Top 10 Common Interview Mistakes to Avoid

A number of these cringe-worthy job interview mistakes have been made by yours truly. To save personal embarrassment, I won’t go into detail. Suffice to say that direct experience helped inform this list of the top 10 interview mistakes to avoid.

Some of the most common job interview mistakes include revealing your weird nature, forgetting to smile and connect with the interviewer(s), getting flustered and blanking out for no good reason, bragging, and showing no personality. People want to hire people they like, so being unlikeable may be the biggest mistake.

Every job interview is important of course. The way you conduct yourself and the impression you make in answering questions has a huge impact on whether or not you land the role. Keeping that in mind, here are ten common mistakes people make in a job interview, and how to avoid them.

1. Turning Up Without Knowing About the Job

Most interview panels expect you to do significant research about the job and your potential new employer before the interview. Showing up with having done basic research is a big interview mistake.

You could easily be asked questions such as “Why do you want to work for us?” and “What are the biggest challenges you are likely to face in this role?” Not having a good answer to reel off can be embarrassing.

Doing research about the employer in advance is vital. You should have a thoughtful response about why you want to work there specifically and not just at any similar organization. You should also know all about the current industry conditions that will impact your new job. Be abreast of any recent events relating to your prospective role.

Remember that you could easily be competing against internal candidates for the job. They know their company extremely well. Detailed, better-informed answers from current employees could easily put to shame the glib answers that you make up on the spot.

Even though you’ll have researched the job you applied for already, brush up again before the interview. You’re likely to get into the nitty gritty details of the job during the interview and should be well prepared.

  1. Review the job posting: The job posting should provide a detailed description of the job duties and responsibilities, as well as the required skills and qualifications. This will give you a good idea of what the job entails and what the employer is looking for.
  2. Research the company: Research the organization to understand its culture, values, and products or services. This will help you tailor your responses to the interviewer’s questions and show that you are a good fit for the company.
  3. Talk to people in the industry: If you know someone who works in the same industry or a similar role, consider reaching out to them for more information about the job. They may be able to provide insights into the day-to-day tasks and challenges of the role.
  4. Look for industry resources: There are many resources available that can provide more information about specific industries and jobs. For example, you can search for industry-specific blogs, magazines, or trade associations.
  5. Use job search websites: Websites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor can provide information about the job duties and responsibilities, as well as the required skills and qualifications. These sites may also have reviews or ratings from people who have worked in similar roles, which can give you a better understanding of what to expect.

There are several ways to research a company before a job interview:

  1. Visit the company’s website: The organization’s website is a good place to start. Look for information about their products or services, history, mission, and values.
  2. Search for news articles: Look for recent news articles about the company to get a sense of what it has been up to and any current events or challenges it may be facing.
  3. Check out the employer’s social media profiles: Many organizations have active social media profiles on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. These can be good sources of information about culture and values, as well as any current events or initiatives.
  4. Talk to people who work there: If you know someone who works at the organization, consider reaching out to them for more information. They may be able to provide insights into the company culture and the job itself.
  5. Attend industry events or job fairs: If the company is presenting at an industry event or participating in a job fair, this is a good opportunity to learn more about the organization and meet people who work there.
  6. Research the interviewer(s). Look up their LinkedIn profiles and take note of the kinds of projects they may be working on.

It’s important to do as much research as possible before the job interview. This will help you understand your prospective employer and the position better, and will also help you tailor your responses to the interviewer’s questions.

2. Showing an Abnormal Level of Confidence

Overconfidence in a job interview
Be self-confident but not cocky.

Most people entering a job interview try to avoid the problem of being excessively nervous. A lack of confidence can make for a painful interview, a poor impression and weak answers to questions.

But you can also overcompensate. Extreme confidence can make you appear arrogant and disinterested in feedback. You may become guilty of talking too much and not listening. By the end of the interview, your interviewers probably can’t wait to get together and critique your performance. They will judge you harshly to compensate for your bragging and apparent narcissism.

Balance confidence with humility

The key to a successful interview is to find the appropriate balance; the middle ground between boasting of your accomplishments and appearing modest enough to be a good learner who is willing to tackle any task that might come your way. Be prepared to show humility — but not in an area that makes you appear incompetent.

No matter how prepared you are, chances are that the interviewer will throw you an unexpected question. So go in confident but be ready to handle anything that comes up. Along those lines, your prospective employer doesn’t want to know how great this job would be for you; they want to know how you can help the company.

3. Playing Everything Ultra Safe and Conservative

Making a mistake in an interview can cause you to cringe afterwards but so can coming across as a wet blanket.

Being safe, conservative and non-responsive throughout an interview could have the panel questioning why you are so afraid to show warmth and personality. Are you a highly judgmental person, or maybe just a bore? Either way, you won’t seem like a person co-workers would want to have around.

Be interesting

Look alive! Chances are your interviewers are talking to a lot of potential candidates during this process. They’re going to remember the one with a spark in their eye and something interesting and enthusiastic to say.

Think of things to include in your backstory that will make you stand out. When the interviewer says “Do you have any questions?” that’s your cue to demonstrate that you’ve been listening and that you have a bright and inquisitive mind. Shrugging “Nope!” can make you come across as complacent or disinterested.

You can prepare a few questions ahead of time to have in your back pocket, but it’s always better to come up with contextual questions during the actual interview.

4. Focusing on Job Benefits for You

Businesswoman talking
It’s about what you can offer, not what you get.

A job interview is a two-way process where both the recruiter and the applicant want to know what’s on offer for them. But cringeworthy moments arise when the applicant gets carried out with what they can get from the deal.

A first interview is not the place to ask about holiday arrangements, superannuation benefits, salary sacrifice options and whether it’s acceptable to knock off early every Thursday to get the kids from school.

You are perhaps one of several candidates being interviewed for the job. You may not be top of the list. That means discussing how the job will benefit you can quickly become presumptuous. It’s even more embarrassing looking back after you been overlooked for the position (perhaps for coming across as a jerk in the interview).

The initial priority is to find out if the job is the right fit in terms of skills and knowledge. You can iron out other details later. In fact, avoid bringing up salary talk at all during the interview process. Wait for a cue from your potential employer to discuss it.

5. Being Easily Distracted or Flustered

The ideal candidate arrives on time and is calm and focused. Be that person, not the applicant who arrives out of breath, with messed up hair and complicated excuses for being five minutes late. Looking unprofessional and disorganised is a sure way to push your name down the shortlist or off it altogether.

And ignore potential distractions, including your mobile. Answering your phone, responding to a text, or even looking at your phone during a job interview is a no-no. Put the device away. If your phone happens to ring during an interview (not great, but not necessarily a deal breaker) quickly apologise and turn it off.

Among the best tips to becoming calm before your interview are to: prepare well, exercise beforehand, positively visualise the interview, talk to a friend, and remember that it’s normal to be nervous.

  1. Prepare in advance: The more prepared you are for the interview, the more confident you will feel. Review the job description, research the company, and practice answering common interview questions.
  2. Take deep breaths: Deep breathing can help relax your body and calm your nerves. Try taking a few deep breaths before the interview and focusing on your breath as you inhale and exhale.
  3. Practice relaxation techniques: There are many relaxation techniques you can try, such as progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, or mindfulness meditation. Find one that works for you and practice it in the days leading up to the interview.
  4. Exercise: Exercise can help reduce stress and improve your mood. Try going for a walk or doing some light stretching before the interview.
  5. Get a good night’s sleep: A good night’s sleep can help you feel more rested and alert for the interview. Try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep the night before the interview.
  6. Visualize success: Visualization can help you feel more confident and prepared for the interview. Take a few minutes to close your eyes and visualize yourself successfully answering the interview questions and impressing the interviewer.
  7. Remind yourself that it’s normal to be nervous: It’s natural to feel nervous before a job interview. Remind yourself that it’s okay to be nervous and that everyone gets nervous before important events.
  8. Talk to a friend or family member: Sometimes, just talking about your nervousness can help calm you down. Consider reaching out to a friend or family member before the interview to discuss your concerns and get some support.

6. Knocking Your Former Job or Co-Workers

Awkward cringeworthy job interview

Never be critical of your last job, boss, or co-workers if you can help it. If asked why you left (or are leaving), put a positive spin on it. You can always express your move as a step forward rather than as a step away from something. To help in this department, we identified 10 good reasons for leaving a job.

Why avoid being critical? Because, apart from making you look like a negatively minded person, critiquing places you in a position of being the judge. The interviewers may wonder whether their workplace will measure up to your standards. They might rightly be concerned that you will similarly be criticising them in the future.

It’s natural to feel negative emotions after a negative experience, and it’s okay to express those emotions in a healthy way. However, it’s important to try to move on and not let them consume you. Holding onto bitterness about a previous job or boss can prevent you from grasping new opportunities. Adopt a growth mindset rather than being irritated about the past.

Adopting a growth mindset can help you approach challenges and setbacks with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn and improve. Here are some ways you can cultivate a growth mindset:

  1. Focus on effort and learning, rather than outcomes: Instead of stressing about the end result, try to focus on the process of learning and growing. Recognize that effort and learning are important, regardless of the outcome.
  2. Seek out new challenges: Embrace challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, rather than avoiding them or seeing them as threats.
  3. Look for feedback and learning opportunities: Seek out feedback on your performance, and use it as an opportunity to learn and improve. Be open to learning from others and from your own mistakes.
  4. Practice gratitude: Focusing on the positive aspects of your life and what you have achieved can help you cultivate a growth mindset.
  5. Reframe negative thoughts: When faced with setbacks or failures, try to reframe your thinking to focus on the learning opportunities and potential for growth.
  6. Surround yourself with growth-minded people: Surrounding yourself with people who have a growth mindset can help you adopt a similar perspective and encourage you to strive for personal growth.

7. Getting Stuck for Words

Getting lost for words during a job interview
He who hesitates loses.

A little thinking time is fine in an interview as you formulate a response to each question. But too many pauses and excessive hesitation can become painful. And everyone starts to cringe if you draw a mental blank and leave everyone hanging in silence.

Strategies to be fluent

Fluency is a skill you can learn to keep your interviews smooth and entertaining for the panel — who are relieved when applicants manage the process well.

A foundation for giving fluent responses is preparation and rehearsal. You should have a set of great examples where you overcame a challenge, showed initiative, learned something useful or formed part of a well functioning team. Having practiced talking about these cases, they are ready to be referenced when the right kind of question comes along.

Some simple strategies can get you out of a situation when you’re genuinely struggling to come up with a good answer.

  • You could ask the interviewer to reframe the question, which buys a little time and could help trigger something in your mind.
  • If you are struggling because of a lack of knowledge on the topic, you could own up but also outline how you would get up to speed — such as through research or consulting with others.
  • You could even say something like “Would it be OK if I came back to this question later? I have more to say but it’s just not coming to me at the moment.”

8. Introspecting Too Much

When asked a whole bunch of questions about yourself, it’s easy to get a bit too engrossed in the topic. The interview process can raise issues that are sensitive to you and / or which you haven’t fully resolved. As a result, you may find yourself giving away too much personal information or providing answers that are difficult for the interviewers to interpret.

In general, it is best to avoid being overly introspective or self-absorbed during a job interview. Instead, try to focus on demonstrating your skills and qualifications and showing how you can contribute to the employer’s success. Save yourself from any embarrassment by keeping the interview light.

A possible solution, and this can be applied to writing your resume as well, is to detach — imagine your are talking about someone else. Depersonalise and just give them a palatable response each time. Instead of saying something like “I left that job because I felt I was being disrespected and underutilised”, you could say “I generally enjoyed the work but felt I was ready to take on bigger and different challenges.”

9. Disregarding Your Online Persona

Bad selfie with mirror shot of man flexing muscles
Not a good look when you’re trying to land a job

Even while waiting to be interviewed, any member of the panel could be checking you out online. Possible issues that could come up are unflattering or embarrassing photos, stupid online comments and weak social profiles. What may be worse than the actual information gleaned is that presenting a poor image publicly makes you look naive.

There are several things you can do to clean up your online persona before a job interview:

  1. Google yourself: Run a search for your name and see what comes up. If there are any negative or inappropriate results, try to remove them or at least push them down in the search results.
  2. Review your social media profiles: Go through your social media profiles and remove or make private any posts or pictures that may be inappropriate or unprofessional. This includes posts that may be offensive, discriminatory, or controversial.
  3. Update your LinkedIn profile: Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and professional. This includes your work experience, education, and any relevant skills or certifications.
  4. Be mindful of what you post online: Be conscious of what you post online going forward. Think about how your posts may be perceived by potential employers and avoid posting anything that could be considered inappropriate or unprofessional.
  5. Consider using a privacy setting: Consider using a privacy setting on your social media profiles to control who can see your posts. This can help prevent potential employers from seeing posts that you don’t want them to see.

By following these steps, you can help ensure that your online persona is as professional and positive as possible.

10. Losing Confidence During the Interview

Sometimes you can be halfway through an interview when negative thoughts start to enter your head. You might be thinking “Gee, that last answer I gave sucked” or “I don’t think she really likes me and I’m not sure this place is a good fit anyway.”

Feeling nervous and losing confidence during a job interview is common. Interviews can be stressful and it’s natural to feel anxious or unsure of oneself. This can lead to a lack of confidence and difficulty answering questions.

Losing confidence about how the interview is going can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The panel might pick up on your anxiety or loss of enthusiasm. If they believe you think things are going badly, they are far less likely to rate your performance highly.

Avoiding a loss of confidence is really a test of your emotional intelligence and preparation. Hard as this may seem, you need to go into every interview in a positive, enthusiastic, and resilient state of mind. Picture things going well in the lead up to each interview, and be prepared to quickly adapt as you go. If you don’t stress about your mistakes or weaknesses, the hiring managers are less likely to notice as well.

Final Thoughts on How to Interview Well

Perhaps the key to a successful interview performance is to keep things simple. Your aim is just to do the best you can. You’re a decent person with good things to offer any prospective employer.

Hopefully, you can communicate your good points effectively in your next interview and they will see your value. Whatever happens, you will certainly learn from it — and every interview you do. With time, you will only get better at presenting yourself.

Experience will teach you to how to avoid cringe-worthy mistakes in the future. And any uncomfortable moments you’ve already been through will eventually fade over time.

4 thoughts on “Top 10 Common Interview Mistakes to Avoid

  1. This list of common job interview mistakes is refreshingly real. Hiring managers are humans like everyone else, and tend to pick who they like. So, being unlikeable is perhaps the number 1 interview mistake.

  2. Some good advice. One or two of these are fairly common (an awful online profile and knocking current or past coworkers) but some were new to me. The part about being confident without being overconfident shows the fine line people have to walk while being interviewed. Sometimes it makes me wonder how realistic people conducting interviews are about their expectations, particularly for people who might be fantastic candidates, but are not so great at interviews.

  3. I am terrible at interviews and having lost my job in 2020 due to COVID, I have been uneasy since. I was able to get unemployment but I need to start looking for jobs now since it is running out in April. I have some savings but I can’t afford to just sit around. It is going to be messy but these tips have honestly helped me. I am going to take notes so I make sure I don’t mess up an interview.

  4. Whenever I go to an interview I make absolutely sure I know as much as I can about the company that I want to work for. I want to know how they think, what they need and how I can be of service to them. I try to find ways that I could contribute to their growth and present them in the interview. After all, that’s why I am there: to help them grow. They want someone that has the skills, energy and determination to help them. I have to prove I am that person.

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