Interview Mistakes That You Could Be Making (And How To Avoid Them)

By Maddie Lloyd - Dec. 22, 2017

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When you’re preparing for an interview, you’re probably focused on trying to make a good first impression, prepare your answers to the most common interview questions, and doing whatever you can to show that you’re the best person for the job.

But here’s the kicker:

There are several things you could be doing that are ruining your chances of getting the job — and you might not even realize that you’re doing them! Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of everything you should avoid doing in an interview to better your chances of getting the job.

Here are the 15 interview mistakes you need to avoid so you can impress employers and land the job:

Showing up late

Being late is a great way to make a bad impression before you even meet your interviewer. First impressions are a big deciding factor in hiring candidates, so you’ll want to make sure that you make a good one.

Running late for an interview is bad on so many levels: it shows that you have poor time management skills, and it shows that you don’t respect the company, the interviewer, or the position. Ouch.

Budget your time so you make it to the interview ten to fifteen minutes early. This will show that you’re excited for the opportunity instead of making you look like an ungrateful loser.

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Not dressing for the occasion

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When you interview for a job, you want to look snazzy and professional, not like a sloppy goof who just rolled out of bed. Even though it is possible to dress too nicely for an interview, you should always aim to look polished and put-together.

When you’re going for a professional position, make sure to dress in business attire. If you’re going for a retail, restaurant, lifeguard, etc. position, you can dress a bit more casual, but still try to look like you have your shit together.

For more information on how to dress for an interview, check out this article.

Thinking of the interview as an interrogation

Too many people go into interviews expecting employers to grill them and make them feel intimidated. While you are going to be answering questions, thinking of an interview as an interrogation won’t help you win over an employer.

Instead of thinking of the interview as a situation where one person asks all the questions and the other person answers them, think of it as a conversation where both parties ask and answer questions.

It’s important to have a conversation with the interviewer instead of fearing them and cowering in your answers. Plus, if you don’t ask the interviewer questions, you might not get the job.

Bringing a drink into the interview

Showing up to your interview fifteen minutes late with Starbucks isn’t as fashionable as you might think. Leave behind the coffee, soda, or water when you go into your interview. It’s going to be hard to answer questions effectively when you’re trying to slurp down the last drops of your pumpkin spice latte.

Bringing a drink with you isn’t good interview etiquette, plus, it creates the opportunity for distractions and accidents — and you don’t want to be remembered as the dude who spilled water all over his pants and looked like he had an accident. Yikes!

Using your phone

Please, for the love of god, do not do anything to contribute to stereotypes of millennials and their obsession with smartphones. Just put the dang thing away. Your iPhone will miss you, but you’ll be reunited in a matter of minutes.

Texting or answering calls during your interview sends a pretty clear message to employers that you couldn’t care less about the job or wasting their time. Do yourself a favor and just turn it off.

Being clueless about the company

One of the easiest and most straight-forward interview questions to answer is “What do you know about our company?” so getting stumped on this one would be a big mistake. Big! Huge!

Do some research on the company before your interview. Look into their background information like their history, their locations, and their mission statement in an “About Us” section on their website. Read it a few times, and maybe once more before your interview so it’s fresh in your mind.

Not being prepared to answer interview questions

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not being able to answer the most common interview questions. Being caught off-guard by questions like “What are your greatest professional strengths?What motivates you?” basically tells employers that you didn’t care enough to even try to prepare for your interview.

Do yourself a favor and look over the most common questions you can expect to hear during an interview and how you can answer them. You’ll thank yourself later.

Making your weakness sound like a positive

When employers ask this question, they’re not looking to see how well you can spin your weaknesses into positives. Interviewers hear these answers a million times, and you know what? They’re boring.

Use this question to highlight a skill you hope to improve upon and how to plan to enhance it. Employers don’t care what your weaknesses are — they care about how you handle the question and what your answer says about you.

Not paying attention to the interviewer

Getting distracted or zoning out during an interview basically says “I’m so bored I would rather be anywhere else than in this job interview right now.” Plus, if you can’t stay focused during an interview, how are you supposed to stay focused during your job?

Stay engaged. Make eye contact with your interviewer and make an effort to listen to them and answer their questions effectively. Make sure that you’re well-rested to be alert and free of distractions during your interview.

Having vague resume facts

Even if you submitted your resume or application online, you might be asked to fill out a physical job application at your interview. Make sure that you know information like dates of employment, graduation dates, and employer contact information so none of your information is vague or sketchy.

Talking too much or not enough

You don’t want to be remembered as the person who went on and on and never shut up, or as the person who was so quiet that the interviewer almost forgot you were there.

The interviewer doesn’t need to know your favorite colors or all the other menial details of your life. Keep your answers short and to the point.

On the other hand, it’s hard to have a conversation with someone who only gives one-word answers. Even though you want to avoid rambling, you should aim to give full answers to questions and have a conversation with the interviewer.

Having poor communication skills

You should be able to conduct yourself as a professional during your job hunt. Instead of saying “Suh, dude?” and going in for a fist bump, make eye contact, shake hands, be confident, and engage the person you’re interviewing with.

Having professional communicating skills will show interviewers that you’re a great person for the job even before you start answering questions.

Saying bad things about past employers

You never know who your interviewer might have connections with — they could even know your former boss who you just referred to as a “big fat idiot.” You want to show employers that you work well with others and are an effective communicator, so play it safe and refrain from badmouthing anyone you used to work with.

Not asking the interviewer questions

Every interview ends with the question “Do you have any questions for me?” Among all of the wrong answers to this question, the worst one would be “No.”

Some good questions you can ask are:

  • What does a typical workday look like?
  • What methods of communication does your team use?
  • What projects are currently being worked on?

You should also ask questions to make sure the job is right for you. So don’t be afraid to ask questions about your potential boss, the company culture, and opportunities for growth so you can make your decision.

Forgetting to follow up after the interview

Always follow up an interview with a well-written thank you letter. It will reiterate your interest in the position and the company, and it will better your chances of getting the job.

Now you’re ready for your interview!

These mistakes may seem painfully obvious, but because we don’t even think about them, they could be ruining our chances of getting a job.

Take some time to prepare for your interview and be aware of your body language, and you’ll impress employers and get the job of your dreams!

Good luck!

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Maddie Lloyd


Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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