8 Worst Mistakes You Can Make at a Job Interview

job interview mistakes

I remember one of my teachers in high school telling us that we should say yes to every job interview whether we wanted the specific job or not. He said that attending numerous interviews would help us improve our interview skills. It would show us that everyone conducts interviews differently, and the more experience we gained, the better prepared we would be. And it is like anything else that we want to excel in, the more practice and experience we have, the easier it gets.

Even with a lot of experience, job interviews can still feel quite stressful, especially if you really want that job. You have to impress the interviewer, showcase your strengths and downplay your weaknesses, then to top it all -- you have to be charming as well.

It’s definitely a tall order, and the last thing you want to do is to make these common interview mistakes.

Here are 8 of the worst mistakes you can make during a job interview. In fact, think back to your previous ones. Did you make any of these job interview faux pas? Read on and avoid these errors like the plague.

One: Arriving Late.

This is the first and most important point that could actually turn the interviewer off: lack of punctuality. You’re applying for a job, and the inability to come in on time and honor an appointment reflects very poorly on you.

Companies don’t just look for talented employees. They want employees who are reliable.

A talented by unreliable flake won’t be very productive and is unlikely to be an excellent team player. If you can’t come in on time for the interview, how can they trust you to show up on time everyday?

Two: Forgetting To Turn Your Cellphone Off.

A phone that keeps ringing definitely is a distraction. It’s also very disrespectful towards the interviewer.

During the job interview, you want to make sure that you make the most of the interviewer’s time. If you keep wasting minutes dealing with a phone that just won’t stop, then you’re not really giving the interview your full attention.

If you’re uneasy with turning your phone completely off, at least put it on silent. Don’t turn the “vibrate” function on. It’s still distracting.

An interview takes thirty minutes at most; what’s wrong with keeping it silent for that span of time?

Three: Not Knowing Anything About The Company.

It’s important to do your research beforehand. You have to come in with some knowledge of the company. It’s not that difficult these days, especially since you can just Google practically anything.

That’s why it’s doubly shameful to attend the interview without taking the time to research some history about the company.

For one, it looks like you’re lazy and can’t be bothered to do any kind of preparation. It reflects poorly on your work ethic, and might even give off the signal that you’re not really interested in the job.

Four: Lying To The Interviewer.

It’s not just lying about your qualifications. You have to be careful not to make claims you can’t back up. Some applicants might think it’s acceptable to tell white lies or small fibs about their previous jobs, educational background, or even colleague interaction.

The problem is that most things can be investigated quite easily. For example, if you exaggerate to give off the idea that you played a bigger role in your previous company than you actually did, a quick call to your manager or co-workers can easily show that you were lying.

Five: Relying On Cliches.

It’s very easy to use canned responses. When asked to cite your weaknesses, don’t say something like, “I’m a perfectionist” or “I’m a workaholic”. These are not real weaknesses, and you know it. In fact, the interviewer knows it.

These canned answers make you look bad. It means you are being glib, and that your answers aren’t trustworthy. Certainly, a question about your weaknesses isn’t easy to answer, but HR practitioners will definitely appreciate an honest and thoughtful answer.

Six: Not Listening.

Some people think it’s important to fill every minute of the interview with information about themselves.

Remember that an interview is a conversation -- though definitely not a casual one. It means you have to have a give and take.

Let the interviewer talk. If you talk too much and never let the interviewer get a word in edgewise, you’re sending very bad signals. It means your communication skills need improvement, and that you’re likely to be a bad team member.

Seven: Dressing Inappropriately.

It’s a fact of life that people will judge you by the way you look. This is doubly true in a job interview. If you come in wearing shorts and flip-flops, the interviewer will see someone who takes the interview too lightly. Of course, the same look can be acceptable if you’re interviewing for the position of a lifeguard. For an office job? Probably not.

It’s a good idea to look up the dress code of the company so that you have some guidelines to follow. At the very least, remember that you need to look smart, clean, and prepared. Don’t wear anything provocative, indecent, or too loud.

Eight: Bad-Mouthing Your Former Boss.

Though it might be true that you had the worst possible experience at your previous job, complaining about it reflects poorly on you. When you bad-mouth a former employer, the interviewer will find it awkward. You could just as easily be bad-mouthing their company if they hire you. No one wants someone who complains constantly, especially in a work environment.

Even though the economy is beginning to turn around there are still hundreds of people applying for every job opening out there. So when you are invited to your next interview understand that you have a lot of competition, which makes is even more important for you to make a good impression.

Your Turn

What’s the worst mistake you have ever made at a job interview?


    • DC @ Young Adult Money

      DC @ Young Adult Money 08/19/2013 5:30 a.m. #

      Great tips, Sicorra! There are so many things to keep in mind when it comes to interviewing, but the ones you mentioned are especially important. Not bad-mouthing your former boss or company is key because it brings your character into question. It's better to talk about the positives and maybe lightly mention a difficulty you had (but were able to overcome, of course).

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 08/19/2013 8:56 p.m. #

        So true about bad-mouthing. Never a good idea no matter how upsetting your last job may have been.

    • Michelle

      Michelle 08/19/2013 8:52 a.m. #

      These are definitely big mistakes. Arriving late is horrible, yet so many people do that! Also, not showing up at all.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 08/19/2013 8:57 p.m. #

        Not showing up at all sounds funny but it actually happens quite often.

    • Shannon @ The Heavy Purse

      Shannon @ The Heavy Purse 08/19/2013 10:15 a.m. #

      I was taught to accept all interviews for the experience too. They can be nerve-wracking! It's a competitive job market and these are great tips. It surprises me how many people come to interviews ill-prepared. They don't know anything about you/company or business and have no questions. They are just a lump in a chair. No thanks!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 08/19/2013 8:59 p.m. #

        Good interview skills are sometimes taught in schools and sometimes they are not. And sometimes people just do not care how they present themselves, or if they ask the right questions. It's hard though when they end up in your office, right?

    • Corina Ramos

      Corina Ramos 08/19/2013 11:12 a.m. #

      Hi Socorra,

      Oh yeah, these are THE worst mistakes to make during an interview and arriving late is definitely worthy of the #1 spot! That's the first thing we were taught.

      I also remember my teacher telling us to make eye contact during the interview and avoid looking down or away from the interviewer. We even did mock interviews at school. We were graded on how we talked, what we said, and appearance. I got a "A" LOL :)

      Great post my friend! Talk to you soon :). Happy Monday!

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 08/19/2013 9:01 p.m. #

        Great point Corina! Eye contact is so very important and sometimes people are just too nervous and can't do that.

        Doing mock interviews at school is fun and a good way to learn the necessary skills.

        • Corina Ramos

          Corina Ramos 08/23/2013 10:09 a.m. #

          Yeah it was playing dress up. The attire was business casual so that's the first time I wore heels and I sucked at it lol.

    • Tara @ Streets Ahead Living

      Tara @ Streets Ahead Living 08/19/2013 3:22 p.m. #

      You definitely hit every nail on the head with this list! You definitely see a lot of younger folks wearing the inappropriate clothing to a job interview and that is such a no-no in my book. If you can't tell if you're dressed inappropriately, Google what an appropriate job interview attire should look like! Also, don't overdress either--some of the more casual jobs may be turned off by your Armani suit.

      • Sicorra

        Sicorra 08/19/2013 9:05 p.m. #

        That is so true Tara! Dressing up too much can show that you are out of touch with who the employer is as well. For example many new tech companies these days do dress very casually. While I still wouldn't wear jeans and a t-shirt to the interview, business casual may work better then the Armani suit.

    • krantcents

      krantcents 08/19/2013 8:58 p.m. #

      I usually do not make blatant mistakes! I think the most important part of an interview is to connect with the interviewer. Sometimes, I cannot connect for various reasons.

    • Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Famiilies

      Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Famiilies 08/19/2013 10:12 p.m. #

      This is an excellent list of potential mistakes. Most people bring up money too early as well. I have always been told that you don't want to talk money unless the interviewer brings it up or until you have a firm offer.

    • Donna Chaffins

      Donna Chaffins 08/23/2013 6 a.m. #

      I agree #1 and #8 are very important, yet people still do them. :/ I'd also add good hygiene along with dressing appropriately. I have actually seen people go for interviews and they don't look like they took a shower or washed their hair. Seriously. Great list, Sicorra!

    • Bren

      Bren 08/23/2013 5:52 p.m. #

      When I worked in Human Resources, I was amazed at how awful some people were. Late to the interview. Sloppily dressed (for an office job). Communication was horrible (as in using slang or ghetto talk). It simply amazed me! Then after interviews when you would ask if they had any questions of their own, and Nothing? Really? When I used to interview, I went armed with answers and questions of my own.

      These are great tips you've shared Sicorra! Gladly sharing this along!

    • CarolB

      CarolB 08/23/2013 6:31 p.m. #

      Great tips Sicorra. Each and every one can make the difference between landing the job - and not. I took the same advice your teacher gave you - do the interview whether or not you really wanted that job. It helps sharpen your interviewing skills. Though admittedly it's been a while since I've had to interview!

    • Corinne

      Corinne 08/23/2013 7:50 p.m. #

      Good work interview tips Sicorra! I also think that not being professional is a big mistake. I've been to interviews where the interviewer just wasn't professional (letting employees come in the office to chit chat while the interview is taking place is one I had a couple times) and it's easy to let your professional demeanor go when the other person is being very casual. Then again, that's probably not the person you want to work for anyway...

      Hope you have a great weekend!

    • shristhi

      shristhi 08/30/2013 11:24 a.m. #

      Hey Sicorra

      You have mentioned all the possible mistakes one could make during an interview. Well this one time my friend was in the interview and his cell ring. That was really annoying. It kinda creepy.

      Sometimes people are so nervous they starts to act strange and terrible things happened
      Thanks for the amazing update. Keep up the good work.
      Would love to read/learn more amazing things from you.
      Peace :)

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