9 Common Interview Mistakes That Could Cost You the Job
The job interview is a delicate kind of “dance” between job seeker and employer. From an employer’s perspective, they’re trying to get a sense not only of your skills and ability to succeed in the role but also your character and how well you would fit in or add to their company culture. Likewise, as a job candidate you should be open and forthcoming in how you represent yourself while also finding out as much as you can about the company, the role, and your potential bosses or colleagues so that you too can assess if it’s a good fit.
But the job interview isn’t all business, so to speak. It’s also a type of social interaction where non-verbal cues (like body language) and professional etiquette or conventions can have a big impact on the impression you make and the overall outcome of the interview. So to present yourself as the strongest candidate, you need to be prepared with more than a good resume when you walk into the interview room. A good impression depends just as much on what you should avoid saying or doing as it does on what you are prepared to discuss.
Here are some of the most common interview mistakes all job seekers – from entry-level to executive, from academic to corporate – should avoid making or else risk being taken out of the running for the position.
1. Being late
Lateness consistently tops the list of the most frequently committed interview “sins” job seekers make, yet it’s almost always avoidable with a little bit of planning and forethought. Not only does it signal to a potential employer a lack of organization on your part but lateness also conveys that your time is more valuable than others’. Unless you have a water-tight reason for being late (a natural disaster or a medical emergency … and, no, this does not include traffic), most hiring managers will automatically downgrade your candidacy if you’re not prompt.
2. Coming off as unprepared
Your preparedness for the interview is two-fold: you should be ready to discuss and expand on your own resume, background, and skills, but you should also come prepared with questions or talking points that show you’ve done your homework about the company and the role. If you stumble on either front, you’ll appear unprepared, disengaged, and like you simply didn’t care enough to prep for the interview. Under these circumstances, you’ll have a hard sell trying to convince the hiring manager that you’re interested in the position.
3. Appearing disinterested
For some people who “shut down” in high pressure situations or times when they know they’re being closely evaluated, nervousness can manifest itself as aloofness or even lack of interest. If you know you have a habit of appearing disinterested – for example, limiting your facial expressions, avoiding eye contact, speaking in a monotone voice, displaying poor posture, clamming up and come across as shy, “losing your words” and only answering in short, perfunctory phrases – make a concerted effort to convey real interest in your conversation with the hiring manager to avoid giving the impression that you don’t care.
4. Checking your phone
This certainly tops the list of worst offenders in job interview etiquette for obvious reasons. Your cell phone should not make an appearance any time during the interview. Also remember to silence your ring tone and notifications, and also turn off vibration mode. In a quiet interview room, the incessant buzzing can be just as distracting as a loud ringing sound.
5. Talking too much…
While you want to do your best to give thorough, substantive answers to the interviewer’s questions, there is a natural point in the conversation when enough is truly enough. It’s highly unlikely that any question you’ll be asked will necessitate a 10 or 15 minute answer where you're doing all the talking, and you certainly don’t want to start repeating yourself out of nervousness or the need to fill the silence. In short, don’t “over-answer” your interview questions, which can end up having a negative impact. You should be able to gauge the room and read your interviewers non-verbal cues as to when to wrap it up and move on to the next topic.
6. … Or not talking enough
Likewise, giving very short answers to all of your interview questions gives the impression that you’re either not prepared and don’t know how to answer the question or that you don’t care enough to put some more thought into your answers. Good job interviews are like conversations or meaningful exchanges, so if you find yourself only spending less than a minute on each question and the interviewer is then moving on quickly to the next topic without asking any follow-ups, you’ll want to dig a little deeper in your answers.
7. Saying “I don’t know”
Even if you truly don’t know the answer, you should always provide some sort of a thoughtful response to an interview question and never leave it at “I don’t know.” While you don’t ever want to misrepresent yourself or your skill set, if you honestly don’t know the answer to their question, frame your response in a positive way so that you highlight what you’re doing to close that skills/knowledge gap. Or, take the opportunity to connect the question to other adjacent, relevant skills or topics you are more prepared to discuss.
8. Appearing too “over-the-top”
If you’re interviewing for a job that you know you’d sell your grandmother for, don’t let your excitement and longing translate to desperation, or you may risk coming off as “too much” or over-the top. Of course, you want to convey your sincere interest in the position and your belief that the company is the right fit for you, and this means letting the interviewer see your passion for the role, your field, and their organization. Just make sure your enthusiasm isn’t so intense that it's off-putting and doesn’t manifest in an aggressive or intrusive way.
9. Being dishonest in any way
Never ever misrepresent yourself or your abilities before, during, or after the job interview. The truth always outs, and when it does, you run the risk not just of losing a job opportunity but also of damaging your professional reputation (one of your most valuable assets) and possibly having this affect future job opportunities.