7 Big Mistakes to Avoid In Your Next Interview

Career Advice
minute read

To come across at your best and prove yourself as a top candidate, it’s important to know the red flags employers have on their radar—so you can avoid them. Keep this list in mind as you prepare for your upcoming interviews, and make sure you’re avoiding these serious mistakes.

When it comes to looking good in an interview and getting to the next stage of the hiring process, it’s essential to make a strong, positive impression. The best way to do that is knowing not only what to do—but just as importantly, what not to do. And as any interviewer can tell you, candidates make a lot of mistakes in this area.

You don’t have to make those same mistakes, though. In fact, you can ensure you showcase yourself and your skills in the best light with a little planning. So, whether you’re new to interviewing, or you simply haven’t been searching for a while, here’s a quick, practical refresher on these mistakes to avoid during your next interview.

  1. Failing to Research the Company and Position

Of course, you’ve already read the job description and perhaps even had a brief call to get more details before the interview moves forward. But once you set foot in that interviewer room (or hop on that virtual call), you need to show you care about the position. If you’re not prepared, you risk looking uninterested or unprofessional.

Instead of going in cold, do research:

  • Read up on the employer — Their About Us page and Press or News page are a good place to start, as are their values, mission and vision statements.
  • Learn about their competitors — This can give you an idea of how you can help the company you’re interviewing for gain ground in the marketplace.
  • Check out the interviewer’s LinkedIn — Look for areas of common interest, or a question you can bring up to establish rapport when the interview begins.
  1. Arriving Late or Rushing to Get There

One of the best ways to start off an interview on the right foot is to be relaxed, which means getting there a little early. On the other hand, if you’re running late, you can expect that to cause problems. It creates an immediate bad impression and may also make the interviewer’s day harder, which is not good for you as a candidate.

To make it easier to arrive on time (or better yet, early):

  • Avoid overscheduling — Don’t try to run errands first, or drive all over town.
  • Create breathing room — If you must schedule multiple appointments on the same day, make sure you have lots of time between appointments in case you run late, hit traffic, etc.
  • Don’t just be a no-show — If you have an accident, get sick or need to reschedule, be courteous and let the interviewer know as much in advance of the scheduled interview as possible. Anything else is considered rude and nixes your chances of success at that company
  1. Displaying Poor Body Language

Nothing screams a lack of interest or a lack of confidence to an interviewer more than fidgety behaviors. You want to appear relaxed, assured, engaged and upbeat as you chat with the interviewer.

Stay aware of your nonverbal signals:

  • Put away your phone — It’s all too easy to let it distract you, so silence it and put it in your pocket.
  • Be aware of your hands — Avoid nervous habits like playing with your hair, and biting your nails.
  • Sit up straight and lean in — Show your interest with good posture, eye contact, smiling, nodding, etc. Don’t cross your arms or tap your feet, which can make you seem impatient or uninterested.
  1. Being Negative

You can give off a negative impression in several ways, including how you speak and put yourself forward in the interview. Remember, discussing a job position with a stranger is not the time or place to have a venting session about anything. Stay positive, upbeat and focused on the task at hand.

What NOT to talk about:

  • Your previous employer — Negative comments about your past job make you look bad and leave the interviewer wondering if you’re difficult to work with.
  • Your previous position — No job is perfect, but if you’re focused on talking about what you didn’t like, it can come across as unreliability or untrustworthiness.
  • Your previous coworkers — Part of the interview process involves showing you can be a team player who will fit in the company’s culture. Negative talk about others conveys the opposite impression.

Pro Tip: Be careful of your language choices too. Don’t swear—stay G or PG, even if the interviewer doesn’t.

  1. Having No Questions to Ask

If you seriously want a specific position, you have to signal you’re interested in it, and eager to take on the role. And what shows interest better than curiosity and a desire to learn more? If you fail to ask questions, it shows you’re not engaged in the process, haven’t been actively listening, or don’t care about the role enough to go after it harder.

Be prepared with questions ahead of time:

  • Use your research — Take what you’ve learned about the company and the role to craft questions to help you learn more about what it’d be like to work there.
  • Write down notes — Jot down some questions to bring to the interview, and take notes during it, especially if a question comes to mind, so you can remember and ask it later.
  1. Emphasizing a Lack of Experience

This is an all-too-easy mistake to make, especially if you’re relatively new to the workforce or are switching to a career in a new field (like tech). The problem is, if you say this, you’ll remind the interviewer of what you lack, and you’ll come across as a poor candidate.

Here’s what to do instead:

  • Focus on the positive — Talk about what you can bring to the role.
  • Emphasize your transferable skills — Give examples of ways your previous experience relates to the new role, including soft skills like communication and problem solving.
  • Share your enthusiasm for the role — Let them know you’re eager to take on a new position and desire to bring value to the company.

Tip: If you’re not sure how to emphasize transferable skills, do an assessment of your career skills first. Use what you learn about yourself to plan out stories and statistics that help showcase what makes you a great candidate.

  1. Focusing Too Much on Money, Perks and Promotions

While it’s natural to wonder about all these important factors, keep in mind that your goal is to show you care about the company and the position—not just your paycheck. Avoid bringing up salary, healthcare, vacation and advancement in early interviews, and wait until the interviewer mentions them before digging into the specifics.

Instead of asking about pay and promotion, try these approaches instead:

  • Interest in longevity — If you’d like to stay long-term at the company, let the interviewer know what excites you about that possibility.
  • Curiosity about career paths — Express your desire to learn more about the general types of career paths that employees take within the company.
  • Future plans for the company or department — Ask about the employer’s goals for the team you’d be joining, and how your position might evolve.
Summing It All Up

Creating the right impression in your interview is all about showing your positive energy, expressing your enthusiasm for the company and the role you’re interviewing for, and emphasizing all the traits and skills you have that make you a great hire. The ‘don’ts’ for an interview are things that would impede that process. 

So, as you prepare for your next interview, take time to craft a great strategy. And remember, you have what it takes to shine and win over that interviewer to achieve the career success you’d aiming for.