There are a lot of potential pitfalls when interviewing, as anyone who has gone on a few interviews has found out (hey, nobody’s perfect!!)
But some job interview mistakes are worse than others. You can recover from most mistakes, but the five mistakes below can be total show-stoppers.
These are the common mistakes that are extremely hard to recover from. The ones that a company just can’t ignore or overlook. The ones they talk about after you leave.
Avoid these at all costs and use this article as a quick checklist before any job interview to make sure you have the basics covered!
Take 2 minutes before the interview and get the names of the people you’re talking to and look them up on LinkedIn! Or at least know their job title. I’ve seen somebody go on interviews, meet with the CEO without realizing it and ask, ‘so, what do you do in the company?’
If you don’t know what department someone works in, or what they’re responsible for, you’re setting yourself up to say something embarrassing.
I knew another guy who went in to interview for a sales position and met with a Marketing Director as a part of the interview process. He didn’t realize who he was talking to and started bad-mouthing Marketing. He didn’t get hired obviously.
I’m not perfect either. I went on an interview a couple of years ago and was brought around the office space to meet a number of key people. The person showing me around mentioned I’d be talking to the SVP of Marketing, just as a formality. Somehow this slipped past me, and all I remembered was ‘marketing.’
I met with the woman in her office and the first thing I said was, ‘so… you’re in Marketing?’ Not a great first impression. I don’t think an SVP in Marketing wants to be asked if they’re IN Marketing! Lesson learned.
This didn’t kill my interview chances actually, but it definitely didn’t help and it made me seem like an idiot.
I couldn’t have prepared for this ahead of time, she wasn’t a part of the main interview schedule. But I could have listened better and been careful about what I say.
If you’re meeting somebody unexpected in an interview, stop the person who is bringing you to meet them and say, ‘hey, can you remind me exactly how this person fits into the organization so I can have a better conversation with them?’
Okay… so this is a pretty broad topic but here’s the general idea: You don’t want to sound scattered or disorganized. No company is going to hire somebody that’s flaky and hasn’t even put time into thinking about their career. So you want to be able to explain why you’re interviewing right now.
You also want to be able to explain what you did in your most recent job!! When they ask about your experience it’s a chance to impress them, but only if you took a few minutes to prepare on the key points you want to mention. There’s no such thing as sounding ‘okay’ when you describe your recent work. It’s either going to sound great or sound like you don’t have a clue what you’re trying to say.
I’m not saying your current boss ISN’T a horrible leader that’s ruining your career. They could be, and you’re smart for looking to make a career change and get out of there ASAP! But it doesn’t sound good to an interviewer, so pick a different reason for explaining your motivation to job hunt.
Here’s why it looks bad: When somebody only hears one side of a story, it’s human nature to wonder about the other perspective. So even if you’re 100% right, and your boss is a complete jerk that nobody could work for, or your company is a total mess that’s dragging your career down with it, don’t tell the interviewer.
They’ll immediately wonder what your coworkers or boss would say. Are YOU the actual problem? Do you have difficulty following what the team is doing, or working with your boss? Is it an attitude problem that’ll happen with ANY boss, and will repeat itself in your next job?
These are the things racing through the interviewer’s mind when you badmouth your previous company or colleagues because they can never get that other half of the story to be sure.
So try to focus on the positive things that you’ll be gaining if they hire you, instead of talking bad about your current situation.
This one is a little bit harder to explain but bear with me…
If a company gets the sense you’re not being authentic, or that you’re giving the answers you think they want to hear, it doesn’t matter how good your answers are. That’s the trick to interviewing well. Sure, there are plenty of strategies and proven job interview tips that you can memorize, but you have to blend it with your own style and seem genuine.
Think of an interview like a scientific test that’s being conducted. If they decide you’re just giving answers based on some strategies you’ve memorized, they’ll decide the whole test is compromised.
Essentially they’ll have to throw out the results. It’s not that you gave wrong answers or they think you’d be a bad employee, they’re just not sure. They don’t know! So they’re not going to feel comfortable hiring you.
I’ve interviewed a number of people that didn’t get hired because of this. I was interviewing an entry level candidate in my first Recruiting company, because we were growing and needed to hire more staff. So I went in and interviewed a young man, and a few other people on my team met with him after.
This was my general impression, and everyone agreed: He gave the right answers to everything but it didn’t seem like he was excited about what he was saying. He just seemed like he was repeating things he had learned to say. I couldn’t get a read on what he really thought, or who he really was as a person because each answer was so scripted and sounded like it was out of a book.
We didn’t end up hiring him. You wouldn’t buy a product without knowing anything about it, right? Hiring is the same. We didn’t dislike him, we just didn’t know enough to make a decision and didn’t want to risk it!
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. It’s pretty common and it can definitely kill your chances at getting through the interview. Even in the best case scenario you’ll have a pretty big hill to climb just to get back to being on level playing field! So show up a bit early and wait around the corner for your job interview, don’t risk being late.
So, I received some great emails and feedback after posting this and readers suggested a few others! Everyone who made a suggestion is right, there are WAY more than 5 common mistakes. Here are 2 other big interview mistakes to keep in mind and watch out for…
There are plenty of other mistakes out there but when I sit down to think about the most common and most costly, these are the ones that come to mind. Make sure you have these areas taken care of before your next interview!
UPDATE: If you’re job hunting, this might interest you: I recently finished a step-by-step job interview “cheat sheet” based on the exact methods I’ve used as a Recruiter for 5 years. It’s designed to save you time and get you MUCH better prepared than the competition. You can find out more here.
Have you made any of the mistakes in this article? What was the outcome? Leave a comment below and let me know…