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16 Interview Mistakes That Drive Employers Crazy

Watch out for these blunders...

by Janna Kefalas in Interviews
16 Interview Mistakes

Getting an interview at a stellar company can be quite a thrill, especially after weeks or months of relentless job searching. But the interview process can be fraught with minefields. Knowing exactly what to say, what to wear, and how to act is no easy feat.

So start by avoiding these common interview blunders and you’ll be on your way to a cushy job offer:

Interview Mistake #1 – Thinking You Can Wing It 

If your interview preparation consists of glancing at your resume and spending 5 minutes on the company’s website, you’re definitely not going to stand out as a top-notch candidate. So write out and rehearse your answers to common interview questions, especially behavioral and case based ones, so that you’re not caught off guard.

Interview Mistake #2 – Not Researching the Company

Employers want to know that you want to work for them specifically, not just anyone. So do your homework and learn as much as possible about the company’s products, services, mission statement, and other noteworthy pieces of news such as a recent award or office expansion.

Interview Mistake #3 – Not Researching Who Will Be Interviewing You

Whether your interviewer is an HR assistant, peer-level employee, or head of the department will likely determine the types of questions you’ll get. Research this person (or people) on LinkedIn to get a sense of their professional background. Any common ground may be fodder for the pre and post-interview small talk.

Interview Mistake #4 – Conducting a Phone Interview at Work

As you can imagine, doing a phone interview while whispering from your office or a nearby conference room is a major no-no. So schedule the interview at a time when you can physically leave your office and conduct it from the privacy of your car or home.

Interview Mistake #5 – Conducting a Video Interview In a Poor Location

I once heard a story of a candidate conducting a video interview with laundry hanging in the background. Yikes! So make sure you’re in a quiet setting that’s well lit with a simple background. Sound matters too, so test your mic before you start.

Interview Mistake #6 – Showing Up Late to an In-person Interview

Don’t make a bad impression right at the start. Since you’re going to a new location for the first time, allow plenty of time for traffic, getting lost, parking, finding the right building, etc. And it’s best to walk into reception 10 minutes early so that you have a little time to decompress and get focused.

Interview Mistake #7 – Being Rude to the Receptionist

Think the receptionist (and other employees) aren’t paying attention to how you act before and after your interview? Think again! It’s crucial to be friendly and considerate to everyone in the office, regardless of their title.

Interview Mistake #8 – Wearing Inappropriate Attire (Too Casual or Too Formal)

There used to be a time when everyone wore a business suit to every interview. But unless you’re in banking, law, government, or another traditional industry, that’s not the case anymore. But that doesn’t mean you can walk into an interview in jeans and a t-shirt, even if the staff does. Play it safe by wearing business casual in this environment.

Interview Mistake #9 – Looking Disheveled

Not thinking through your wardrobe choice ahead of time might lead you to quickly grabbing clothes that are stained, wrinkled or torn. So allow plenty of time to look sharp before you walk out the door. And throw a comb, tissues and breath mints in your bag just in case.

Interview Mistake #10 – Appearing Overly Nervous or Anxious

Employers know that interviews can be nerve-wracking. (And trust me, it’s common for interviewers to feel nervous too.) But if your jitters get in the way of you showcasing your accomplishments, it becomes a problem. So watch these habits: speaking too fast, poor eye contact, fidgeting, pen tapping and hair twirling.

Interview Mistake #11 – Using Too Many Filler Words

Dovetailing on the last point, sometimes nerves or not rehearsing your answers can lead to lots of um’s, uh’s, like’s and you know’s. Recording your answers as you practice at home may help lessen this issue.

Interview Mistake #12 – Giving Brief, General Answers Without Enough Specifics

The interviewer is trying ensure you’ve solved similar problems in the past and therefore will be qualified to take on their department’s current issues. But if your answers are vague and don’t provide enough concrete details, it’s hard for the interviewer to assess your fit for the role. So make sure to highlight impressive metrics and other relevant evidence of your achievements.

Interview Mistake #13 – Giving Disorganized, Long-Winded Answers

That said…quantity doesn’t equate to quality! Strive to provide the necessarily details in a concise, linear fashion. Think about organizing your answers using the PAR format: Problem, Action, Result. And practice, practice, practice till you get your answers down to 1-2 minutes.

Interview Mistake #14 – Not Answering the Question Asked

Maybe the interviewer asks you to talk about a specific instance from your work history, and you speak generally about the future. Or they inquire about a particular skill, and you talk about a different one. Yes, dodging questions may work for politicians, but it won’t score you any points in the interview. So listen carefully and answer the question at hand to the best of your abilities.

Interview Mistake #15 – Not Asking Questions at the End of the Interview

The interview isn’t over when they’ve ask their last question. Now’s the time to gain more valuable information on the role and company to make sure it’s the right fit for you. But one caveat — avoid asking about benefits, perks, working from home, or anything that screams “what’s in it for me??”

Interview Mistake #16 – Bringing Your Parent, Child or Dog to the Interview

Ha – think this has never been done? Read enough recruiter blogs and you’ll be in shock. It goes without saying that no one can get you the job but YOU.