10 Killer Job Interview Mistakes

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Job interviews <em>can</em> be golden opportunities to move forward to a job offer -- IF you don't make these 10 deadly mistakes!
Job interviews can be golden opportunities to move forward to a job offer -- IF you don't make these 10 deadly mistakes!
Shutterstock/Jacek Dudzinski

As anyone who has been job hunting for a while knows, being invited to a job interview is not something easily achieved. Becoming one of the few “job candidates” rather than being part of the typically gigantic crowd of “job applicants” is a major victory.

Unfortunately, too many job candidates seem to assume that the interview invitation means the job offer is waiting. As a result, they blow their interview opportunities, wasting all that time and effort. Don’t be one of those candidates.

A job offer is NOT “in the bag” simply because you were invited for an interview!

Avoid These Common Interview Mistakes to Land That Job

What you do during a job interview is viewed as a “sample” of your work. Everything you do is being judged because they don’t know you (unless you are one of the lucky referred candidates).

Mistake #1: Appearing uninterested.

This drives employers crazy. Most employers have more applicants than they need or want. If you aren’t demonstrably interested in them, they certainly aren’t interested in hiring you.

Instead: Demonstrate your interest in the company and the job. Show up on time, appropriately dressed. Turn off your cell phone. Focus on this meeting! Ask intelligent questions that indicate you have done some research, but don’t ask a question that could be answered in 30 seconds with a Google search or a peek at their website’s homepage.

Mistake #2: Being unprepared.

Obvious lack of preparation is an opportunity crusher. And, lack of preparation usually becomes obvious quickly.

Instead: Be prepared! Preparation will help you demonstrate your interest in them and the job. You will also perform better in the interview when you are prepared.

Successful preparation has several elements:

  • Analyze the job description and your match with it.

Write out their requirements and how you meet those requirements. Then, determine your accomplishments that align with those requirements, and write them down to help you remember them.

  • Know your answers to the standard job interview questions.

In particular, be ready for the “What do you know about us” and “Why do you want to work here” questions, related specifically to this employer and job opportunity. Read How to Answer the Common Job Interview Questions for details on what employers will probably ask and how to answer appropriately.

  • Research the employer.

Check out the website, as thoroughly as you can, but don’t stop there. Put Google to work, too.

What do they do? Do they state a “mission”? How are they organized? Where are they located? Are they part of a larger organization? If they have subsidiaries, what do their subsidiaries do? Where are they located?

Note the names of their products and/or services and get familiar with what each does (unless they have tens or more). Who are the officers, particularly for the part of the company where you want to work?

Do you share any common background with any of them (hometown, education, school, former employer, military service, volunteer work, etc.)

  • Research the interviewers.

Hopefully you know the names of the interviewers, so check out their LinkedIn Profiles. Do you have anything in common with any of them (as above, hometown, school, etc.). Do you notice anything else about them, from the same college degrees or the same military service to similar smiling (or not) faces? [Read Interview Investigation: Know the Interviewer In Advance for more tips.]

  • Have questions ready to ask.

As part of your analysis and research, questions will occur to you: How does this work with that? Who is responsible for x? And more. Write them down so you can have a more complete picture of the job and the organization. You’ll not only be demonstrating interest, you’ll be learning how the organization really works (and whether or not you want to work there).

  • Know (and implement) the logistics for getting to the interview on time.

If possible, do a test run at the approximate time you are supposed to be there, and plan your departure and arrival for the interview accordingly, getting comfortable with the drive or ride, tolls or fees, parking options, etc. Being late for an interview is DEADLY.

If you arrive more than 15 minutes early, find an unobtrusive place to hang out until you can officially arrive. Observe what is happening while you wait to learn more about the employer and, perhaps, have additional questions to ask. Read The Winning Difference: Pre-Interview Preparation for more tips.

Mistake #3: Being angry.

Angry people are NOT people employers want to hire. Angry people are not fun to work with. They may frighten co-workers and/or customers or clients. They may also abuse both people and equipment (computers, cars, etc.). Not good contributors to a happy workplace or a prosperous business, even if they don’t “go postal.”

Instead: If you are angry over a job loss, horrible commute to the interview, earlier fight with your kids or spouse, or anything else, dump the anger before the interview, at least temporarily. Stop, before you enter the employer’s premises, take a few deep breaths, put a smile on your face, and do your best to switch gears mentally so you are not “in a bad place” in your mind.

Dr. Amy Cuddy’s “power poses” done in private for a couple of minutes before you leave for the interview or after you have arrived (corner of the parking garage or stall in the restroom), but before the interview. They lift the darkest moods and increase confidence ― both can improve your interview performance.

Mistake #4: Sharing TMI (too much information).

Sometimes, people have a whole-truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth mindset in a job interview, so they “spill their guts” in answer to every question. Not smart or useful! Stick to answering the questions in a way that demonstrates your fit for their job. If they want more details, they’ll ask.

Don’t disclose your former (or current) employer’s confidential information. That can get you into trouble in addition to making you look untrustworthy as a possible employee. [Read 5 Landmines to Avoid when Interviewing with a Competitor for situations and mistakes to avoid.]

They don’t care about how bad your manager was or how terrible a product was. YOU will make a bad impression by “trashing” your former (or current) employer, and they will naturally wonder how the situation looked from the “other side.” I’m not recommending telling any lies, but I am recommending that you avoid boring the interviewer and/or blowing an opportunity by sharing too much inappropriate information.

Instead: Answer their question, and then stop talking. Or, often better, ask a question of your own. Read Avoid Costly Talking-too-Much Job Interview Mistakes for examples.

Mistake #5: Negative body language.

If you never smile, have a limp handshake, and don’t make eye contact with the people you meet at the employer’s location, and especially with the interviewer, you’ll come across as too shy or too strange or simply uninterested.

Instead: Show your interest and enthusiasm. If you are naturally very shy or an introvert, express your enthusiasm as Wendy Gelberg, author of The Successful Introvert, suggests. [If you’re a veteran, put yourself at “Attention!” (but skip the “Yes, ma’am” and “Yes, sir”).]

Smile, say hello, look them in the eye, and shake hands as though you really are happy to meet that person, and soon you will be.

Mistake #6. Not having good questions or asking the wrong questions at the wrong time.

To most employers, no questions = no interest. Number one, above, indicates how deadly that is to your success with the opportunity.

Asking the wrong questions is as bad as having no questions. During the first interview, asking questions only about raises, promotions, vacation, and benefits are not usually well-received. Those questions apparently indicate that you are only interested in specific personal benefits rather than in the job. [See 45 Questions You Should NOT Ask in a Job Interview.]

Instead: Ask the questions that occurred to you as you were doing your pre-interview research, as you talked with the people during the interview, or as you observed people in the location.

Ask for details about the job ― what an average day is like, if the job is new or being filled because the previous employee was promoted, etc. [Read 45 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview for more help.]

Mistake #7: Flirting or other inappropriate behavior.

Unless you are interviewing for a job as a comedian or host/hostess in a social club, don’t try to be entertaining or amusing. And, don’t flirt with anyone, including the receptionist and the security guard.

Instead: If making them laugh isn’t a requirement of the job, take the interview seriously. Save flirting for your second day (or month) of work. Don’t chew gum or bring food or drink into the interview. Mind your manners, like your Mother taught you, and be polite to everyone you meet there. The interview is an “audition” for the job. Show them your best!

Mistake #8: Not collecting contact information or asking the next-steps questions.

Many job seekers leave the interview(s) with no idea of what will happen next in the employer’s hiring process. They also often don’t know who is the best person to contact as well as when and how to contact that person.

Instead: At the beginning of the interview “play (business) cards” with the interviewer(s). Hand them your business card (or personal networking card, if you are employed), and ask for their card.

This is the best way to gather the name, job title, location, and contact information of each person who interviews you. If you don’t have this information, you won’t be able to proceed with appropriate job interview follow-up (Mistake #9).

Then, as the interview ends, ask what the next steps in their hiring process are if no one volunteers the information. Find out who your post-interview contact is and when and how to contact that person. Note the email address and/or phone number carefully, paticularly if you don’t have that person’s business card. [For more details, read The 5 Absolute MUST-ASK Questions in Your Next Job Interview.]

Mistake #9: Failing to follow up.

Often, job seekers leave at the end of the interview(s) with a sigh of relief that the interview is over, and they can get on with their lives. They leave, and wait to receive a job offer.

Instead: Remember this is a demonstration of the quality of your work as an employee.

To stand out in the crowd of job candidates, which usually number four or five, immediately send your thank you notes to each person who interviewed you. Also send a thank you to the external recruiter, if one was involved, or the employee or networking contact who referred you for the opportunity, if you were referred.

And, LAST but NOT least...

Mistake #10: Forgetting the interview is a two-way street.

Don’t go to the interview thinking that you are only trying to “make a sale.” Discovering that you hate the job/employer is a terrible discovery to make after you have started working.

Instead: To avoid disaster as best you can, ask questions to help you discover if the job, the people you would be working with, and the employer are what you want. You also need to decide if you would be happy working there for at least one year. Have your own list of questions ready (from #2 and #6 above).

Also, observe what is happening at the location:

  • Are employees and customers smiling or not?
  • Do people seem busy or bored?
  • Does the environment look like a pleasant place to spend most of your day (noisy, very quiet, bad music playing constantly, crummy restrooms, scary elevators, etc.)?
  • Is the location is good or bad for you (commute, parking, personal safety, etc.)?
  • Did you like the interviewers, particularly the hiring manager and those who would be co-workers?
  • Anything else catch your attention, like out-of-date technology or great new technology at everyone’s desk?

Pay attention to these cues. You don’t want to leave an OK job for one you’ll hate. And you don’t want to be the last person hired before the layoffs begin (because you’ll probably be the first one out the door).

Moving On

Everyone makes mistakes, and, usually, the mistakes are not “fatal” for your job search. But, do your best to avoid these errors, and you should have a short job search.

This article was originally published on Job-Hunt.org.

Follow me on LinkedIn and Facebook for more job search tips!

Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com.