Avoiding common interview mistakes

Interviewing for your dream job (or even the job that’s going to see you through university) can be a daunting task. What if they ask you tricky questions? What if you haven’t got the right answers? What if your mind goes blank just at the wrong moment?

It’s enough to send potential candidates running for the hills.

But what if we told you all those fears (and more) could be allayed by a relatively small effort to prepare and avoid the common pitfalls experienced by too many interviewees? We’ve summed up the most common mistakes made and explained how to avoid them, below:


Do your background research

Just like you would in preparation for a test, learn everything you can about the company or individual you’re approaching for a job. Read up on their ethos, their values, their key services or products. Study the history of the company so you’re not surprised by any information they share on the day. What’s more, you’ll be able to discuss the company’s recent merger or the new products they brought out last year.

Know the job description inside out to ensure you can meet them both on paper and in person. Then only ask questions that you haven’t been able to find the answer to during your research. If the answer is available on the website or in the company literature, you should already know the answer.


Plan what you’ll wear and how you’ll present yourself

It’s important to be dressed appropriately for every interview. Do some research into the kind of clothing current employees wear and try to find the right level of ‘professional’. Turning up to interview for an office-based job in ripped jeans and a tatty t-shirt will never make the right impression.

However, if you’re interviewing for a position in a trendy bar, showing up suited and booted might not be the right approach either. Dress smartly, according to the role you’re interviewing for and you’ll make a good first impression.

Don’t be late – but don’t be too early either

Showing up late for an interview reflects badly on your organisational skills and shows a lack of respect for your potential employer’s time. If something happens outside of your control to make you late, call ahead to let the interviewer know what time you’ll be there and to apologise for the inconvenience.

Arriving early, on the other hand, shows respect, organisation and an eagerness to do well. Experts believe that around 10 minutes before the stated interview time is optimum – allowing you time to use the restroom, compose yourself from your journey and think over your prepared answers.


Never be tempted to use your phone in an interview

It is very seldom acceptable to take out or use your phone during an interview. Even sneaking glances to check the time will make you look distracted and disinterested. Focus all your attention on the interview and interviewers and turn your phone off before you even reach the interview room.

If you need to take notes, do so with a pen and paper.


Always keep your tone professional

While chatting in a friendly and approachable manner is great to form relationships, during an interview be wary of sharing too much personal information. The interviewer is interested in your suitability for the job, not what you did that weekend in Chichester.

Along the same lines, avoid being negative about your current or past employer. Any displeasure you voice about them will sew a seed that you might talk about your new employer that way too – not a great place to start out a new working relationship.


Practise selling yourself and your accomplishments

During a job interview is not the time to be bashful. Your employer will expect you to talk about your skills and accomplishments and may not remember every detail of your application. Remind them why you won that award or how you achieved your last promotion. Just don’t be boastful or arrogant about it.

It’s a tricky balance to achieve, between humble and arrogant, which is why practising beforehand is crucial. Ask a friend or family member to listen to your answers or practise them in front of the mirror. Record yourself answering questions so you can fine-tune your voice, your intonation and your level of confidence.


Never lie

As in life, lying about anything is a huge NO! The truth will always out, and you could face severe repercussions. Don’t lie about qualifications or skills that you don’t have. Simply sell the qualifications and skills you do have and explain how you might overcome any challenges you face.


Be prepared to ask questions

When asked at the end of an interview whether you have any questions, the answer is always yes. Because you should have prepared some before the interview to show you’re interested in the company and eager to find out everything you can.

Prepare five or six questions in advance so that if some of them are covered in the interview you have a couple spare to ask at the end.


Find out the next steps

When it comes to the end of the interview, ask about the next steps if the interviewer hasn’t already offered up the information. It demonstrates that you’re keen and you’ll know what to expect when you leave.