Classic Interview Mistakes - The Top 'Don’t Do's' For Interviewees

Published on: 25 Sep 2012

Interview mistakes

There are countless articles out there on what to do at interview and how best to present yourself. That may be fine, but it’s usually the mistakes that can make you miss out on the job you want. If you have an interview, it means that the employer thinks that, on paper at least, you should be able to do the job or that you have interesting experience that should be relevant. So when someone doesn’t get the job it is often because of a mistake or oversight on the part of the interviewee.

Sure, there are other factors behind why a company may or may not choose you, such as other more qualified applicants, changes in the job spec, company changes, or even just ‘personal fit’, but so often we have seen applicants left disappointed not to have got the job they want, all for the silliest mistakes which in hindsight could have been easily been avoided.

So, to help you avoid ‘snatching defeat from the jaws of victory’, here are just a few classic “Please DON’T Do”s. They range from the minor and obvious mishap, to the staggeringly idiotic and absurd, but they are all based on the feedback from interviewers.

Don’t appear unprepared

Anticipate the main questions: Why are you looking?;What are you looking for?; Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?; Why are you interested in the job? These questions are usually asked to kick things off and by giving simple, logical answers, the conversation will flow for the interviewer and you’ll get a lot more out of the meeting.

Don’t ‘slag off’ your former boss or company

Doesn’t make you look good – remember, people like positive people, so negative comments might make people think you’re the negative type, or even unprofessional.

Be smartly dressed – play it safe

Unless you have been briefed otherwise by your recruitment consultant, play it safe and keep it smart. No Jeans, polish your shoes and wear a clean shirt or blouse. Guys, make sure you shave and comb your hair, and ladies, go easy on the make-up. Looking more dishevelled than Chewbacca or wearing more make-up than Ronald McDonald is likely to distract the interviewer and obscure your true qualities!

Don’t ask how much the job is paying at the start.

You’ll appear ‘mercenary’ and it will give the impression that you have little interest in the employer. There’s an old saying that ‘you don’t look at the price tag until you’ve seen the product’. So sell yourself first, get them to like you, then ask later. Even better, avoid asking until the second interview and let your recruitment consultant do the background negotiations for you.

Address everyone in room

If there are two or more people interviewing you, greet everyone with a smile and shake everyone’s hands. Don’t just talk to one person even if they are the only one asking the question - give good eye contact all-round.

Turn your phones off

You’d think this would be obvious, but it’s quite common. A phone ringing in the interview will distract and might throw you or the interviewer off the train of thought. It can also look inconsiderate. But above all else, don’t answer it!

Don’t have a drink to calm your nerves before interview.

Seriously. This is (thankfully) very rare, but if you are nervous, a drink is the worst thing you can do and the interviewer will smell it on your breath. The ‘Interview jitters’ usually comes from either poor preparation or a desperate desire to get the job. If it’s the former, make sure you’re well-prepared, read the job spec, look at the website etc. If it’s the latter, don’t worry, and even tell the interviewer if necessary that you’re a little nervous because you are keen. This is a good way to make your jitters endearing to the interviewer and you’ll soon overcome them!

Don’t talk too much, know when to shut up and don’t forget to listen

Again, an obvious one. Know when to stop and don’t interrupt the interviewer or finish the end of his/her sentence. Remember to stick to the point and make your answers relevant.

Don’t chew gum in the interview

Unbelievable, but it has happened and it will make you look rude and unprofessional (even stupid). If you’re a chewer, get rid of it before you’ve even set foot in the building.

Don’t swear or use bad slang

‘Street-wise’ just isn’t wise in an interview.

Avoiding smoking before the interview

Another obvious one, but smokers sometimes forget how much the smell of tobacco lingers on their breath, which will also be the interviewer’s lingering impression of you.

Don’t be late, but also don’t be too early

The former is obvious, but being more than 10-15 minutes early is also a ‘No-No’ and can be inconvenient for the interviewer. If you are going to be late (and sometimes it cannot be avoided) let the interviewer know beforehand, not after the appointed time. Better still, contact your recruitment consultant who can call ahead for you, and remember to offer an apology to the interviewer on arrival. That way it will soon be forgotten and the discussion can proceed smoothly.

Don’t be unrealistic

Make sure what you are looking for in a job relates to the job for which you are being interviewed. Your recruitment consultant should have briefed you on the main aspects of the job and salary parameters, so don’t go in and ask for the earth, it won’t impress.

Don’t appear unenthusiastic or uninterested

Appearing uninterested or ‘playing it cool’ is a guaranteed way to not get a job at interview – works every time. If you are investing your own time and taking up the interviewer’s, you owe it to yourself and it is only good manners to show interest. Even if the job does not turn out to be as interesting as hoped, being upbeat and positive will leave the interviewer positive about you and could lead to your being considered for other vacancies in the business. At the end of the interview, if you are interested, say so! It will have a positive effect and could swing it for you.

We hope these tips and suggestions have been useful. You can find more advice and answers to FAQs on Resources Group’s website,