no harm in embellishing your CV to make it seem like you’re more qualified or skilled than you actually are. After all, they have no way of finding out whether you’re telling the truth or not.
That might be true, but if you get caught lying about your educational background, work history, or qualifications during an interview, it’d damage any chance of you getting the job.
To avoid this mess, be honest with what you’ve done and paint yourself in the best light by highlighting the value you’ve brought to your past jobs.
Inattentiveness is another interview blunder that can cost you a role. During an interview, the interviewer expects your focus to be directed at them and the conversation you’re having.
You have to pay attention and keep your mind from zoning out to avoid missing the questions being asked or the comments your interviewer is making. To prevent making this mistake during an interview, make sure you get plenty of rest the night before.
Drink enough water and have a light, healthy meal before the interview kicks off. You can even keep a bottle of water on hand that you can sip from during the interview to stay alert and present.
Photo by Alex Green
Although interviews are meant to give employers a glimpse into your professional life as well as your personality, going overboard with the personal details is a big mistake that can get you disqualified from the process.
The interviewer will probably ask some questions about your interests, passions, strengths, or weaknesses.
In these situations, it’s okay to share personal information, lessons, and experiences to help them get to know you better. Just try not to get carried away and divulge unnecessary personal details.
No matter how friendly or understanding your interview is, it’s still a professional setting. They do not need to know the intimate details of your life.
Another interview mistake that you should strive to avoid is bringing along food to the interview or eating something during the discussion. Drinking beverages or eating anything, even gum, will make you come off as unprofessional and rude.
If you’re hungry, grab something to eat before the interview. If you need a caffeine hit, brew or buy a cup of coffee and drink it before your appointment.
Your mouth should be focused only on answering and asking questions during the interview and nothing more. However, it’s acceptable to bring a bottle of water with you.
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Forgetting that there is a line between being confident and being arrogant is an interview blunder that you should avoid.
Yes, interviewers want you to sell yourself and show that you’re the best person for the job, but they don’t want to hire someone who has an over-inflated sense of self.
Arrogant people make for difficult colleagues who can’t take criticism and are reluctant to consider that other people’s viewpoints might be superior to their own.
If you’re constantly showering yourself with compliments throughout the interview and talking about how amazing you are, the cockiness will turn recruiters off. You’re better off showing, and not telling so let your qualifications and achievement do the talking.
Different industries, brands, and work environments have their own tone and understanding of acceptable behavior. Using the wrong tone or language can make you seem unprofessional.
To avoid making this mistake, always align your tone and mannerisms to suit the expectations of the company you’re applying to or the role you’re interviewing for.
For example, if you’re applying to a big tech company, you can’t show up in a t-shirt and sandals and use informal greetings like “Sup”.
Pay attention to social cues during the interview and try to mirror whatever vibe your interview is giving off. If they’re cheerful and friendly, imitate them; if they are serious and formal, be the same way.
Photo by George Milton
Another slip-up that you need to be mindful of during interviews is underselling yourself. While you don’t want to come off as arrogant, you also want to show the hiring candidates what you have to offer.
Don’t try to downplay your accomplishments. Instead, take ownership of them and factually explain how they came about and the specific steps you took to get such results.
You can show that you’re a smart problem-solver by providing examples of how you’ve used your faculties to come up with solutions to various problems.
Usually, the interviewer will explain what you can expect to happen next or when you will be hearing back from them after an interview. But sometimes, they might forget to do so and it’s on you to call their attention to that by asking about next steps.
If you make the mistake of not asking and the interviewer realizes this, they might take it as a sign that you’re not invested in the interview or enthusiastic about joining the company.
So always make sure you enquire about what comes next, when you can expect to hear back, and who you can reach out to should you have any questions.
Photo by Sora Shimazaki
Let’s say you’re asked about your work ethic in an interview, it would be a mistake to simply say you’re a hard worker who likes to give your all time to every task.
You have to go the extra mile by providing instances of when you went above and beyond to solve a problem or see a project to completion.
Backing up your assertions or experiences with examples makes them more impactful and helps the interviewer truly understand how valuable you are.
Also Read: What To Wear For A Zoom Interview?
You may think that flirting during an interview will help your chances of landing the job, but it can easily backfire.
You never know how a particular interviewer will react to flirtatious behavior; some will find it flattering and even encourage it, but most interviewers will see it as a lack of professionalism.
They might even judge you more harshly because of it and write off your credentials because in their minds, you wouldn’t be trying to get ahead using serial overtures if you were truly qualified for the position. You’re better off just being approachable and charming.
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch
Let’s face it, every applicant is going to say they’re the best thing since sliced bread, but simply saying using this descriptor doesn’t make it true.
The interviewer isn’t just going to believe you, so it’s up to you to prove that you’re whatever you say you are by sharing stories that support your claim.
Also, you shouldn’t make the interview all about you by harping on about the salary, benefits, and allowances you want or even about how great you are. Instead, devote your time to showing the interviewer how you can help the organization grow.
Also Read: Best Questions To Ask The Interviewer
No matter how you feel about a situation, the events leading up to the interview, or even the questions posed during the interview, you can’t afford to let those shine through.
Employers are not looking to hire people who can’t regulate their emotions because it can have a negative effect on the rest of the team, as well as the business’ customers.
Even if your last employer fired you or it was the most toxic company on planet earth and you’re rightfully angry about it, the interview is not the time to explore those emotions. So take a breath, clear your head, and do your best to stay cool.
Photo by RODNAE Productions
While it’s important to prepare for common interview questions that you might get asked, you should keep in mind that the questions might evolve differently.
Don’t memorize a script, then go in and try to bend the questions to fit your pre-prepared answers even if they aren’t relevant.
Take a moment or two to sit with and understand the questions you are asked before piecing your response together. And if you’re not clear about a question, feel free to ask the interviewer to clarify it for you.
It’s better to pause and think before responding than to rush and deliver incorrect answers.
Also Read: How To Answer What Are Your Salary Expectations?
If the interviewer hasn’t brought up salary expectations or talked about the benefits their company offers, broaching the topic can send the wrong message especially if you’re still in the early interview stage.
It tells the interviewer that money and perks are the primary reasons why you want the job. While this may be true, it is not the kind of impression you want to give potential employers.
Focus on impressing the recruiter with your skills and experience first and leave the salary negotiations for the later stages of the interview process.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio
This is one of the biggest interview mistakes you can make. You should never say no when the interviewer asks if you have any questions at the end of the conversation.
Take it as an opportunity to show the hiring manager that you’re excited about the company and the position.
Ask good questions about the people you’d be working with, how success will be evaluated for the role, what a typical day in the position looks like, or the kind of learning and development opportunities available to employees.
Your work is not over just because you’ve completed the interview. You still need to politely follow up with the interviewers to stay on top of their minds, set yourself apart from other candidates, and increase the likelihood of you getting an offer.
You can follow up by sending a thank you email or shooting them a thank you note on LinkedIn within 24 hours after the interview to express your appreciation for the chance to speak with them.
Then end the note by letting them know they can reach out to you if they need anything else or have more questions.
Wait at least four weeks before following up again to find out where they’re at with the decision.
Looking out for these interview blunders and trying not to make them will help your interviews go more smoothly.
Not only will it push you to the next phase of the selection process, but will get you a step closer to landing the job you want.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.