Avoid these 11 job interview mistakes and you’ll do fine

January 26, 2022  •  Reading Time: 10 min.

11 common job interview mistakes and how to avoid them at job interviews

Mistakes are only human. But if you make mistakes in the hiring process, it can cost you a potential job contract. There are the common mishaps that can put you at a disadvantage in your job search – and even some bad habits that you may not have known could upset the hiring team. We’ll show you the mistakes you should avoid during your next interview with your potential future employer.

nervous woman in job interview

A job interview for a new position is a lot like a Formula 1 race. First, you have to get a good starting position, then go full throttle and spread out on the long straight, survive the hairpin turn and nasty trick questions to cross the finish line first at the end and be able to hold the trophy (the employment contract) in your hands.

Countless red, yellow or white flags are waved along the way. Of course, every recruiter behaves differently, and everyone has different ideas about the perfect candidate. But there are definitely some maneuvers that most employers react to with raised eyebrows and are worth paying attention to when interviewing with any type of company.

We’ve filtered out some bad habits many job seekers have that irritate most hiring managers during interviews.

What are the most common interview mistakes and how can you avoid them?

Common mistakes that many job candidates make during their first interview for a new job:

1. Showing up too early

Showing up too early is actually an interview mistake! Of course, arriving late for an interview is unacceptable. However, it is just as wrong to appear at the company more than 20 minutes before the appointment. By doing so, you indirectly put pressure on the responsible hiring manager to hurry up and take care of you as soon as possible, so your interview will start with an unpleasant connotation.

If you arrive early, sit down in a café or take a short walk and explore the surroundings. This will help you clear your head and you may be a little more relaxed afterwards.

2. Going unprepared

Another very common, but easily avoidable interview mistake is showing up completely unprepared. During your job search, you have probably already read up on the company and the job. Now it’s time to prepare thoroughly: Do you know how the company operates? Also, memorize the company’s values and find opportunities to mention this in the interview.

During a mock interview, for example with a friend or acquaintance, you can easily practice for interviews. This doesn’t mean you have to prepare all your answers in advance! Just practice how to engage with an interviewer in a relaxed environment where you feel comfortable.

3. Conducting poor small talk

Before the actual interview, there is often a short bit of small talk to lighten the mood, and although this part is usually done within a few minutes, you can already put your foot in your mouth here.

For one thing, you should avoid negative remarks, e.g. about traffic jams on the highway. These may also remain in the recruiter’s memory as negative impressions about you. Secondly, what you talk about is crucial. Basically, there are topics that are very suitable for small talk and others that you should avoid. Unsuitable for small talk, for example, are controversial topics such as politics and religion. Instead, talk about things like the weather, culture and hobbies. These are harmless and do not hold any potential for conflict.

business talk between two young employers

4. Repeating the resume

In every job interview, sooner or later there will be a question regarding self-presentation. This is about clearly presenting your professional skill set and experience and showing why you in particular are best suited for the job.

This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your answer: Repeating your resume or cover letter. Your counterpart already knows this content and you would only bore them with it. Instead, ask what exactly the person is interested in. If you don’t get a concrete answer, tell them something you weren’t able to mention in your cover letter or elaborate on individual aspects of your professional development. If necessary, you can also explain how you approach tricky challenges and solve problems or share success stories. Such an answer is definitely a two-way street!

5. Badmouthing past employers

During an interview, you may be asked why you want to change employers. At this point, you should definitely not be speaking negatively about your former employer or your last job, as this may lead the interviewer to believe that you will speak just as badly about the company if you switch again.

Unfortunately, however, this is also one of the biggest and most common interview mistake applicants make. Even if it’s about bad experiences at the previous employer, it’s better to justify the job change by saying that you want to face new challenges and develop yourself. Always focus your answers on your own experiences and goals, rather than blaming others.

6. Asking no questions or the wrong questions

Usually, towards the end of the interview, the interviewer asks if the applicant has any questions. Here you can not only obtain further information that is important to you, but also show that you are really interested in the advertised position. So it would be a big mistake to miss this opportunity.

You can also increase your chances of being hired by asking good follow-up questions. These include questions about the department and team, as well as onboarding and training opportunities. However, there are also questions that leave the wrong impression on the hiring manager. For example, you should not ask questions about the salary of potential colleagues or the chances of promotion in the near future.

7. Trying too hard

One mistake applicants make time and time again is trying to pretend in order to win over the company. However, if it becomes obvious that you are just acting, this not only makes you untrustworthy, but also unattractive. In this context, you should also be careful not to exaggerate in your statements and always try to give your personal best answer.

To make a really good impression in the interview, honesty, authenticity, good manners and personality in your answers are the main points you should pay attention to. After all, your interviewer and potential employer also wants to get to know you as a person during the interview and find out whether you fit into the team for which a new employee is being sought.

8. Having no weaknesses

Is the interview question about your weaknesses really a trick question? Don’t be tempted to claim that you don’t have any weaknesses or try to present them as exaggerated strengths. People are not perfect and have rough edges. There is also nothing that disqualifies you for the job if you feel that you can meet the requirements of the advertised position.

It is better to be self-aware and open and to always give an honest answer. However, also make it clear that you are working on your weaknesses and can quickly compensate for them through further training or work experience. As an applicant, you should definitely signal to the recruiter that you are willing to learn and want to develop further.

9. Dressing inappropriately

Always dress professionally: It should be a matter of course that you appear neatly and appropriately dressed for the job interview. However, it happens time and again that applicants make the mistake of neglecting their appearance at such an important appointment. This is particularly fatal, as the first impression is especially formative and you quickly take yourself out of the running with such carelessness.

Therefore, first and foremost, make sure that your clothes do not have holes, rips or stains in a professional setting. You should also observe the dress code customary in the industry and adhere to the company’s guidelines. As another tip, we can give you the following rule of thumb: If you are unsure, go to the interview overdressed rather than underdressed.

smiling woman handshake

10. Showing poor body language

If you are full of nervous energy during your interview, you may display negative body language without even realizing it. Therefore, show your interviewer that you are confident with a firm handshake as soon as you greet them. Also, try to maintain eye contact during your answers. Tip: If you feel intimidated by eye contact, look directly at the area between your interviewer’s eyes. This will make you feel more comfortable, and your interviewer won’t notice. And of course, it’s not forbidden to smile!

If you feel very anxious and nervous just before the interview, don’t fidget with your mobile phone, but put it away and take a deep breath or two! In fact, put your cell phone on silent as soon as you enter the company premises, and don’t let any notifications come through either, so you won’t be distracted.

11. Failing to follow up

You may think your work is done when the conversation is over. That’s not entirely true: It’s polite – and strategic – to send the interviewer a thank-you note. That is, if you want to increase your chances of getting the job and make sure the interviewer remembers you, you should definitely send a follow-up email.

Thank them for the interviewer’s time and tell them you really enjoyed talking with them and learning more about the job and the company. You can also ask them to get back to you at any time if they need anything else from you.

How can you correct mistakes during the interview process?

You shake hands with the interviewer like a wet rag, can’t engage in the small talk intended to loosen things up, or knock over the coffee cup before it starts: Some applicants get off to a bad start in the interview and then the fatal thought creeps in that it’s over.

The supposed failure drains body and soul, and in the sense of a self-fulfilling prophecy, some work on the expected rejection in further conversation. But the first impression is only half the battle. You can also fail on the last few steps – or make up lost ground.

The importance of the last impression for successful job interviews is underestimated by many. For example, if the bold applicant says goodbye to the interviewer with the wrong name, there is often no chance to correct this faux pas. Initial unevenness, on the other hand, can be smoothed out later. Every recruiter knows that, too.

successful-job-interview

FAQ

What are the 3 worst mistakes you could make in an interview?

1. Don’t show up too late.
2. Don’t go into the interview not being prepared to answer questions about salary expectations.
3. Don’t share details about your personal life (e.g. about family members) with the interviewer.

What interview mistakes can the hiring manager make?

– The right questions are not being asked.
– Candidates are not formally evaluated or assessed.
– Cultural fit is neglected or overemphasized.
– There is no preparation for the candidate.

What mistakes can you make in an online job interview?

– Being late for the interview.
– Not having practiced with your technical equipment beforehand.
– Selecting an incorrect outfit.
– Choosing the wrong background.