The day of your interview has arrived! You may have already thought about the things you need to do, such as iron your pants, triple-check your resume, and familiarize yourself with the route to the interview site. However, it’s important to remember the things you shouldn’t do during the interview process. To avoid ruining your chance of landing the job, read through 12 interview mistakes to avoid.
1. Show up late (or too early)
Arriving late to a job interview can set the wrong tone for the rest of the meeting. It may also imply that you could be late to work or important meetings in the future. If you are running late due to an unforeseen circumstance, you should communicate it to the hiring manager. This will ensure that they understand your tardiness is not a habit.
On the other hand, arriving much too early can have a downside as well. Doing so could inconvenience your interviewer, who may not be prepared to meet with you yet. Your interviewer may feel rushed or unprepared during the interview, which could negatively affect your chances. Ideally, you should aim to arrive around 10-15 minutes early. This will give you enough time to get acquainted with the surroundings and check in if necessary.
2. Arrive empty handed
It's always a good idea to bring extra copies of your resume to the interview. Even if you’re sure the interview panel will have their own, you can reference the extra resume if needed. Looking at a copy of your resume when answering questions about your work history or references can help you stay on track.
Depending on the job, you may also want to bring a relevant example of your work, such as an art portfolio or writing samples. Additionally, a cover letter can’t hurt your chances and really demonstrates your interest in the position. Bringing all of these recommended materials in a briefcase or binder is traditional business etiquette for interviews.
3. Brush off people who aren’t your interviewer
The interview process can start the moment you arrive at the place of business and may not end until you leave the parking lot. You will likely interact with people who aren't your interviewer, such as a receptionist or HR representative. It's probable that these people will report back on your attitude and demeanor during the interaction.
Even after your interview, other employees may be keeping an eye on you. They could observe how you handle rejection or if you boast about getting the job. Being professional and courteous with everyone you encounter can go a long way in the interview process. After all, these individuals could be your future colleagues.
4. Display poor body language
It’s normal to be nervous for an interview. However, you never want to accidentally convey that you aren’t interested in the job or internship. From the moment you walk in, make sure your body language is communicating what you want it to say.
Be engaged and attentive. Avoid slouching in your chair, crossing your arms, tapping your fingers, or twirling your hair. Instead, try to maintain eye contact, good posture, and a cheerful demeanor. These small but effective adjustments will help you seem more confident and convey your genuine interest in the interview.
5. Dress improperly
You’ve probably heard the saying, “dress for the job you want.” However, you may want to take it a step further. Dressing slightly above the company's typical dress code is key. For example, if the office dress code is casual, wear something that’s business casual. No matter what you decide on, you’ll still want to dress appropriately. Avoid anything that might be too flashy or revealing.
If you're unsure about the dress code, make an educated guess. Opting for business casual or trending professional attire is almost always a safe choice. You can demonstrate your attention to detail and professionalism through your outfit. Plus, your attire can make a lasting impression on recruiters and show them that you're serious about the job.
6. Check your phone
Giving your full attention during an interview is important for making a good impression. If your interviewer senses that you are more interested in your phone than in the conversation, your resume is likely to end up at the bottom of the pile. It's standard practice to silence your phone during an interview.
At the time of your interview, there is no one who’s more important than your interviewer. In the case of an emergency, they will hopefully be understanding. Nonetheless, being respectful to your interviewer should be your priority. Your messages or social media notifications will still be on your phone later. If you don’t want to take the chance of distraction, consider leaving your phone in your car or on silent in your briefcase or purse.
7. Speak negatively about your former employer
It’s common for an interviewer to ask you about your job history. Even if you had a terrible experience at your previous job, it's never a good idea to rant about your frustrations to a potential employer. Doing so can reflect negatively on you and your attitude.
Instead, find a polite way to express your feelings about your previous work environment. For instance, avoid saying things like "I hated my coworkers and my boss never let me have any time off." Instead, say something like, “I found that I didn't have a good work-life balance at my previous job, and I'm hoping to create meaningful connections with new colleagues. I have found both are important to me.” This way, you can be honest while still presenting yourself in a positive light.
8. Be dishonest about your achievements
When searching for a job, some people will try anything to get hired. They may exaggerate their accomplishments and awards on their resume or in the interview. These individuals assume that the hiring committee won't have the time to fact-check every applicant. Yet, most employers evaluate candidates closely. Some even check your social media accounts, which is why it’s important to present yourself accurately when job hunting.
Although dishonest applicants may not get caught during the interview, fabrications about their work or education records will begin to catch up to them. When these individuals can't perform the tasks they claimed to have expertise in, it’s a red flag for employers. Ultimately, the truth always surfaces, making honesty the best policy when it comes to job searching.
9. Ramble without direction
Some candidates believe that the longer the interview, the greater their chances of getting hired. As a result, candidates may give unclear answers and ramble in an attempt to prolong the interview. Although complete answers are good, there is a fine line between detailed and drawn-out responses.
To make a good impression, try to respond to the question as completely and concisely as possible. This demonstrates that you understand the question and that you're not trying to avoid answering it. If you have a long story to share, make sure that it's relevant to the question and your skills to do the job.
10. Know nothing about the company
You will most likely be asked an interview question about the company you are interviewing with, which means you need to be well-prepared. This is meant to separate the people who applied for the first position they found when they searched “summer jobs in college” from the people who are actually passionate about the company.
Start by browsing the company's website and read their mission statement. Pay attention to the company's social media presence, culture, and values. You can also look up the company’s competition and major players in the market. Even if you're not directly asked a question about the company, you can find ways to incorporate your company knowledge into the responses to the other questions.
11. Have no questions
One of the top job interview tips is to ask questions. Asking thoughtful questions is the best way to demonstrate your interest to your employer. It indicates that you are not afraid to ask for more information or clarification on a particular subject. Employers like when candidates can clearly communicate.
When it comes to approaching sensitive topics though, it's recommended that you discuss money or time towards the end of the interview. If you're struggling to come up with questions, here are some simple ones to ask regardless of whether you're applying for an internship or full-time position:
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
- What are the most important attributes that an employee should have to succeed at this company?
- Can you describe what a typical day looks like in this role?
- Do you have any reservations about hiring me?
12. Forget to follow-up
Whether the job offer is put on the table or the company needs a little more deliberation, you should follow up with a thank you note. It is usually best to send a thank you card or email within 24 hours of the interview. In the waiting and anticipation after an interview, most people forget to follow-up.
Sending a thank you is a small gesture that requires very little effort. This gesture also shows that you value their time and may give you an edge over other candidates. Remember to be authentic in your follow-up. Finally, try to mention something noteworthy from the interview, such as your shared appreciation for pet turtles.
It might seem like there are endless rules to follow during an interview, but it really comes down to just one: be polite. After you realize you only need good etiquette, you are free to focus on the things you should do in an interview, such as giving a firm handshake and making eye contact. With these tips in mind, you will be on your way to joining the company of your dreams in no time. Good luck!
📃Think your resume is perfect? Check out these 14 Common Resume Mistakes to Avoid.
💼To prepare yourself better for your job interview, check out How to Present Yourself Online When Job-Hunting.