Avoid These 12 Classic (and Costly) Job Interview Mistakes

Dumb Job Interview MistakesSo much work just to get the job interview, let alone the job. The research, the resume writing, the applications, the networking, the follow-up…

And then some job seekers throw it all away by making these common, and completely avoidable, mistakes:

1. You Dress Inappropriately

This can work both ways—dressed up too much and dressed down too much; both can be avoided. The HR department is most often willing to communicate any employee dress codes, but if not, visit the organization and watch employees come and go to see their choice of attire.

2. You’re Late to the Interview

“I couldn’t find the building.” “I got stuck in traffic.” Nobody cares. You were late. That’s it. Excuses are unacceptable. Being late is inconsiderate and shows a lack of preparation. Not sure about the campus layout? Go the day before. Worried about traffic? Leave early. Just be on time.

3. You Leave Your Cell Phone On

Sure, we live in a society known for our constant communication with the outside world. But in your interview? Come on. A ringing cell phone is a sure fire way to look like a rookie.

4. You’re Desperate—and They Can Tell

Honestly, this goes back to the fact you’ve applied for hundreds of jobs and you really need this one. Understandable. It’s okay to be excited. Just be conscious of your emotions and focus on staying calm.

5. You Can’t Answer Basic Questions

Yes, this happens. Often. “What are your strengths?” “Why would you be a good fit in our company?” “Why should we hire you?” This is your time to show off! You’re being interviewed for a reason. And that reason is not for you to flub this answer.

6. You Badmouth a Previous Employer

Please. Don’t. Do. This. Negative attitudes attract no one. Be diplomatic in your responses to questions regarding prior employment, especially in situations, which may have ended poorly. “I’m interested in starting a new chapter” and “I’m looking for a different set of work challenges” work well as answers. Keep it simple. Keep it positive.

7. You Know Nothing About the Company’s Culture

Maybe this was more acceptable before the Internet was at your disposal. Not anymore. Sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and following the company on social networks will provide you more than enough opportunity to understand the company’s culture and current problems they may be facing.

8. You Talk Too Much

Nobody likes someone who rambles on and on. And recruiters can tell when you’ve lost your way, and confidence. Be concise. Quite pauses are good things, so let the conversation flow. Most important, remember you are not being measured by the number of words you use.

9. You Don’t Talk Enough

Listen, you can’t be a dead fish. You must show some excitement for the job and the company mission. You must communicate your value. This may be the only opportunity you get to say what your resume can’t. Speak up!

10. You Focus on Your “Technical” Skills

Your ability to create a spreadsheet is not something worthy of a long discussion, nor is it skill that will differentiate you from the competition. If you’ve created extensive databases in MS Access and written dozens of complex macros in Excel, then sure, bring it up.

11. You Make a Weakness a “Strength”

If anybody ever tells you to turn weaknesses into strengths, stop listening. They are not your friend. If he or she was a close friend, smack them for good measure. (Kidding about the smacking…sort of.) Weaknesses are not strengths. They never will be strengths. And recruiters despise these cliche answers.

12. You Assume the Interview is an Interrogation

It is true that for most of the interview, you’ll be doing the talking. But this won’t be happening the whole time. There is a reason you’ll always be asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” at the end—occasionally the beginning—of the interview. Take this opportunity to learn about your employer. Engage them in a conversation. Connect with them on a personal level.

Be smart. Avoid these mistakes. And move quickly past the job seekers who, despite the best of intentions, make the classic job interview mistakes.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Undergrad Success!



Samuel Hershberger_headshotAbout the Author: Samuel Hershberger is a budding serial entrepreneur. He splits his time between nerd activities like reading and writing about education, personal development, social dynamics and masculinity — and awesome activities like street photography, sipping coffee, and discovering new music. For a daily kick in the butt and abundant sarcasm, follow him on Twitter.



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