IN THE HIRING PROCESS, knowing what not to do in an interview is just as important as having a polished resume and strong references.
Like most interpersonal interactions, job interviews can be quite subjective. But experts have identified common interview mistakes that you should dodge to improve your chances of making a great impression.
Here is the ultimate list of Job interview mistakes to avoid:
1. Failing to prepare
Approach a job interview the way you would a test. It’s important to study detailed information about the company where you’re applying so you’re ready to talk about how your skills are a good fit for its business.
To stand out from the pack, do enough research to be able to discuss the company’s recent merger or new business model, says Kelly Marinelli, principal people strategy consultant at Solve HR. “It really shows your passion for the specific role and the company, and that’s something that sets you apart.”
2. Failing to research your interviewer
Go into the interview armed with information about the person with whom you’ll be conversing. You may discover a shared interest you can talk about to build rapport. Or you may find out that the interviewer has connections at one of your past employers.
3. Wearing the wrong outfit
We all know it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover – but interviewers often do just that. Show up to your interview looking too informal or disheveled, and you may make a bad impression before you even introduce yourself.
4. Not being punctual
Arriving a few minutes early – experts recommend about 10 minutes – serves two purposes. It proves that you’re organized, reliable and eager. It also allows you to take some time to compose yourself, use the restroom and prepare for the impending conversation. You may be tempted to arrive very early, but don’t. It may inconvenience your interviewer.
5. Using your cellphone
Even if you’re simply checking the time, stealing glances at your cellphone may come across as rude or suggest you’re easily distracted. Before you go into the interview room, turn off your devices and store them out of sight. You may be accustomed to taking notes on your phone, but in a job interview, use a pen and a paper notebook instead.
6. Asking questions with obvious answers
Don’t ask anything that betrays ignorance of the company’s basic information. If it’s available on the website, you should know about it.
7. Badmouthing past employers
Nothing reveals a bad attitude like excessively criticizing your current or previous employers. Your interviewer will instantly wonder whether you’d talk about her and her company that way if she hired you.
8. Getting too personal
Using a friendly tone is nice, but it’s important not to cross a line by sharing too much personal information. Remember, you never know how the person sitting across from you will react to a story about your weekend antics. You only get limited time with the interviewer, so stay focused on your professional accomplishments and the company’s needs.
9. Bringing up salary and benefits too soon
Experts agree: Job candidates should never bring up the topic of salary first, because it puts them in a weaker negotiation position. Additionally, talking about it too early may give the impression that you’re only interested in the job for its perks. So save this conversation for after you’ve been offered the job.
10. Not anticipating questions about salary
However, you should be prepared to talk about your salary expectations in case the interviewer raises the topic.
11. Having poor body language
Communication goes beyond words. It’s important to make eye contact while listening and speaking, offer a firm handshake and sit with good posture. Try not to channel your nervous energy into fidgeting.
This is always a bad idea. When the company discovers the truth, you’ll be immediately disqualified from this job and likely all future opportunities.
13. Failing to sell yourself
This is not the time to be humble. Don’t assume the interviewer will remember every detail from your resume about the awards you’ve won or the sales goals you’ve exceeded. Women are especially prone to deflecting credit for their accomplishments and should practice explaining their qualifications and describing their talents.
14. Selling yourself too aggressively
On the other hand, it’s a mistake to come on too strong. Don’t brag to the point of arrogance, and don’t try to dominate the conversation.
“Some people, many in sales or marketing or who have stronger personalities, they will tend to take over the interview. They’re controlling the situation too much,” “You want to vet the interviewer, but you can’t give even a hint that you’re doing so, because you’ll come across as an overbearing control freak.”
15. Making it all about you
From an employer’s perspective, the purpose of a job interview is to determine whether a candidate is a good match for the company’s needs. That means your answers should focus on how the company will benefit from hiring you, not how you will benefit from getting the job, Cole says.
16. Neglecting to ask questions
Almost every interview will conclude with the interviewer asking, “Do you have any questions for me?” And when the interviewer inevitably wraps up by asking if you have any more questions, replying like this: “I have so many questions I will run out of time, so I will jump right in.” “It indicates you have incredible interest in that company,” he says.
17. Botching the question about your “biggest weaknesses”
When the interviewer asks about your biggest weakness, you may be tempted to offer a cute answer, such as, “I work too hard.” But that may send the message that you aren’t self-aware, can’t handle constructive criticism or aren’t taking the interview very seriously.
Prepare a thoughtful, honest answer to this question as well as an explanation of how you’re working to improve. See more advice about specific interview questions.
18. Being long-winded
Telling rambling stories wastes the interviewer’s time and decreases the opportunities you have to cover all of the ground you’d like to in the conversations. Communication skills are key in many positions, so the interviewer is likely assessing your ability to speak with clarity and brevity.
Don’t go overboard with compliments directed at the interviewer or the company. These may sound disingenuous.
20. Not making yourself available during normal business hours
It may be difficult to fit a job interview into your schedule, especially if you’re already working full time, but hiring managers will usually expect job candidates to accommodate interviews during regular working hours. Be prepared to take vacation time if necessary.
21. Referring to any illegal activity
This is not the time to talk about recreational drug use or any other hobbies that violate the law or employer conduct policies
22. Being rude
Make a good impression on everyone you encounter. You never know whose opinion counts in the hiring process. “It’s important to be friendly to everyone because with my clients, we ask the receptionist, we ask the parking garage attendant, especially with higher-level roles, was this person respectful to you and friendly?”
23. Expressing desperation or anger
These traits are unattractive to hiring managers. No matter how strongly you may dislike your current job or how intensely you desire to land a new position, keep your emotions in check at the interview.
24. Neglecting to ask about next steps
At the end of your conversation, if the interviewer hasn’t offered information about what you should expect next in the hiring process, feel free to ask. This demonstrates you’re interested and keeps you informed.
25. Posting on social media about your interview
Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your potential new employer to see, and don’t tip your current employer off that you may be job hunting.