37 Job Interview Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make
These Job Interview Mistakes are relevant to the whole interview process, from initially arriving to closing the interview.
1. Arrives late to the interview.
First impressions really do count and they are remembered for a long time. Arrive late and you’ve made one of the worst impressions possible! Indeed, regardless of what you say or do during the interview, you may never recover from this initial mistake. Employers wonder, “Will you also come to work late?”
2. Makes a bad impression in the waiting area.
Treats receptionists and secretaries as inferiors – individuals who may have important input into the hiring process when later asked by the employer “What was your impression of this candidate?” Caught reading frivolous materials, such as People Magazine, in the waiting area when company reports and related literature were readily available for perusal.
3. Offers stupid excuses for behaviour.
Excuses are usually red flags indicating that a person is unwilling to take responsibility and do the work. Here’s a killer excuse for arriving late for a job interview:
- I forgot.
- It wasn’t my fault.
- It was a bad company.
- My boss was a real jerk.
- The college wasn’t very good.
- I can’t remember why I did that.
- No one there appreciated my work.
- I didn’t have time to visit your website.
4. Presents a poor appearance and negative image.
Dresses inappropriately for the interview – under-dresses or over-dresses for the position. The interviewee may choose poor quality clothing, select inappropriate colours, or put them together poorly. He or she may need to learn some basic grooming habits, from haircut and style to make up and nails, or undergo a major makeover.
5. Expresses bad, negative, and corrosive attitudes.
Tends to be negative, overbearing, extremely aggressive, cynical, and opinionated to the extreme. Expresses intolerance and strong prejudices toward others. Complains a lot about everything and everybody. Indicates a possible caustic personality that will not fit in well with the company. Regardless of how talented this person may be unless he works in a cell by himself, he’ll probably be fired within two months for having a bad attitude that pollutes the office and lowers morale.
6. Engages in inappropriate and unexpected behaviours for an interview situation.
Shows off scars, tattoos, muscles, or pictures of the family. Flirts with the interviewer. Possibly an exhibitionist who may also want to date the boss and harass co-workers!
7. Appears somewhat incoherent and unfocused.
Tends to offer incomplete thoughts, loses focus, and jumps around to unrelated ideas. Hard to keep a focused conversation going. Incoherent thought processes indicate a possible attention problem.
Speaks poorly, from the sound of voice and diction to grammar, vocalized pauses, and jargon. Uses lots of “you know,” “ah, ” “like,” “okay,” and “well” fillers. Expresses a low-class street language – “cool, ” “damn,” “man”, “wow.” Not a good candidate for using the telephone or interacting with clients. Appears verbally illiterate. Writing is probably similar in quality.
9. Gives short and incomplete answers to questions.
Tends to respond to most questions with “Yes, ” “No, “Maybe, ” or ‘I’m not sure” when the interviewer expects more in-depth answers. Appears shallow and indicates a lack of substance, initiative, interest, and enthusiasm.
10. Lacks a sense of direction.
Appears to have no goals or apparent objectives. When asked “Where do you see yourself five or ten years from now? ’’ has difficulty coming up with an answer or patronizes the interviewer by saying “With you!” Just looking for a paycheck rather than pursuing a passion.
11. Appears ill or has a possible undisclosed medical condition.
Looks pale, glassy-eyed, gaunt, or yellow. Coughs sneezes and sounds terrible. Talks about her upcoming surgery – within six weeks of starting the job!
12.Volunteers personal information that normally would be illegal or inappropriate to ask.
Candidate makes the interviewer feel uncomfortable by talking about religion, political affiliation, age, family, divorce, sexual orientation, or physical and mental health.
13. Emits bad or irritating smells.
Wow! The candidate reels of excessive perfume, cologne, or shaving lotion – could lull mosquitos. Can smell smoke or alcohol on the breath. Strong body order indicates personal hygiene problems. Has bad breath throughout the interview, which gets cut short for an unexplained reason!
14. Shows little enthusiasm, drive, or initiative.
Appears to be just looking for a job and a paycheck. Tends to be passive and indifferent. No evidence of being a self-starter who takes initiative and solves problems on his own. Not sure what motivates this person other than close supervision. Indeed, he’ll require lots of supervision or we’ll have an employee with lots of play-time on his hands, or the job will expand to fill the time allotted. He’ll become the “job guy’’ who always says, “I did my job just like you told me,” but not much beyond what’s assigned. Don’t expect much from this person, who will probably be overpaid for what he produces.
15. Lacks confidence and self-esteem.
Seems unsure of self, nervous, and ill at ease. Lacks decisiveness in making decisions. Communicates uncertainty with such comments as “I don’t know, ” “Maybe, ” “I’m not sure, ” “Hadn’t really thought of that, ” “Interesting question, ” “I’ll have to think about that,” or redirects with the question “Well, what do you think?”
16. Appears too eager or hungry for the job. Is overly enthusiastic,
engages in extreme flattery and appears suspiciously nervous. Early in the interview, before learning about the company or job, makes such comments as “I really like it here, ” “This must be A great place to work, ” “I love your products, ” “I need this job, ” “Is there overtime?, ” “What are you paying?, ” “Do you have medical and dental insurance?”, or “How many vacation days would I get?”
17. Communicates dishonesty or deception.
Uses canned interview language, skirts probing questions, and appears disingenuous. Looks like a tricky character who has things to hide and thus will probably be sneaky and deceptive on the job.
18. Feels too smooth and superficial.
Dresses nicely, has a firm handshake and good eye contact, answers most questions okay, and appears enthusiastic – just like the books tell job seekers to do. When asked more substantive “What if’ and behaviour-based questions, or requested to give examples of specific accomplishments, the candidate seems to be caught off balance, stumbles with incomplete answers, and starts sweating. Can’t put one’s finger on the problem, but the gut reaction is that this role-playing candidate is very superficial, demonstrating little depth beyond general answers to some well-coached interview questions. He will probably end up being the “dressed for success” and “coached for the interview” employee from hell!
19. Appears evasive when asked about possible problems with background.
Gives elusive answers to red flag questions about poor grades, changes in major, time gaps, and the excessive number of jobs. Such answers raise questions about the interviewee’s honesty, credibility, sense of responsibility, and overall behaviour. Indicates a possible negative behaviour pattern that needs further investigation. On second thought, don’t waste time investigating such candidates – they are usually more trouble than they are worth.
20. Speaks negatively of previous employers and co-workers.
When asked why he left previous employers, usually responds by bad-mouthing them. Has little good to say about others who apparently were not as important as this candidate. Indicates a strong sense of self-esteem but a bad attitude toward most people he works with. This attitude probably also extends to customers!
21. Maintains poor eye contact.
At least in North America, eye contact is an indication of trustworthiness and attention. Individuals with poor eye contact, especially those with “shifty eyes,” are often judged as untrustworthy – they have something to hide. Having too little or too much eye contact during the interview gives off mixed messages about what you are saying. Worst of all, it may make the interviewee feel uncomfortable in your presence.
22. Offers a limp or an overly firm handshake.
Interviewers often get two kinds of handshakes from candidates – the wimps and the bone-crushers. Your initial handshake may say something about your personality. Candidates offering a cold, wet, and limp handshake often come across as fishes or corpses! Bone-crushers may appear too aggressive and well coached.
23. Shows little interest in the company.
Indicates he didn’t do much research since he knows little about the company and didn’t have time to check out the company’s website or even read some company literature which was readily available while he sat in the waiting area for over 15 minutes. Asks this killer question: “What do you do here?” Goodbye, again!
24. Talks about salary and benefits early in the interview.
Rather than try to learn more about the company and position as well as demonstrate her value, the candidate seems preoccupied with salary and benefits by bringing them up within the first 15 minutes of the interview. Shows little interest in the job or employer beyond the compensation package. When the interviewee prematurely starts to talk about compensation, red flags go up again – this is a self-centred candidate who is not really interested in doing the job or advancing a career.
25. Is discourteous, ill-mannered, and disrespectful.
Arrives for the interview a half hour late with no explanation or a phone call indicating a problem en route. Just sits and waits for the interviewer to ask questions. Picks up things on the interviewer’s desk. Bites nails and picks nose during the interview. Challenges the interviewer’s ideas. Closes the interview without thanking the interviewer for the opportunity to interview for the job. Not even going to charm and etiquette school would help this insensitive and thoughtless candidate!
26. Tells inappropriate jokes and laughs a lot.
Attempts at humour bomb – appears to be a smart ass who likes to laugh at his own jokes. Comes across as an irritating clown who says stupid and silly things. Will need to frequently put this one out to pasture to keep him away from other employees who don’t share such humour.
27. Talking too much.
Can’t answer a question without droning on and on with lots of irrelevant talks. Volunteers all kinds of information, including interesting but sensitive personal observations and gossip, the interviewer neither needs nor wants. Doesn’t know when to shut up. Would probably waste a lot of valuable work time talking, talking, and talking and thus irritating others at work. Seems to need lots of social strokes through talk which she readily initiates.
28. Drops names to impress the interviewer.
Thinks the interviewer will be impressed with a verbal Rolodex of whom he knows. But interviewers tend to be put off with such candidates who, instead, appear insecure, arrogant, and patronizing – three deadly sins that may shorten your interview from 45 minutes to 15 minutes!
29. Appears needy and greedy.
Talks a lot about financial needs and compensation. When discussing salary, talks about his personal financial situation, including debts and planned future purchases, rather than what the job is worth and what value he will bring to the job. Seems to expect the employer is interested in supporting his lifestyle, which may be a combination of irresponsible financial behaviour, failing to plan, living beyond his pay grade, and having bad luck. This line of talk indicates he probably has debilitating financial problems that go far beyond the salary level of this job. Not interested in supporting his needs or high-cost habits.
30. Closes the interview by just leaving.
How you close the interview may determine whether or not you will be invited back to another interview or offered the job. Most interviewees fail to properly close interviews. A proper close should include these six elements:
- Indicate you are indeed interested in the job – if you are.
- Summarize what you see as your major strengths and possible future contributions to the company.
- Thank the interviewer for his or her time.
- Ask when they plan to make the final hiring decision.
- Shake hands and say, “I hope to hear from you soon. Would it be okay to call you next week?”
- Leave with a smile on your face and a spring to your step – positive body language as you exit.
Never ever close the interview with this rather stupid and presumptuous closing prior to being offered the job: “So when can I start? This question will finish off the interview and your candidacy – you’re back to being needy and greedy! Also, don’t play the hard-to-get pressure game, even if it’s true, by stating, “I have another interview this week. When can I expect to hear from you?”
One other critical element to this close: send a nice thank you letter within 24 hours in which you again express your appreciation for the interview and your interest in the job.
31. Fails to talk about accomplishments.
Candidate concentrates on explaining work history as primarily consisting of assigned duties and responsibilities. When asked to give examples of her five major accomplishments in her last jobs, doesn’t seem to understand the question, gives little evidence of performance, or reverts once again to discussing formal duties and responsibilities. When probed further for accomplishments, can’t really say much and feels uncomfortable about this line of questioning.
32. Does not ask questions about the job or employer.
When asked “Do you have any questions?” replies “No” or “You’ve covered everything. Asking questions is often more important than answering questions. When you ask thoughtful questions, you emphasize your interest in the employer and job as well as indicate your intelligence – qualities employers look for in candidates.
33. Appears self-centred rather than employer-centred.
This will become immediately apparent by the direction of the answers and questions coming from the interviewee. If they primarily focus on benefits to the interviewee, the candidate will tend to be self-centred. For example, a candidate who frequently uses “I” when talking about himself and the job may be very self-centred. On the other hand, the candidate who talks about “we” and “you’’ is usually more employer-oriented. Contrast these paired statements about the job and compensation:
What would I be doing in this position?
What do you see us achieving over the next six months?
What would I be making on this job?
What do you normally pay for someone with my qualifications?
34. Demonstrates poor listening skills.
Doesn’t listen carefully to questions or seems to have her own agenda that overrides the interviewer’s interest. Tends to go off in different directions from the questions being asked. Not a very empathetic listener both verbally and nonverbally. Seems to be more interested in talking about own agenda than focusing on the issues at hand. Apparently wants to take charge of the interview and be the Lone Ranger. The job really does require good listening skills!
35.Seems not too bright for the job.
Answering simple interview questions is like giving an intelligence test. Has difficulty talking about past accomplishments. Doesn’t seem to grasp what the job is all about or the skills required. Seems confused and lacks focus. Should never have gotten to the job interview but had a terrific looking resume which was probably written by a professional resume writer!
36. Fails to know his/her worth and negotiate properly when it comes time to talk about compensation.
Job seekers are well advised to only talk about salary and benefits after being offered the job. If you prematurely talk about compensation, you may diminish your value as well as appear self-centred . Be sure to research salary comparable so you know what you are worth in today’s job market (start with www.salarv.com). Listen carefully throughout the interview and ask questions which would give you a better idea of what the job is worth. Stress throughout the interview your skulls and accomplishments – those things that are most valued by employers who are willing to pay what’s necessary for top talent. When you do start negotiating, let the employer state a salary figure first and then negotiate using salary ranges to reach common ground.
37. Fails to properly prepare for the interview.
This is the most important mistake of all. It affects all the other mistakes. Indeed, failing to prepare will immediately show when the candidate makes a bad first impression’ fails to indicate knowledge about the company and job poorly answer standard interview questions’ and does not ask questions. In other words, the candidate males many of the mistakes outlined above because he or she failed to anticipate what goes into a winning interview. Since you should be communicating your very best self during the interview, failing to prepare for it says something about how you deal with important things in your life and work. In this case, the employer and job were not important enough for you to prepare