7 Common Interview Mistakes Made By Candidates

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You have made it through the process to being one of the final candidates for a position. The interview is your opportunity to demonstrate that “I am the best candidate for this position. Let me tell you why.” Any hint or red flag that might indicate you are a bad hire will put you out of the running. Employers cannot afford to make bad hires. With reviewing resumes, reference checks, interviewing, training and more—hiring a replacement is extremely expensive. As a potential hire, you must be ready to put your best foot forward. Unfortunately, many candidates fail at this crucial step. Here is a list of 7 common interview mistakes and how to avoid them in your job interview.

Being Unprepared

This mistake is an opportunity crusher and will reveal itself rather quickly. The competition for a good position is too great for you to show up ill prepared. Make sure that you have the following covered:

  1. Know the position description and how/why you fit with it.
  2. Be prepared to provide specific examples.
  3. Research The Employer (Culture, Mission, Values, History, Current Initiatives).
  4. Research The Interviewer(s) (if possible).
  5. Know your answers to standard interview questions.
  6. Do a self-inventory so that you are also prepared for non-standard questions.

Talking Negatively About Your Current or Previous Employer

Negativity about your former job sends the red flag that you’ll be negative about your next job. Interviewers don’t want to hire someone who complains, who looks at the bad side, or who doesn’t seem to be satisfied. From the perspective of the employer, a whiner looks ungrateful, and that is the last thing anyone wants to invite into his or her workplace. Good executives keep an eye on the type of culture that they are building, and they want the people that they add to that culture to be optimistic and bring in positive vibes. They know that they aren’t going to achieve that by hiring someone who brings up their old gripes when they’re looking to start a new position. The best way to handle this is to say something along the lines of, “I am looking for an opportunity with more growth potential, and is closer to my passions and strengths. This is why I am excited about the prospect of this position and working for this company. I wish my former (or current) employe well.”

Negative Body Language

Your body language has a significant impact on how you are perceived so you have to be aware of it from the moment you step through the door. You are being judged even before you have uttered your first word. Make that fact work for you. Here are ways to do that:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Don’t slouch. Use good posture.
  • Use your hands properly (Keep them in your lap. Open. No fists or being too demonstrative).
  • Don’t fidget (Keep both feet planted on the floor to keep your legs from jiggling, etc).
  • Smile.
  • Mirror the interviewer. (You can quickly get on good terms with your interviewer by subtly matching their positive body language).

Turn Off Your Phone

While it is unfortunate that it must be said here, but do not take a phone call or read a text during a job interview.

Not Having Good Questions Or Asking A Question At The Wrong Time

To an employer, your not asking questions means that you do not have a true interest in the position. How engaged in the job are you likely to be if you don’t inquire into it while in the interview? Just as bad as not asking any questions is asking the wrong questions. During the initial interview, asking questions only about raises, vacation time, and benefits are not usually well received. Those questions indicate that you are only interested in personal benefits rather than what benefits you can bring to the job. Consider these as questions to ask:

  • What is an average day is like?
  • Is the job is new or being filled because the previous employee was promoted, etc.
  • If I get the job, how do I earn a “gold star” on my performance review? What are the key accomplishments you would like to see in this role over the next year?
  • What is one thing that is key to this company’s success that somebody from outside the company would not know about?

Not Collecting Contact Information Or Asking The Next-Steps Questions

Many candidates leave an interview having no idea what the next steps in the process are. Give your business card (or networking card) to your interviewer at the beginning of the interview and ask for theirs. After the interview, ask what the next steps in their hiring process are if the information is not volunteered. Find out who your post-interview contact is and when, and how, to contact that person. Be sure to take down the email address and/or phone number carefully if you do not have that person’s business card.

Failing to follow up

Many candidates leave an interview, then go home and wait to be contacted. What you do during the period after your interview is a demonstration of the quality of your work as a potential employee. To stand out in the crowd of job candidates (which can number four, five, or more), immediately send thank you notes to each person who interviewed you. Also send a thank you to the external recruiter, and/or the employee or networking contact that referred you for the opportunity.

By being prepared to shine in these 7 areas where many candidates drop the ball, you will position yourself as the best person for the opening. Congratulations in advance on your new job!


Sam Robinson

About the Author:

Sam Robinson is the Founder and President of Robinson-Robinson & Associates, Inc., as well as a Principal Consultant. Sam has executive level Human Resources experience in the computer manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries. He served in various functional roles including Staffing, Employee Relations, Compensation Administration, Organizational Development and Training, and Diversity. Sam is a varsity athletic graduate of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. He continues to be a sports enthusiast and is an avid golfer.