17 Most Common Job Interview Mistakes You Must Avoid to Get a New Job
Ever walk out of an interview thinking you absolutely sealed the deal? With a light pep in your step, you’re ready to embark on a celebratory dinner that’s sure to accompany an impending offer. But then, the call doesn’t come. Days later, you follow up (as any serious job seeker would do), and you hear nothing. It’s radio silence all the way.
Well, no offense, but it’s probably something you said — or something you did — maybe without even knowing. The job search can be a long and gruesome row to hoe, with many interview do’s and don’ts getting buried beneath the weeds.
So it’s time for a refresher course on interview mistakes. Some you might know, but others you might have forgotten (such as No. 9). Regardless, you should avoid these mistakes at all costs when looking for a new job.
1. Practicing bad hygiene
Bad hygiene is a surefire way to land your application in the trash. Sloppy clothes and unwashed hair can be off-putting to anyone, especially hiring managers. Pay close attention to your hygiene. Do you, um, smell funny? Your days of showing up to an 8 a.m. class disheveled after a Thursday night full of college frat parties are over. Wear a subtle amount of perfume, and remember to apply deodorant. Comb your hair, and brush your teeth. An overpowering aroma will definitely make you a memorable candidate — but not in the way you’d hoped.
You better get your timing down …
2. Arriving late
Arriving to your interview late is, by and large, the worst first impression you can make. Unexpected traffic jams and reroutes due to construction are regular occurrences these days. But phone apps eliminate any excuses for not showing up on time. Do everything you can to arrive at least 5 minutes early to an interview, and demonstrate to the employer that you are — and always will be — someone he or she can count on.
But don’t get there too early …
3. Arriving too early
You accounted for potential roadblocks on your way to the interview and gave yourself some breathing room, just in case. Then, you hit every green light in town and found a parking spot right next to the entry door. Should you keep the momentum alive and head upstairs 20 minutes early to your interview? Absolutely not. Just like arriving late looks bad, arriving to early is flat out inconvenient to your interviewer. Now, you must wait awkwardly in the lobby while the hiring team scrambles to print out your resume, wrap up that email they’ve been painstakingly drafting, and mentally prepare your interview questions before coming to greet you. Instead, take the extra time to compose yourself in your car, and begin your trek indoors 10-15 minutes before your scheduled appointment.
4. Forgetting your resume
Yes, the company already has your resume on file, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring extra copies with you. This is an opportunity to showcase professionalism when the hiring manager asks Sue from accounting to sit in on this meeting last minute. More than likely, Sue has had little time to prepare for you and probably has zero background info on your experience. Here’s where you save the day by saying, “Hi Sue, here’s a copy of my resume for you to reference during our conversation.”
Also, having your resume handy can also act as a cheat sheet for your background and accomplishments, should you get tongue tied and nervous during the interview.
5. No pen and paper
Remember to bring a pen and paper along to take notes. This proactive approach shows you’re serious about the opportunity and are actively listening for important details. For example, in the midst of the chaos, you might forget the aforementioned hiring timeline they provided or the key responsibility of the position you’d be expected to resolve as a new employee. Use this paper to subtly jot down quick key points you want to either mention or remember before leaving.
6. Using bad language
Just because you passed two pool tables, a vending machine, and a napping nook on the way in doesn’t mean you can throw away all sense of responsibility and let a curse word fly during your interview. You should always stay professional, no matter how casual the environment. Refrain from using slang, distracting filler phrases, and curse words when making your case. If you wouldn’t say it to your preacher, don’t say it to your interviewer.
7. Forgetting the interviewer’s name
The psychology behind repetitive use of someone’s name explains why sales people are continually referencing their counterparts’ names in conversation. Research shows using a name can boost ego and grab attention. Although this can be an effective interview strategy, it can also be a costly mistake. The human resources representative almost always provides you with the name of your interviewer, whether it be in a confirmation email or during your last conversation. Don’t forget it or say the wrong one. Instead, write it down on the pen and paper you remembered to bring.
8. Not researching the company
We all cyber stalk our dates beforehand, so why not do the same for our potential employers? Failing to do preliminary research on the company before your interview will most likely land you in a tangled web of confusion. Perform high-level company research to help you ask targeted, industry-specific questions while you have the chance. Asking a question that’s already answered in full on the company website shows a lack of preparedness and laziness — neither of which will get you hired.
9. Badmouthing your previous boss or job
Spoiler alert: The interviewer will ask you why you’re looking for another job at some point during the interview process. This is not your cue to word vomit about your boss’ lack of leadership capabilities or the complete mess that was your previous job. Your resume probably boasted about your ability to work well with others and establish meaningful relationships, right? Speaking negatively about your previous place of employment will quickly debunk all resume claims and suggest you’ll be a dramatic, high-maintenance new hire.
10. Speaking rudely to a receptionist or HR representative
Remember those horror stories about cutting off your potential boss in the parking lot or failing to hold the elevator for a new teammate? Don’t let that be you. Your overall impression, good or bad, begins in the parking lot. You are judged from the moment you walk in the door. Know that voices carry in small offices, so you must be kind to everyone you encounter, including the receptionist, the HR generalist, and the security attendant. You never know when big brother or sister is watching.
Let’s further elaborate on first impressions with this next common interview mistake …
11. Not shaking hands with everyone
Studies have proven that handshakes, eye contact, and other nonverbal communication cues all affect your ability to make a favorable first impression. A good handshake shows confidence and appropriate manners, while eye contact shows interest and warmth. But let’s be clear: Intense, prolonged eye contact is creepy, and bone-crushing handshakes hurt, to put it simply. The key is to land somewhere in the middle, allowing for a personal connection with everyone in the room. Without this, you’re just another candidate going through the motions with no invested interest — or so it seems.
12. Dominating the conversation
There’s nothing worse than being stuck in a conversation that goes on and on with no end in sight. To eliminate run-on sentences and never-ending thoughts, strive to make your interview answers succinct. You should never talk more than half the time for fear that your interviewer might zone out. For help on this topic, refer back to kindergarten communication basics, and use the “you talk, then I talk” format.
13. Asking inappropriate questions
One interview mistake that sparks a lot of debate between industry experts is when it is appropriate to discuss benefits or salary expectations. Debra Auerbach of Careerbuilder writes that a risk in “bringing up the salary topic too early in the hiring process is that it can take the focus away from the case you’re trying to build for why you should be hired.” Inquiring too early can be off-putting, but waiting until an offer is made might waste everyone’s time if it’s not within your wage needs. Combat this conundrum by having a range in mind you’re prepared to discuss at a moment’s notice. Sites, such as Glassdoor and Payscale, can help you determine your financial worth up front.
However, the alternative to asking inappropriate questions is just as damaging. Keep this in mind when reading about the next most common interview mistake.
14. Asking no questions at all
Sometimes it helps to remember you’re not the only one being interviewed today. You’re also interviewing the company panel to determine whether this opportunity is the right move for your individual career goals. Don’t waste valuable face time. Have your own list of questions ready to gauge whether you’d fit with the company. The detailed questions can come later. Questions, such as, “What’s a typical day like here?” or “Why are you looking for a new employee to fill this position?” will help guide you in the right direction.
15. Taking another call
Answering a text during an interview is disruptive and unnecessary. But you wouldn’t do that, right? No way, not you. Checking your phone, taking a call, failing to remove your Bluetooth — it’s the best way to show your employer this job is not your top priority. To avoid making this costly interview mistake, silence your phone, and place it in your bag where it can’t be caught tempting you with notifications.
16. Failing to make a case
Amid all the stress, nerves, and social cues, you might actually forget to make a convincing case for yourself upon leaving the room. Know with every inquiry made, you must demonstrate how your past experiences directly relate to the job in question. During an interview, you cannot allow your resume to speak for itself any longer. Be specific with your accomplishments, and address how you plan to utilize them. Failing to identify the strengths and abilities you bring to the table could be the reason the employer decides to pass on you as a candidate.
17. Failing to ask for a job
There’s a term in sales that suggests you remember your ABCs. It stands for “always be closing.” When the interview ends, ask what the next steps in their hiring process are in an effort to move the process along. There are plenty of candidates who won’t proactively fight for a job they want. Don’t be that person. Find out whom your post-interview contact is and when and how to contact that person. Then, hope to seal the deal by expressing interest in the position again, and follow up with each person in a timely manner.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.