4 Common Mistakes Candidates Make in Job Interviews

resume header image

Improve Your Resume or CV

It’s natural to be nervous before a job interview. You have to prove yourself to the employer, sell your skills and experience, and show the best side of your personality, all while fielding what can sometimes feel like a barrage of personal questions intended to judge your character and success. This would be intimidating on its own, but when you consider that job interviews have the power to determine your career trajectory, they become all the more nerve-racking. 

Feeling anxious before a job interview isn’t a sign that you’re not right for the position—anyone, regardless of skill and experience, is likely to feel the same way. Although we encourage you to see it more as a conversation than an interrogation, we know a job interview can be overwhelming. Besides, you should take it seriously, just not to the point where you end up sabotaging yourself. That’s why it’s crucial to learn to control your nerves on the big day. Otherwise, you might find yourself making mistakes that could cost you the position. 

Preparation is key to feeling confident and calm, allowing you to focus on answering every question thoughtfully and thoroughly. It’s a lot more than just anticipating questions and preparing answers—there are multiple aspects to consider, and taking a holistic approach will help give you the confidence you need to shine. When you’re well prepared, you’re less likely to ramble, overshare, or put your foot in your mouth.

The good news is there are plenty of ways you can prepare for a job interview. From practicing your answers to common interview questions with a friend or an expert to researching the company and trying on your outfit well in advance to preclude any problems, you can train yourself to project self-confidence and make a great first impression. You only get one chance at making a first impression, and job interviewers are always more taken with confident applicants, so showing up poised and assured is key to success.

If you’re feeling self-conscious or anxious about your upcoming job interview, set up a mock interview with one of our job success experts, who will give you constructive feedback to help you improve your interview skills. The tips you receive will also help you boost your confidence and leave a positive impression on the interviewer. If you’re hoping to wing it, you risk making some (or all) of the mistakes listed below. 

1. Being late

This is a big one. Being late indicates lack of respect for the interviewer’s time and will brand you as “the person who didn’t bother to show up on time,” no matter how good of an excuse or reason you have. You don’t want to be that person! Sometimes, there can be truly unpredictable and unavoidable obstacles, but generally, careful planning allows you to handle even unforeseen issues. What the interviewer will usually surmise from your tardiness is that if you were late for the interview, chances are you’d be late for work, so make sure you plan to arrive slightly earlier than scheduled. 

If you’re driving to the interview, make sure you know the best route to get there and have a full tank of gas. Exploring the route in advance (if feasible) is a good idea—you will familiarize yourself with it and any obstacles that could arise as you drive out on the big day. Also, be sure to check the traffic and weather beforehand, and consider where you’ll park and how much time that will add to your journey. 

Take these factors into account to calculate how long it will likely take you to get there on time, and then give yourself some extra time in case anything goes wrong. It’s best practice to arrive around 15 minutes early, so be sure to reflect that in your schedule. Showing up early (but not too early) will make you look careful and well-organized, and hiring managers definitely take note of things like this.

If you’re taking public transport, check the routes and schedules, get a ticket beforehand if possible, and leave a bit early to allow for the possibility of any delays. It may be worth it to find an alternative route, just in case something goes wrong with your original route. If you’re walking or biking, consider the weather so you don’t show up sweaty if it’s hot or soaked if it rains. 

In case you’re doing a virtual interview, see to it that your space is uncluttered and clean, double-check your internet connection, make sure your device is charged, test your video and sound, and find an angle that lights your face well. Set up your environment and device in advance to give yourself enough time to resolve unforeseen technical issues. Check yourself in the mirror before turning on your camera, and be ready a few minutes early. A job interview is no less serious just because it’s online, and it’s important to prepare adequately even when you’ll be sitting in front of your laptop in your own living room.

2. Having a bad attitude 

Although your skills and experience got you through the door, your attitude and personality are ultimately what will help you get the job. Therefore, make sure you exude confidence and a positive attitude on the day of your interview, even if you’re feeling differently on the inside. Don’t forget that any job will involve interacting with your boss, co-workers, and possibly customers, so your soft skills truly matter—companies would rather hire a less skilled worker who’s pleasant to be around than a more skilled one who causes rifts in the workplace. 

Remember to be kind and polite to everyone you interact with, from custodians and receptionists to management and HR personnel—even if they have no say in the hiring decision, those who do will note your attitude toward them. Also, don’t lose your cool, and don’t badmouth your previous or current employer, or you’ll risk appearing petty and untrustworthy. If the interviewer wants your opinion of your previous jobs, focus on the parts you liked, even if they were few and far between.

Remain professional at all times, use appropriate language, and be enthusiastic because the last thing you want is to alienate the person interviewing you. While adopting the right attitude is a conscious decision, it’s a lot easier when you’re in a good mood. To give yourself the best odds of feeling upbeat, make sure you relax the night before, eat a light meal, avoid too much caffeine, and go to bed early. If you still wake up in a foul mood, try some yoga or meditation. If possible, engage in relaxing activities before the interview—just do whatever will calm your nerves and put you in the right mindset. You need to check your bad attitude at the door so you can make a great first impression.

3. Lying or being inconsistent

You may have heard people brag about padding their resume or outright lying on it, but you absolutely must not follow their example! Not only is it inherently unethical, but it can seriously backfire. Being caught in a lie is a sure way to get kicked out without a job offer, and it could even lead to more serious consequences for your professional future, so it’s best to be honest and consistent. 

Even if you’re a fantastic liar who can easily fool an interviewer into believing your fictional resume, how long would you be able to keep up the facade after being hired? If you’ve lied about your skills and experience, it will quickly become apparent when you can’t do the job as required, and you’ll find yourself in hot water.

On a similar note, try not to hesitate when discussing your job history, or you’ll seem unsure about your own experience. This is why preparation is so important: You don’t want to be scratching your head when asked a simple factual question. You might think it’s easy to answer questions about your own work history, but nerves can mess with you in unexpected ways, so memorizing your resume and practicing answers to questions about your employment record will make for a smooth, successful job interview.

4. Avoiding questions

Whether it’s because they’re not really listening to the questions or are actively trying to avoid a specific topic, many candidates hurt their own chances of being hired by avoiding the interviewer’s inquiries. If there are topics you want to avoid, confront them in your pre-interview preparation. Why don’t you want to discuss them? How can you steer the conversation so that these topics work in your favor or at least don’t hurt you as much? Hiring managers know no one is perfect, so it’s okay if some of your answers are less than ideal, but if you address difficult topics with sincerity and authenticity, you can come off looking confident and mature. 

It’s also important to be present and focused on the conversation at hand so you can answer the questions calmly and thoughtfully. Concentrate on the question rather than on what you’ll say—it doesn’t matter how great your response is if it fails to answer the question. Listen carefully, be aware of the interviewer’s tone and body language (as well as your own), and don’t ramble—offer succinct answers and move on. If you go off on a tangent, you risk divulging information that doesn’t work in your favor, and even if it’s not harmful, you’ll be demonstrating poor communication skills.

Job interviews are stressful, but that doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the pressure. Take the time to practice, to feel confident in your answers, and to look your best. After you’ve aced your interview, send the interviewer a follow-up letter thanking them for their time. This small but powerful step will bolster your candidacy, so don’t skip it!

Improve Your Resume or CV