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Win the Job: Avoid Common Job Interview Mistakes

Unfortunately, too many job candidates blow their interview opportunities, wasting all that time and effort. Don't be one of those candidates.
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As anyone who has been in a job search 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 usually gigantic crowd of "job applicants" is a major victory.

Unfortunately, too many job candidates blow their interview opportunities, wasting all that time and effort. Don't be one of those candidates.

Don't Do These: 9 Worst Job Interview Mistakes

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).

They are trying to figure out:

  • Is your work product high quality as demonstrated by the job interview?
  • Would you be someone good to work with?
  • Would you fit in?

Show them you would be a great hire by avoiding these mistakes:

Mistake #1: Appearing uninterested.

This drives employers crazy. Most employers have more applicants than they need or want. If you aren't clearly 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. Ask intelligent questions that indicate you have done some research, but do NOT ask a question that could be answered in 30 seconds with a Google search or a quick 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.

  • Research the employer.

Yes, check out the website, as thoroughly as you can. 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?

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 named on the website? Where are they located? Do you share any common background with any of them (hometown, school, 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?

  • 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 too early, find an unobtrusive place to hang out until you can officially arrive.

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."

No matter how terrible your current (or a former) employer was, do not trash them! In fact, don't trash anyone. Find something positive to say about that employer, or say nothing at all except to describe your accomplishments there (those accomplishments that are relevant to the job you are interviewing for).

Instead: If you are angry over a job loss, long job search, horrible commute to the interview, 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. If you must, put together a list of not-negative things you can say about your current or former employer/job. Maybe the best thing you can say was that it was a good commute, but find something, hopefully more than one thing, you can safely share.

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 (private corner of the parking garage or a 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!

I'm not recommending telling any lies, but I am recommending that you avoid boring the interviewer and blowing an opportunity by sharing too much information. If they want more details, they'll ask.

Instead: Answer their question, and wait for a follow up. If there is no follow up question, ask a question of your own. Don't feel obligated to fill "dead air" time in the interview by sharing your current employer's worst secret or something else inappropriate.

Mistake #5: Displaying 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 not interested.

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

As bad as having no questions is asking the wrong 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 just interested in specific personal benefits rather than the job.

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.

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 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: 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.

To send an effective thank you, read Sending Your Thank You After the Job Interview including the Sample Job Interview Thank You to the External Recruiter who may have referred you. Also see the Sample Thank You Note to Recover From a Bad Job Interview.

Mistake #9: Forgetting the interview is a two-way street.

Don't go to the interview thinking that you are the only one trying to "make a sale." You need to 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.

Instead: Have your own list of questions ready (not the ones in #6 above). Pay attention to other employees at the location (smiling or not, busy or not, etc.), how the premises are laid out, if the location is good or bad for you (commute, parking, personal safety, etc.), and anything else that catches your eye.

More About Successful Job Interviews

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Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for and This piece first appeared on

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