Interviewing is a science. Very few candidates naturally feel comfortable in an interview environment; most struggle with the many do’s and don’ts of interview etiquette. The good news for candidates is that a little study and careful preparation can make the difference between public humiliation and getting the job. Here’s nine top interview mistakes to avoid:


  • Late Arrivals

This embarrassing mistake tops the list for two reasons: it’s common, and it kills. Showing up late can end the interview before it even gets started. Even a legitimate excuse won’t work here; they’ve been used too many times. Some say it’s unfair to make a judgment on somebody based on a single mistake, but showing up on-time is the bare minimum for most companies. Miss the interview = miss the job.


  • Dressed for failure

Many studies claim that hiring decisions are determined within the first 3 seconds of the interview. Obviously, first impressions matter! A suit is still considered appropriate interview attire for almost all workplace environments, even if nobody wears a suit day-to-day. If in doubt, bring the suit. So many solid candidates have ruined their chances by insulting the hiring managers with a sloppy outfit. For those who don’t own a suit: rent one. It really is that important.   


  • Desperation

This can express itself in any number of ways. Those currently unemployed must be especially careful to avoid coming off as desperate. Don’t focus on compensation, don’t oversell, and remain courteous at all times. If there’s a sob-story attached to being unemployed, keep it to yourself! Talk about the contributions made to former employers and explain reasons for termination/leaving if necessary. Following up after the interview with a note and expressing interest in the job is encouraged; continued harassment is not.


  • Not knowing the company/job

A surprising number of candidates interview for a job at a company they know nothing about. Not so surprising is the fact that that these candidates never get hired. There is no excuse for this sort of laziness in a world where everyone has a smartphone and access to Google. Spend 30 minutes to research the industry, the company history, the competition, etc. Leverage professional connections who may have worked at the company in the past. It’s always worth it.


  •  Narcissism

It’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Don’t be afraid to sell strengths and downplay weaknesses, but avoid exaggeration and remain humble. Self-absorption is a turn-off for everyone but especially for a hiring manager looking to add to his or her team. Back up claims with numbers and stats, and keep that ego in check. Obviously, there’s going to be some exceptions (sales jobs are one), but generally humility helps.


  • Oversharing

Keep it classy. There’s no problem with bonding with the hiring managers and sharing personal details, but avoid bringing up personal problems. Follow the interviewer’s lead and don’t volunteer personal information unless they go there first. Doing this well will build rapport, oversharing will ruin the interview. Always avoid personal problems that might affect workplace performance including DUI’s, marital issues, etc. Focus on professional accomplishments and generally try to avoid leading the conversation into sensitive private matters. 


  • Bad-mouthing Bosses

No matter how bad that last job was, it never helps to trash a former employer. It’s unprofessional and calls relationship-building abilities into question. If a bad boss was the reason for leaving say so, but don’t resort to insults or the blame game. No one wants to hire someone with a history of boss-bashing.


  • Please turn off all electronic devices

All it takes is one “beep,” “whistle,” or muffled vibrate to distract everyone in the interview. If for some reason a call or text does come in, don’t take out the phone! Even if interrupting a conversation to check a notification is common practice in everyday life, it is not acceptable for an interview. Turn off the phone or make certain that it is silenced.


  • Stupid questions

“Do you have any questions” is the single most critical question of the interview. This is where all that research, careful attentiveness, and preparation pays off big-time. Make the most of it! Don’t waste everyone’s time with questions that demonstrate poor priorities. The only thing worse than stupid questions are no questions at all. 

Robert Gallagher is a former Executive Recruiter/current Sales guru at Phenom People. He received his Bachelors in Corporate Communications from Penn State University. He has published works in Lehigh Valley Business, Tradition Magazine, ERE Media, The Pottstown-Mercury, State of the Valley and is a LinkedIn contributor. Follow him at

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