10 Signs You’re Not Prepared for a Job Interview

Stressed woman

Stressed woman before a job interview | iStock.com/Nastia11

You got called in for an interview, but that doesn’t mean the hard work is over. Now is the time to thoroughly research the company, gather a list of thoughtful questions, and practice your answers to some tough interview questions. If you think you can fake it ‘til you make it, you’re wrong. Your level of preparedness can usually be detected right away.

According to a Career Builder survey, half of employers said they can tell within the first five minutes of an interview if a candidate is a good fit for the position. Furthermore, in an Accountemps survey, hiring managers said it takes about 15 minutes to make a good impression. One way you can quickly make a good first impression is to be prepared. Here are 10 signs you’re not ready for a job interview.

1. You don’t have appropriate interview attire

young woman near rack with clothes

Young woman near rack with clothes | iStock.com/Dutko

Appearance counts, especially when you might be meeting your future boss for the first time. Roughly 50% of hiring managers said they have interviewed a job candidate who dressed inappropriately, according to Career Builder. Don’t be one of those candidates. Make sure you have an outfit that is appropriate for the type of job you will be applying for. Remember to pay attention to not only the style but also the color choice of the outfit you wear. Keep your look conservative. Your best bet is to stay away from anything over the top. If you don’t have anything to wear, now is the time to make a quick shopping trip. 

2. You didn’t review the company website

man at computer

Man at computer | Thinkstock

The corporate website should be your first stop when researching a potential employer. Don’t just rely on what your friend or a colleague said about a company. If you don’t make the time to review the company website, this demonstrates one thing: You’re lazy. Don’t think you’ll be able to get by without reading up on the organization. The interviewer (at least a good one) will pick up on this quite early. You won’t be able to adequately answer your interviewer’s questions unless you make some effort to do proper research.

Bob Bentz, president of Advanced Telecom Services, told The Cheat Sheet that he checks to see if potential employees have taken a look at the company website:

I ask candidates right away if they visited our website. If they say yes, I ask them specific questions about what they learned from the website. In many cases, I get, ‘I scanned it quickly’ or ‘I didn’t have time.’ What? You’re unemployed and you didn’t have time? With either of these answers, I can’t get rid of the candidate any quicker.

3. You don’t know what the company does

embarrassed man

Embarrassed man | iStock.com

If you didn’t review the company’s website, then you most likely don’t have a full understanding of what they do or who their major competitors are. Find this out before your interview. If you don’t know anything else about the company, at the very least research exactly what they do and know their three major competitors. This way, you’ll be able to ask intelligent questions at the end of the interview.

4. You can’t say why you want to work for the company

candidate in a job interview

Job interview | iStock.com

If you can’t explain why you want to work for the company, you should ask yourself why you’re even applying for the job. It’s not a good idea to just fire off a bunch of resumes without taking time to read the job description to see if you’re a good fit or if you even want to work there. This is a waste of your time as well as the interviewer’s time. Vettery’s director of people, Kenn Peters, told The Cheat Sheet it’s important to take time to evaluate the position in the context of your own work experience and goals. “Showing excitement for the company through tactful mentions of current company news is a great sign of preparedness as well,” adds Peters.

5. You didn’t read the job description

Shocked and surprised boy on the internet with laptop computer

Surprised boy on the internet with laptop computer | iStock.com/BrianAJackson

Sure, you’re desperate for work, but you should take a moment to read the entire job description — don’t just scan it. How can you do your best if you don’t even know what you’ll be responsible for? It’s important to read the job description thoroughly (and make sure you understand everything you’re reading) so that you can tell the employer how your skills align with what the employer is seeking. 

6. You can’t answer the question, “Tell me about yourself.”

Thinking young woman looking up at many question marks

Thinking young woman looking up at many question marks | iStock.com/SIphotography

You should be able to answer some basic interview questions. If you can’t deliver a satisfactory answer to a question like, “Tell me about yourself,” you’re in trouble. This is usually the first question hiring managers and recruiters will ask you, so you’ll need to be prepared. If you’re unable to explain something this basic, it shows that you really don’t care if you get the job. Instead of just winging it, spend time going through some of the most common interview questions so that you’re ready for the big day.

Andrew Pearl, a certified resume writer and interview coach, said candidates should be able to offer a concise, employer-focused value proposition. “Many candidates answer the question with a chronology of their personal lives, rather than a clear pitch outlining the top reasons they’re a good fit for the position,” Pearl told The Cheat Sheet. “To combat this problem prepare a brief proposition comprised of the key compelling points and examples from your career that relate to the requirements for the position.”

7. You’re unusually nervous

nervous stressed young woman

Nervous stressed young woman | iStock.com/SIphotography

The proper amount of preparation should calm your nerves somewhat. If you’re a nervous wreck and it shows, this will tip the interviewer off to the fact that you’re not adequately prepared. Do yourself a favor and practice with a mentor, a friend, or even by yourself in front of a mirror. Once you get the hang of the interview process, you’ll find that you will start to relax.

8. You don’t have a career plan

young woman is lying on the grass and thinking

Young woman is lying on the grass and thinking | iStock.com/LittleBee80

You should have an idea of where you want your career to go. Be prepared to let the interviewer know what you have planned for the future. This shows that you’ve put some thought into the types of jobs you’ve been seeking. Executive Recruiter Taylor Dumouchel told The Cheat Sheet this is a topic you should expect the interviewer to address. “In most interviews, you’re going to hear the question, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ If you don’t have any answer, it makes it seem as if you have no career ambitions or goals,” Dumouchel said. “You can remedy this situation by demonstrating how committing to their organization will help you develop a five-year plan.”

9. The interviewer calls you out on your lack of preparation


Interview | iStock.com

Some interviewers will call you out on your laziness. This is usually the kiss of death. If the interviewer is annoyed enough to tell you she knows you didn’t prepare, you’ve pretty much lost out on that job opportunity. Then again, this might be the wake-up call you need. Just make sure you learn your lesson and prepare for the next interview.

10. You’ve memorized all of your answers

Woman working on computer

Woman working on computer | iStock.com/undrey

Just because you memorized all of your answers doesn’t mean you’re prepared. All it means is that you can pretty much guarantee you’ll sound like a robot. Unless your interviewer has a thing for robots, you should avoid this approach. Professional resume writer Jewel Bracy DeMaio told The Cheat Sheet that it’s best to give an authentic response. DeMaio gave this advice:

Memorizing your answers is unnatural and robotic. I guarantee this will come off wrong. Interviewers can smell a rehearsed answer taken off the Internet from a mile away. So when you’re asked, for example, “What is your greatest weakness?” make sure not to reply with the old standard humble brag: “I’ve been told at times that I am a bit too much of a workaholic. I really am committed to getting the job done, and it frequently ends up with me staying later than most everyone else.

Instead, tell the interviewer about a weakness you’ve managed to overcome or one that you are learning to overcome. Just make sure the weakness is minor and has a reasonable solution.

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