I remember the days of countless interviews. Dressing up in fancy outfits, folding the cuffs of your pants just right. Rushing to the business location, crossing multiple fingers to help avoid an unsightly pit stain. The nerves, the job interview mistakes, and the lump caught in your throat.
If you have moved on to the interview process for your dream job, you are in for a world of anxiety. At this point, you have earned enough interest from the employer to see what you are all about. You have gotten past the hardest stage. Now, as a top-tier candidate, you will need to impress verbally and physically, showing the employer that you are the right fit for the job.
Unfortunately, there are a plethora of interview mistakes that can be made during the process (some of them are worse than others). Therefore, it’s essential to brush up on all of your etiquette before heading toward the meeting.
As a staffing agency, we deal with holding interviews every single day. We know a thing or two about how to handle them. Therefore, we will break down the 10 most critical job interview mistakes and how to avoid them!
On average, 100-200 applicants apply to each job posting on online job sites. While an alarming statistic at first glance, it’s important to realize the grand scale involved here. Indeed, for example, had over 665.2 million unique global visitors in 2022. Though popular jobs may receive an outrageous number of applicants, the site has clever ways of weeding through the traffic.
Therefore, by the time you are chosen for a full interview, you have a 36.89% chance of receiving a job offer. Henceforth, it’s not as easy to receive an interview invitation as you may believe. Hiring managers are already bogged down by countless resumes and applications to oversee. If you are asked to come in for an interview, you are already in the later stages of the recruitment process. You are this close to winning out.
Whether that makes personal pressure higher or lower is up to you. Some may find themselves more stressed by being one of eight than one of 200. Regardless, you are one great interview away from receiving the job offer. Avoid those interview mistakes, and you should be calling yourself freshly employed.
1. Arriving Unprepared
If you have visited our site before (thank you), then you know how we feel about job interview preparedness. It’s the single most crucial part of winning any job! Kinda.
There is no quicker way to lose an interview than to forget what job you’re interviewing for. Right?
While a hyperbolic example, the point still stands. Before entering the interview, you need to know everything you can about the job, position, and business. Not only does it allow you to tailor your questions to impress the interviewer, but it shows how much you care about getting the gig.
For example, if you know a small fact about the company and find a way to inject it into one of your answers, you show the interviewer that you went the extra mile before showing up. At the end of the day, companies want to hire employees that want to work for them. Doing your research shows them that you hold that trait.
This goes for simple questions, too. If you did not look over your resume and brush up on example questions, the interviewer will know. Even the most seasoned of interviewees need to take a breath and speak a few lines into the mirror before showing up. Just do a quick practice and read over a few examples. Don’t be the one to forget where you went to college.
Psst. We broke down 32 interview questions and answers here.
What to do:
Overall, ask yourself how you can prove you went the extra mile. Try to figure out the company’s culture. Read reviews on job boards by former employees to sense how the business operates. Do they seem artistic and expressive? Do they implement lightheartedness on their website? Are they serious and to the point?
It isn’t prying to look up the hiring manager on LinkedIn to get a sense of them. Overall, you’re attempting to sell yourself to them during the interview process. Tailor your responses to the company’s values.
Secondly, find ways to prove you did extensive research without outright saying it. For example, if you found that the company worked on a specific study a few years ago, bring it up in conversation organically. “I saw that you did a study about IT back in 2017. I, too, worked on a similar study at my last company.”
If the hiring manager mentions something about you doing your research or knowing the company well, you’re already a step above other candidates.
After all, knowing how to stand out in your job interview starts with acknowledging how the job wants you to stand out.
2. Arriving Late Or Not At All
The quickest way to sour a potential employer is to not show up to the interview. A study by Teamstage found that 76% of all rejections stem from unprofessional correspondence. Missing a meeting is a key example of unprofessional correspondence.
Almost all jobs have a no-tolerance policy for ‘No Call No Shows’ once you are an employee. Then, why would they even hire someone that started their working relationship with a No Call No Show? It’s doomed from the start.
If you miss your interview, you are likely to get pushed behind in priority. If for some unfortunate reason, you have an undeniable excuse for the absence, you need to let the employer know immediately. Some situations are entirely out of your control.
We broke down exactly what to do in this situation here, but we will paraphrase.
What to do:
- Be Truthful and Apologetic
- Don’t Be Too Apologetic, Though
- Ask if You Can Reschedule
- Follow Up With an Email
- Learn From This
This may go without saying, but you need to reach out to the interviewer as soon as possible. By as soon as possible, we mean twenty minutes ago.
We usually recommend in-person conversations for any professional scenario, but this is a different situation. Immediate response is needed when you miss a job interview. Do not wait until you are present at the interview location (if you are showing up in person). Give the employer a call immediately. If they do not answer your call, send them a quick email. We will get to that.
If you notice that you are going to be late for some reason (i.e. car trouble, traffic, family emergency) and you are fully aware that tardiness is inbound, reach out to them as soon as possible. Do not try to press your luck, flying through a traffic jam with reckless abandon. Get ahead of the situation and reach out to them before the set interview time.
If you let the company know you may be late and end up being on time, oh well. It’s better than calling once late.
3. Being Underdressed
There’s a weird and ironic feeling buried within our social psyche. Most people are afraid to be overdressed for an interview, just as much as they fear being underdressed. It’s almost as if wearing a suit for a job that doesn’t require it is embarrassing and unbecoming.
To that we say nay!
A survey by Nvision found that 75% of the interviewers surveyed admitted that dressing stylishly “mattered” at their company. Furthermore, about 41% of male and 47.4% of female hiring managers believed a job applicant dressed formally would be a better fit for their company than a casually dressed one.
What does all that mean? Well, you are infinitely better off being overdressed than underdressed. Even if the job is not white-collar or high-end, you should still dress business casual, at least. You should always look to dress to impress, for physical appearance will always be the first impression given to hiring managers (even if the concept is vain). It’s just psychology!
Do not show up to your interview in casual clothes. Even if the job is something casual, do not dress like it. It’s an easy way to lose out on a dream gig. The vainest of interview mistakes.
What to do:
Knowing how to stand out in your job interview is more than just what you say. You want to look good, and when you look good, you feel good.
While this does not mean to go full Craig Sager with a floral suit, you do want to stick out physically. Dress within the confines of professional attire, but have a look the hiring manager will remember.
Ultimately, remember that there are psychological values behind colors and patterns. Brighter colors like red and green exude confidence, while darker colors like black and grey show power and drama.
As stated, showing personality is pivotal. Your appearance for interviews is more than just looking well-put-together.
4. Talk Too Much
Nicole Williams, career expert and founder of WORKS by Nicole Williams, told Media Bistro, “Interviewers are of course looking to learn about you and get a sense of your personality. However, what they really want is someone who is succinct, articulate, and pensive.”
When asked to speak about yourself, you can find your mind and tongue wandering down an anxious rabbit hole. You may begin spewing out information, opinions, and attempts at jokes. While you may believe it to be an endearing trait, it’s not the best for interviews. Cap your word vomit. Speaking too much is one of the biggest interview mistakes.
Ultimately, an interview is a negotiation process. You are presenting what you bring to the table in a concise manner. You don’t want to waste time and ears with a load of information. Being elegant in your speech and picking articulate sentences shows that you are a master of the work you are doing. It shows that you understand your job enough to simplify it. It also shows that you are confident and practiced for the interview.
You don’t need to give your life story. Speaking too much shows unpreparedness and nerves. It causes the interviewee to tune out, killing the interview.
Don’t Talk Enough
We are about to contradict ourselves. Isn’t interviewing fun?
Not speaking enough is also one of our interview mistakes. Ultimately, giving short and undetailed answers shows that you don’t know enough about your job or field. It also paints you in a lackadaisical light, as if you don’t care about the interview.
Don’t seem like you want to be anywhere but there. Practice your answers and be ready to give clear and refined information.
What to do:
Every interview question answer should be brief and precise (hence practicing). Rambling shows a sense of unpreparedness and lack of focus. You want to pinpoint your answer, speak clearly and articulate your point quickly.
There are examples of interview questions that can stretch beyond two minutes, but those are often industry-specific. For basic questions like “What skill sets do you provide over others?” your answer should be swift. Keep it under two minutes.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t worry about covering all bases. If the interviewer has further questions, they will ask them. You aren’t going to get penalized for not touching on every little detail. Take a deep breath!
5. Speak Negatively About Your Past
Personally, we consider speaking negatively about your past the biggest of interview mistakes. Listen up!
There’s nothing that turns an employer away from a candidate faster than negativity and insults. No one wants to hire an employee that brings negativity and toxicity to the workplace. Therefore, you should avoid badmouthing your past at all costs.
Do not (I cannot repeat this enough) speak negatively about your former workplace, teammates, or employers. Even if the interviewer asks about why you left your last job, you should not begin spewing insults and blame. It’s the quickest way to show an employer that you should not be a part of their workforce.
6. Speak Negatively At All
We’ll take this even further. At the end of the day, there is no need for negativity. It doesn’t benefit anyone.
Don’t speak negatively about anything. Don’t make self-deprecating jokes or snide remarks about yourself.
A job interview is the process of selling yourself to a company. You want to show them that you are bringing positivity, good energy, and a great work ethic to their business. Showing any negativity is a good way to crush all of those emotions.
What to do:
Your answer should ALWAYS be positive. We cannot bold and underline this adjective enough. Positive, positive, positive.
One of the biggest damnations of interviews is speaking negatively about yourself, previous employers, or previous coworkers. There should never be a single bad phrase leaving your lips. It’s that simple. This is not your time to hop on a soapbox and rant about your former coworkers. This is not the time to explain how you left your previous job because your boss was seedy, your company was distasteful, or your job was excruciating.
Not only does expressing negativity make you seem like a negative and/or toxic employee, but it crushes your first impression. Bad-mouthing your previous employer does not do the damage you believe it would. It hurts you, not the former company.
Yes, sometimes you may have to speak between clenched teeth and bitten tongues, but it’s necessary here. Never lie, but try to be as unbiased as possible in your answer.
7. Being Unconfident
How can an interviewee be sure of you if you aren’t sure of yourself? Not too far from the infamous quote “How can you find someone to love you if you don’t love yourself?”
There’s some truth in the cliche. A report by Jobspin found that 39% of the candidates leave a bad impression due to their overall confidence level, voice quality, or lack of a smile.
As stated, you are attempting to sell yourself to the interviewer. You shouldn’t be completely cocky, stating that you can do anything or that you are better at your job than the interviewer, but you should be sure of your abilities for the role. Even just believing in yourself to do the job well will shine through in your answers.
A plethora of job interview mistakes surround being unconfident in your abilities and interviewing skills.
What to do:
Confidence is the most important attribute to portray when entering a job interview. Sure. You don’t want to sound braggadocious, but you do want to be sure of your abilities.
Be confident in yourself. Remember who you are and all that you can achieve. You can do this.
Therefore, do not be afraid to talk yourself up. Bravado is impressionable, and companies want to hire someone that does not second-guess their skills.
Let them know what you bring to the company and how you can improve what they’re doing. For example, if the job calls for IT but you have knowledge of sales, let them know how you can implement your outside skills.
If the employer asks you to rate yourself on a scale of one to ten, don’t be modest. Say you think you are a 10 because you’re willing to do whatever it takes to succeed (this is my favorite tip).
8. Poor Body Language
We are about to throw a plethora of statistics at you regarding body language interview mistakes.
- 67% of recruiters feel that eye contact is crucial to making a good impression. – Jobspin
- 30% of hiring managers identified bad handshakes as a prominent reason why candidates might leave a bad impression. – Careerbuilder
- 33% of recruiters know if they’ll hire someone within the first 90 seconds. – SeedScientific
- 65% of candidates that don’t make eye contact don’t get the job. – SeedScientific
What does all of that say? Body language is huge in instilling confidence in yourself and your potential employer. If you have an uncaring demeanor, slumped and unconfident posture, a weak handshake, or avoid eye contact, you will show the employer you are not fit to be a leader and team member.
What to do:
More so than saying confident things, you want to express confident energy. Make sure to keep eye contact and good posture during the interview.
Do not cross your arms or seem bored. Keeping a straight back and eye contact will let the interviewer know you’re both engaged and excited.
If you’re particularly bad at eye contact, force your way through it. The interview will not last forever. The effort will pay off in the long run. You’ve got this!
Make sure that you speak loudly and clearly throughout the entire interview. If you are a naturally quiet person, you may feel like you are screaming. We promise you aren’t.
Keep eye contact and a smile when you shake the interviewer’s hand. Sturdy and strong!
9. Don’t Ask Questions
At the end of every interview, the hiring manager will open up the field for questions. This is an opportunity for you, the candidate, to ask any questions regarding the job, company, and tasks at hand. If you don’t, you may look unprepared.
Long story short, you can use unique questions to separate yourself as a candidate. According to a study by Forbes, only 20% of applicants are interviewed. You need to stand out on more than just your resume.
If you ask the right things, you can raise the attention of hiring managers, leaving them with a lasting impression of positivity. Seeing as the questions part of an interview is often the last subject, it’s the best time to leave them wanting more.
It’s your time to shine. Don’t make the simplest of interview mistakes.
If you do not ask questions, the hiring manager may see you as interested. This is your chance to let them know just how curious and serious you are about the position. You have done your research about the company and role and need to know more.
What to do:
The main questions you ask should involve how the position works and how you can grow into the role. You can also use this as a chance to ask questions you legitimately have. For example, sometimes interviews don’t go over working hours or requirements. Feel free to ask about them here.
- What does a successful candidate look like in this position?
- What type of candidate are you trying to avoid in this position?
- If selected, what are the top five things you would want me to work on within the first 30 days?
Some red flag questions would be asking about how soon you would expect to be promoted to the next level. Another red flag would be if you ask the manager to explain the details of the benefits package before you are made an offer.
In general, a great candidate asks follow-up questions showing genuine concern about how they can be successful in the position. At the end of the day, the interview questions shouldn’t be just for the candidate.
We broke down 10 unique questions to ask to stand out here.
10. Don’t Follow Up
The last of the interview mistakes we’ll talk about comes after the interview.
A few days after the interview (we say two-to-three), you should send an email or handwritten letter to the manager (if possible). Let them know that you appreciate them taking the time to speak with you and that you are excited about the potential opportunity.
This action may seem overbearing, but it goes a long way. This shows respect and appreciation, things that reflect positively on your character. At the end of the day, the manager did take the time out of their day to meet with you. Even if you don’t get the job, you should still thank them for using company resources on you.
It also gives you a quick way to learn if you got the job. Sometimes managers are extremely busy and forget to get back to you about your position in the hiring process. Emailing them thank you can jumpstart the process.
And those are our top interview mistakes to avoid!
Remember to be confident in yourself, be present, and be professional. You’ve got this!