9 Interview Mistakes You Didn't Know You Were Making

Published on: 23 Nov 2020

9 interview mistakes

You’re a good candidate. You research the company you’re interviewing for, you know your CV off by heart, and you’ve never lied about your job history. But you’re still not getting job offers.

Some of the most common deal-breaking mistakes most candidates make never cross their minds. If you find yourself struggling, be sure you’re not doing any of the following.


1. Giving Textbook Answers

You’re a motivated team player whose biggest flaw is perfectionism? Yeah, you and everybody else. Talking in clichés is boring – the interviewer will have heard it all before. And if you sound like you’re reciting a Googled blog post on “correct answers to common interview questions” the abilities you claim to have won’t sound credible.

Worry less about sounding perfect and focus on sounding authentic. Use statistics and examples to prove you have key skills rather than just listing them.


2. Not Looking in the Mirror

This is not a metaphor about psychoanalysing yourself. Take it literally, and look in a full-length mirror before heading into an interview.

When staff at OfficeTeam compiled a list of the worst interview mistakes they’ve encountered, two spots were taken up by a candidate with lettuce in her teeth and another with his fly undone. It may seem harsh to be judged for such superficial slip-ups, but it happens. So check!


3. Arriving Early

Most people know that arriving late is the cardinal sin of job interviews. But arriving too early is almost as bad. Your interviewer is unlikely to be ready and may have to interrupt some other work.

Still allow plenty of extra time to find the building and allow for unexpected delays, but upon arrival set up camp in a nearby coffee shop until 5-10 minutes before your scheduled slot.


4. Not Saying Thank You

Odds are that by being called to an interview you’ve already beaten out 97% of the 250 original applicants. The company has invested in you, so show you’re invested in them by thanking them for their time.

The best way to do this is by sending them a quick email or note an hour or so after the interview. Keep it short and simple; it’s a polite gesture, not a stump speech.


5. Not Knowing Any Good Stories

Hands up who wants to work with a robot? Your interviewer won’t either, so be sure to inject some personality into your job pitch.

Most people spend a significant portion of their waking hours at work, which is why so much emphasis is placed on ‘cultural fit’ and why interviewers ultimately hire candidates they like.

If you’re asked to tell them something about yourself, tell them something interesting and unique to you. Pretending you don’t have a personal life doesn’t make you look professional, it makes you look unapproachable.


6. Forgetting to Tidy Your Room

Pre-pandemic, 63% of companies were regularly using video interviews to screen candidates - now, that number will be even higher. It’s no secret that neat presentation is the key to creating a good first impression, and for video interviews that goes beyond dry cleaning your suit.

Think about everything the interviewer will be able to see. If your screen is going to show them your dirty dishes in the sink or crumpled clothes on the floor, change location or tidy up.


7. Dressing Too Trendy

Creating the right impression with your outfit isn’t just about forgoing short skirts and adopting a tie. 7 in 10 employers would be turned off by a job applicant who dressed too fashionably. A whopping 95% of them felt the same way about orange clothing.

As a rule of thumb, leave creativity to your answers and keep your outfit traditional. If you’re interviewing for the sort of company that encourages casual wear even in interviews, avoid slogan or fan t-shirts. You want the interviewer to judge you on your work experience, not your love of Pink Floyd.


8. Smoking Beforehand

Or eating an egg sandwich. Or being too liberal with your favourite eau de toilette. You wouldn’t attend an interview without showering so don’t attend one smelling of anything else either. It’s off-putting and unpleasant: neither of which are qualities you want the interviewer to associate with you!


9. Not Asking Questions

A good interview is a two-way conversation, and asking thoughtful questions shows that you’re engaged and enthusiastic about the role.

Ask about a typical workday, company goals or the interviewer’s experiences at the firm. Don’t ask about salary, what the company does or for directions to the nearest bus stop.


Beth Leslie writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency specialising in matching candidates to their dream internship. Check out their graduate jobs London listings for roles or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.