Interview mistakes are always costly, but they’re deadly if you’re unaware of them and continue to make them during every interview going forward.
That’s a problem that never ends and will always cost you great jobs, unless you fix it today—which is my goal.
And if you’ve struggled to get jobs, the good news is you can improve and dominate interviews in the future.
My mission in writing this is to shine a light on common interview blunders and tell you how to improve. Ideally, you will never again shoot yourself in the foot during an interview.
If you make these mistakes it’s time you know so you can develop your interview game and fix these weaknesses.
It’s only then will you have a chance to stand out among all the other applicants to win job offers.
And if you don’t struggle in these areas, then you should be extremely confident going into your next interview. Because you know your competition will surely make these errors.
Let’s take a look at the most common 11 interview mistakes so you can determine how well you interview.
Deadly Interview Mistakes
1. You dress unprofessional
First impressions only take about seven seconds to make, so you need to be on your game the moment they first look at you.
A baggy, unfitted suit for a professional job interview will suggest that your ability and value to their company is also not high quality.
And now you’re starting behind the eight ball before you even say hi and tell them about yourself. Talk about a bad start.
Where if you dress in a nice-looking, fitted suit, you pass the initial test and make your first impression a good one.
Dressing well will also give you confidence the rest of the interview and this will come out in your interview answers.
This is example one, including the rest of this list, where the little actions add up to make or break your performance.
2. You show up late
You’d have to have something wrong inside your head to think showing up late is not a problem— like this girl definitely has a screw loose.
Being tardy is disrespectful to the interviewer’s time, displays your poor time management skills, and gives the impression you’re not serious about securing the job.
Three strikes and you’re out. As my friend Evan says, “That’s pathetic.”
The only thing worse than showing up late is not showing up at all.
I don’t care if there’s an accident, a time change the night before, or some other deterrent, you should plan to show up early so you at least make it on time.
Ways to ensure you’re not late are to plan on showing up 15 minutes early, write down the address and know how to get there, and plan ahead for parking if the company doesn’t have their own lot.
Just don’t be late.
3. You don’t bring your resume
Truth is you never know who is going to interview you and if they’ve seen your interview in advance or not.
That’s why it’s always wise to print off a few extra documents, just in case.
Remember these are busy hiring managers and executives who often don’t have time to review your resume before the interview. So many of them will review your resume and ask the questions on the fly.
If they don’t need your resume or already printed it off, it doesn’t hurt to bring it. And if they ask for it, you’ll come off as prepared if you have it instead of unprepared if you don’t.
The only way you lose is if you don’t bring it.
4. You forget to smile
In case you didn’t know, smiling is the universal language for kindness. Go to any faraway culture or land, and a smile is the same: a warm welcome and expression of kindness.
Smiling when you first introduce yourself, throughout the interview, and after as you’re saying goodbye, sends the message that you’re likable and you will get along with the rest of the team if you’re hired.
If you forget to smile, you give off the vibe that you’re not a happy or friendly person and could have issues working well together with other employees, or (even worse) be unfriendly to clients or customers.
So remember to smile and you’ll improve your interview success rate.
5. You’re clearly underprepared
Not doing your homework will come out during the course of any interview.
You may struggle to answer why you want to work for the company or what you know about the company. And you will struggle to cater your interview answers to their specific needs and wants.
Why not come prepared and rock the interview?
Spend an hour or two to research the company. Then go a few more hours to prepare your interview answers and consider how you’d respond to different questions they might ask.
You’d study more than a few hours for a college exam, I’d hope, and this job interview is far more important. Treat it as such.
Show you truly want the job or you won’t get the job. It’s that simple in the hiring process.
6. You have weak eye contact
This is as much a social skill as it’s a career skill.
Eye contact communicates confidence, trustworthiness, and focus on the task at hand.
Whereas scattered eyes sends the message that you’re either unsure of yourself, untrustworthy in your interview answers, or unfocused. None of these signals will help your cause for landing this job.
A few ways to improve your eye contact are to:
- Focus looking at one eye
- Look long enough to discover the interviewer’s eye color before you look away
- Break your eye contact by nodding your head, making a hand gesture, or smiling
- Make eye contact while you talk and listen
Too much eye contact can be awkward, so find a happy medium.
7. You talk with fluff and generalities
So you say you’re extremely hard working, passionate, and organized? Cool, so are 99% of the other candidates.
Generalities don’t persuade any interviewer that you can perform for their company and provide value.
The only way you’re going to separate yourself from the pack is if you don’t answer their questions with fluff.
Your answers need to include specific, concrete stories of where you performed and made a difference in your previous work experiences. That’s how you convince them that you’re a winning candidate.
If you don’t know how to respond with powerful interview answers that knock these questions out of the park, you need to check out my book The Golden Resume.
8. You’re arrogant
Want to know the best way to piss off an interviewer and lose the job? Act like you’re better than the job, interviewer, or the company.
Even if you’re far more skilled and experienced than all of the other candidates, nobody likes a jerk.
And you need the interviewer to like you because they’re the ones who give feedback to their superiors on whether you go forward or get rejected.
Plus, since company culture is increasingly important, companies would rather have a kid who is coachable than a know-it-all who doesn’t play nice with others.
To be clear, I’m a big advocate for selling yourself to get the job. But be confident and poised, not cocky and annoying.
9. You bad mouth your old boss or company
Ripping on your old manager or company doesn’t make you stand out. And it could cause you a lot of harm.
Because they’re going to secretly think something like, “There are always two sides to every story, what did you do to cause this?” Or, “If we hire them, it’s only a matter of time before this bad apple turns sour on us.”
And the interviewer could very well side with your old manager when you present the situation.
That’s another issue you avoid if you never bring it up in the first place.
Stay professional and polished. Don’t sling your old employer in the mud or you’ll get dirty too.
10. You don’t ask questions (or good questions)
It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question. – Eugene Ionesco
I doubt Eugene used this in reference to how to interview well, but he nailed this idea.
It’s a major red flag to not ask any questions. That means you’re not educated enough about the company to ask or you just don’t care about getting the job.
And while most applicants give cookie cutter questions, successful job candidates will separate themselves by asking great questions.
These questions will indirectly advance the thought that you’re a quality candidate who is serious about getting this job. That means you’re winning half the battle already.
If you have an interview coming or you’re interested in what to ask, read 15 questions to ask interviewers.
The questions in that article are sure to impress and lead to valuable feedback.
11. You forget to take note of their name and email
How can you write a solid thank you letter to the interviewer if you don’t grab their name and email? That’s the point, you can’t.
So what could have been a cherry on top of your performance—by thanking them for their time and reiterating your interest in the position—is another missed opportunity.
And CareerBuilder did a study that found 33% of hiring managers think less of applicants who don’t send thank you notes. Meaning there is a real benefit in sending one.
By now I’ve made this clear multiple times, since job searches are extremely competitive, if you get lazy in any area then it will show up and cost you.
Let’s not have that happen to you. Just ask for their business card to get their name and email, and then send the email after the interview.
Execute The Interview Like A Pro
Some of these little mistakes on this list wouldn’t cost you if you were one of five candidates interviewing for the position.
However the average corporate job attracts 250 resumes according to this Glassdoor finding. This means you have to be diligent to the tee if you want this job offer.
So how do you win the company over? Doing the opposite of the mistakes above is the bare minimum to stay in consideration.
This won’t set you apart from the good candidates.
That’s why you also need to go on the offensive to separate from the pack and win over interviewers. Your strategy and execution is what convinces them to hire you.
How do you strategize? It all starts with preparation.
You have to first know what job you want and why you want it before you every craft your resume, apply, or interview.
Though this takes more work than blasting off 100 applications on Monster, it will save you from wasting time down the road from working at jobs that you don’t enjoy.
Once you know the type of job and companies you want to work for, it’s time to start researching them. This preparation is critical because you’ll pick up valuable insights on what it is their company is precisely about and how employees succeed there.
All of this preparation will be used to write a specific resume, create your cover letter, and answer interview questions.
Speaking of what to say in the actual interview, here’s my biggest tip: Remember it’s all about what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you.
Sell yourself to these companies by communicating how you can provide value to them in each and every answer.
The top selling points you can give to a company include:
- Previous experience
- Relevant skills
- Strong referral
- Intense desire
- Great personality
Talent expert Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, who has interviewed more than 20,000 candidates, tells candidates to, “Show the connection between what you have achieved and what is really needed to succeed in the specific job and context.”
That’s right on the money! Because if you’ve performed well in a similar position and tell stories about it, you make it easy for the interviewer to connect the dots that you’d perform in this job.
When you defensively don’t commit silly mistakes and offensively go on the attack to stand out, you’re going to wind up with a whole bunch of job numbers.
Once your approach is rock solid, it’s only a numbers game of networking and applying until you secure a great job that makes you happy.
And the good news is you get to take everything you learn now with you for the rest of your career and future interviews.
So it’ll pay off now and later to develop interviewing skills. Best get started today!