The 6 Most Common Interview Mistakes — and How to Avoid Them
Job interviews can seem like an obstacle course, filled with traps that are just waiting for you to fall into them — one foot wrong and it’s game over.
In a recent survey by CV Library cited in HR Review, nearly 79% of employers said that candidates had annoyed them in some way during an interview.
And annoying the person with the power to hire you in a job interview is obviously not a good strategy for success.
Everyone makes mistakes: it’s human. But some can be prevented with a bit of thought, prior to the interview.
With that in mind, here are six of the most common interview mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Turning up late
If you want to sabotage your chances of success in an interview before you even open your mouth, turn up late.
Being late for an interview suggests that you aren’t organised, that you aren’t taking the opportunity seriously and that you don’t value the time of the person who’s interviewing you. It’s basically an issue of respect. Would you want to work with someone who kept you waiting 30 minutes, without any information as to why?
The key to not being late is preparation. Ahead of the interview make sure you:
•Wake up well in advance of the interview time
• Know what you’re going to wear
• Plan your travel
• Have the interviewer’s contact details
• Charge your mobile phone
Of course, life has a habit of throwing flat-tyres and broken-down buses at you, so you might end up late to an interview, despite your best efforts. If that happens, just get in touch with the interviewer and let them know the situation – communication is key. You can often salvage the situation and prevent any damage being done to your hiring chances by just contacting the person and keeping them updated.
2. Not doing any research
Interviews are scary because they’re unpredictable. You can usually be certain of one thing though — that you’re going to be asked what you know about the company. That said, you’d be surprised at the number of interviewees who don’t prepare for this obvious question, even though it’s the one with the most probability of coming up!
Employers use this question to find out how interested you are in the job and in them. They want to see your initiative and your interest in the role. Not having a decent answer makes you look uninterested and like you don’t really care whether you succeed. And that’s a big turn-off for employers.
You don’t need to become a leading expert in the entire history, ethos and operation of the company to answer the question — you just need to show you have a little bit of knowledge and that you can bring something to the company. If you're stuck for ideas of things to research, check out our blog on common interview questions that employers ask.
The internet is your friend when it comes to researching. The company website, Google searches and Wikipedia are all useful resources to have a look at.
3. Being dishonest
At some point in an interview, you might be tempted to lie, or at least bend the truth a little. Whilst that seems like a good idea at the time, it can end up costing you a job in the long term. Lying in a job interview is a big no-no.
Sometimes, it might seem like there’s no problem with a little white lie. But the problem is that lies have a tendency to come back to haunt you, and often end up blowing up in your face. (And then you’ll find yourself having to answer some awkward questions to your manager about why you actually don’t know how to operate that nuclear reactor.)
Honesty is always the best policy. By not lying, you’ll be giving the hiring manager a clear indication of your abilities, allowing them to accurately gauge whether you could perform the job to the standard that they expect.
It’s better to find out that you aren’t suited to a job in the interview itself, rather than deal with the stress of a capability review further down the line if you did get the job.
Be good. Be brave. Don’t lie.
4. Complaining about your previous employer
Have you ever been on a date with someone, and all they do is complain about their ex?
Annoying and boring, isn’t it?
It’s the same situation for the employer in a job interview when you keep moaning about your current or previous employer.
Bad-mouthing your previous employer can make you appear negative, petty and childish. It can often make employers think twice before inviting you to join their team.
If you need to answer a question about an experience you didn’t like, be diplomatic, honest and polite instead. Talk in an objective way, don’t ramble, and turn any negative into a positive by talking about what you learned from the situation.
5. Getting the dress code wrong
Dress codes are related to the type of culture at the company. They reflect the values that the company is trying to present. That’s why you see hipster shirts and Chelsea boots at a trendy marketing agency (“We’re cool but serious”), and waistcoats, blazers and ties at a bank (“We’re professional and trustworthy”).
When you’re preparing for an interview, choosing what to wear can be one of the most difficult things to get right. Misjudging the dress code can make you feel out of place and can affect your performance in the interview.
Choose something that’s similar to what people already wear at the company. Business casual is usually a good option.
Check the company’s website and social media profiles to find out what an employee there typically wears and copy that.
If you’re in any doubt, just ask! Send an email to the interviewer or recruiter ahead of time and ask about the dress code that the company uses. Doing this won’t make you look stupid — it will show that you’re being proactive and using your initiative.
6. Not asking questions
In a good interview, you should be working out if the company is a good fit for you, just as much as the company is working out if you’re a good fit for them. The easiest way to do that is to ask questions.
A lot of candidates forget to ask anything in an interview. That’s counterproductive, and it’s likely to dent your chances of being hired.
Asking questions in an interview shows that you’re interested in the position and company, that you can use initiative, and that you can think independently. It also gives you the chance to gather information about whether you’ll fit in at the company — and whether you want to work there.
So, what should you ask? Questions about company culture, growth plans and expectations are useful here, but stay clear of queries about salary and benefits. These are better left for when you’ve actually been offered the job!
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