It’s a tough job market out there today as you are frequently up against a small army of competing job seekers.  Acing the interview is crucial for winning the right position.

Watch out for these 12 top interview mistakes:

1. Walking in with the Wrong Attitude

According to a recent survey of more than 3,000 HR managers and employers 77% listed answering phone calls or texting as their top pet peeve during interviews. Make sure your mobile is off before you walk in the room and that you act interested during the interview.

However, this doesn’t mean you should be too eager either. Be upbeat but whatever you do, don’t beg for the job. They should be chasing you! 

Appearing Arrogant has been described as one of the most harmful mistakes to a candidate’s interview chances. However, if you don’t let them know you are the best and shout about your successes who will? Ooze confidence without being conceited.

2. Dressing Inappropriately

This is actually a lot tougher to get right today than most imagine. What you wear shouts volumes about you, even before you open your mouth. Traditional wisdom says that you can never go wrong with a suit (women too). Extensive testing in the retail industry suggests that navy blue is the best color and a tie or scarf is a must. Of course a little common sense and strategy is required here as well. Walk into an interview with Facebook or similar Silicon Valley startup in a suit and tie and you’ll probably get hurled out the window in hoodie straight jacket. Fitting in with the culture should come first but if in doubt break out the blue suit.

3. Talking Trash about Previous Employers

This is one of the worst mistakes you can possibly make. There are no excuses for it. None! It doesn’t matter how abusive and idiotic your old boss was, your prospective employer will not hire someone they don’t think can be loyal or will trash their reputation at the first sign of trouble.

4. Failure to Research

If you haven’t had to interview for a job in a while you need to know that employers now expect you to do some serious research before you walk in the door. Come on, it isn’t that hard. You ought to be able to find out volumes on any company in 15 minutes on the web. Google them, find out what their mission statement says, how business is, what software they use, what issues they are facing, who you will be interviewing with and the details of their products or services. Your goal should be to blow them away with your knowledge of their firm. That will instantly rocket you to offering the best ROI as the chosen employee.

5. Flopping on the “Tell Me about Yourself Question”

This is probably one of the toughest interview questions to get right at the moment. Human Resources managers say that they don’t really want to know about your personal life, this is almost a trick question that requires job hunters to spin a little about themselves into being the ultimate candidate. Don’t come across as too much of a workaholic or they’ll be afraid of you coming in with a firearm and having a breakdown one day. Don’t sound like you have too much of a life out of work or they’ll be afraid you won’t show up half the time.

And don’t forget – ANY time they ask about your weaknesses, turn it into a strength.  For example, “I often become obsessed with new and exciting projects.  My spouse says I eat, breathe and sleep work until we have the product off the ground…”

6. Forgetting to Clean Up Your Social Media

Even though it may not be right, many employers are using social media profiles as part of the selection process.  This makes it not only necessary to clean up the public view but to clear out anything which could be detrimental to your hiring prospects. Many employers and recruiters check social media sites before interviewing candidates and many admit that they have eliminated individuals based on what they found.

7. Missing the Point Entirely

The bottom line is that employers don’t care about work experience, references or even college degrees nearly as much as what you can do for them. What is it specifically that you are going to accomplish for this company? Can you help increase their revenues, boost the bottom line or improve their market share? Don’t walk in until you know.

In the job posting, preliminary conversations and during the interview, the employer will be fairly clear about what they are looking for you to accomplish. You can also find plenty of information online about the job functions of various positions and titles. You need to be the candidate who best embodies the perfect fit for this vacancy and who can quickly solve the company’s major challenges. If you can’t convey this with your words and resume you might as well save the gas money and stay in bed.

8. Not Having Questions Prepared

According to a CNN News report employers do expect you to come prepared with intelligent questions. They want to know you care about it being a good fit too.

Example questions you could ask:  How will success be measured? If the interviewing will be your manager, ask him/her to describe his own management style. Find out what the company’s biggest current problem is – that shows you are already thinking like an employee.  Especially if you follow up with more questions or suggestions on what to do. Ask why to job is open –is the company expanding, creating a new job or replacement someone who left.

9. Arriving late or too early

This comes back to appearing too arrogant or disinterested as well as you organizational skills and how reliable you are. There are actually rare cases when being a few minutes late can definitely play in your favor, especially when there are hundreds of other candidates begging for a job. This will make you stand out for sure but you had better be willing to lose the job opportunity if you gamble on this strategy.

10. Not Bringing Extra Copies of Your Resume & Your List of References

Employers expect it. They may not have a printed copy and you certainly want to make sure you have one for your own references so that your answers match up. It will also help you to answer questions under pressure.

Many career advisors now recommend against including references in initial resumes and plenty of employers now rely more on internet searches than calling candidate provided contacts but you don’t want to hold up the hiring process or fumble the interview because you don’t have any good ones to give.

11.  Jumping the gun with irrelevant details

So many times candidates are preoccupied with the unimportant.  Example, what is the dental coverage, 401K matching, can I have 2 days in October off for a friend’s wedding, etc…

The minute you start throwing obstacles in the way before you have even passed all interviewing rounds with flying colors, you become more of a nuisance than an ideal member of the team.  It’s equivalent to negotiating over curtains in a new home before your offer has been accepted.  Wait.  Prove your worth, agree to the key items, then discuss the specifics.

12. Failing to Finish Strong

Don’t kill you job prospects at the last second by not finishing the interview strongly and with confidence. Assume the position is yours and ask what the next step is and when you can expect it to occur.  If you sense hesitancy, ask if there are any concerns and find out how you might address them.


Now, enjoy this process!  It is much like dating - you may have to go through a few bad ones to get to the right one.  Don’t forget to smile and to be you!

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