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16 Common interview mistakes to avoid

Published on Friday, 27 Feb 2015

So you’ve landed an interview for your dream job. Now what? Don’t just wing it! Be prepared. Here are 16 common interview mistakes to avoid:

  1. Dressing inappropriately. While there are some places where the dress code is casual, don’t assume you can show up in jeans and a t-shirt. A suit is really the only acceptable attire for a job interview. Even if the interviewer’s dress code is relaxed, wearing a suit will show that you are serious about the job.
  2. Being late. First impressions are very important. Don’t make a bad one before you’ve even met the interviewer. Be sure to arrive at the office ten to fifteen minutes before your scheduled appointment. Early is better as you will not be fretting over traffic or other problems that can leave you frazzled when you walk in the door.
  3. Using your phone. Make sure you turn off your ringer (this also includes the vibrate mode) to keep yourself from getting distracted during the interview. You want to be able to give the interviewer your undivided attention.
  4. Not remembering which job you applied for. It can be difficult to recall one job out of a hundred, especially if you applied to several different positions with the same company. Make sure you review the correct job posting before you arrive to the interview.
  5. Not doing your homework on the organisation. Read up on the company before your interview, keeping in mind how you fit into the organisation and culture. Don’t just skim their corporate website. Check their social media channels and blogs to show that you’re serious about the job.
  6. Not knowing yourself. You’ve got to sell yourself and tell them what you can bring to the table. Create a talent inventory of your accomplishments, skills, knowledge, and experience in advance of your interview. The list can jog your memory of previous experiences to use as examples during the interview.
  7. Not paying attention. Be sure to be well rested so that you are alert and can engage with your interviewer. Zoning out during an interview will leave a bad impression and kill your chances of getting hired.
  8. Talking too much. Some people’s nervousness can manifest itself as talking too much and rambling on. Keep your statements short and to the point. It could be helpful to practice your answers beforehand with a friend.
  9. Not prepared to answer questions. You probably have the basics down, but it’s helpful to research other interview questions so you can prepare answers in advance. You want to have answers for the really tough questions, especially if it’s regarding a blip on your resume, such as an employment gap.
  10. Not asking questions. You should aim to have at least three questions to ask the employer at the end of your interview. It demonstrates a genuine interest in the position and that you’ve done your homework. A good strategy is to ask the interviewer how he or she likes working at the company. It’s a thoughtful question and can give you an insight into what it’s like to work there.
  11. Bad mouthing former employers or supervisors. You may think your criticisms or complaints are valid, and they may very well be, but you never know who your interviewer or former supervisors know. You have to demonstrate that you can work well with others and can handle conflict maturely and professionally.
  12. Being rude. Be polite to everyone you meet during your interview because you never know who you are talking to. If you have a group interview, give each person equal attention, not just the person who you think is “in charge.” Don’t make inappropriate comments in order to build rapport with your interviewer. Stay professional.
  13. Poor body language. Your posture can convey many messages without you saying a word. Leaning back while seated can make you appear arrogant or lazy while leaning forward can give the impression that you are aggressive. Adopt a relaxed, neutral posture to reflect your confidence. Be sure to make eye contact throughout your interview to show that you are engaged.
  14. Not being honest. Don’t stretch the truth about your experience and knowledge. Your interviewer will know if you are lying. A good interviewer will go beyond the surface and dig to see what other experience you have that could be applicable to the role. If anything, show the interviewer that you are a quick study and can easily absorb new concepts.
  15. Giving up if you make a mistake. Interviews can be harrowing experiences and you can get tripped up for any number of reasons. You can pause to take the time to recollect yourself. If you do it well, the interviewer may be impressed by your ability to recover under pressure.
  16. Not sending a thank you note. Follow up your interview with a thank you note to the interviewer(s). It’s a chance to clarify anything from your interview or ask a question, and keep you in the minds of your interviewer(s). If you don’t hear back within a few days after sending the thank you note, connect with a phone call to inquire if there was any further information you could provide or ask for an update on their search process.

Avoiding these mistakes can improve your performance at an interview, but if you do make a mistake, don’t assume the worst. We are our own worst critic and you probably did better than you realize. Take a deep breath and give it your best!

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