The 25 Worst Job Interview Mistakes

For fun, emotional security and the thrill of anticipation, the job interview ranks right up there with IRS audits, going on your first roller-coaster ride or going for your first bungee jump! And if being judged makes you nervous, you’re in for a great ride!

In our current job market with hundreds of qualified job applicants all vying for that one great opening, it’s like going for an open casting call in the next Steven Spielberg movie. Getting an audition just means surviving until the last round.

A major part of the job interview is avoiding the unmistakable wrongs. Avoid making the following mistakes and you’re apt to land that job.


Nothing makes a worse impression. If you can’t even show up on time for the interview, how on earth would you do as an employee? If there’s even a remote chance that weather, traffic, unfamiliar locations, poor directions or car trouble might be a problem, leave early just to be sure. If you aren’t certain about the location, parking etc., drive to the location the day before to avoid any problem.


Arriving at the interview location at 9:30 for 10:00 o’clock appointment is good – checking in with the receptionist is not. You don’t want to put pressure on your interviewer, nor do you want to pace in the lobby and wear a path into the marble floor! Instead, go to a nearby restaurant for a coffee. Then return to your interview 10 minutes prior to your appointment.


First impressions are important. Cleanliness and neatness in grooming and attire projects a confident attitude. Frequently, the decision is made in the first few minutes of the interview whether it’s going to be a turn down, a second interview or hire. The first impression will dictate the length of your interview and your opportunity to present yourself. As a general rule corporate business attire is a suit and tie for men and tailored suit or dress for women in a conservative color such as black, navy, gray or tan, with appropriate Footwear and no tennis shoes for men and closed toed shoes for women, with a low heel and hose. Avoid any extremes in hair style (including color), make-up, perfumes, colognes and jewelry. Keep it simple.


Don’t do it. If you choose your clothes 10 minutes before you have to leave for your interview, you’ll wind up with mismatched socks or those shoes with the loose heel or that shirt with the missing button. Pick your interviewing outfit a day or two before, try it on and have it set out the evening before your interview.


It isn’t necessary to memorize the company’s annual sales and projects, but you should know something about their products and services. You can learn about most companies on the Internet, in business magazines, in the library or you can call the company and ask for a copy of their annual report.


Studies show that executives and hiring authorities surveyed would hire a non-smoker over a smoker if their qualifications were equal. Most office buildings and common areas are now regulated by city codes that disallow smoking. If you smoke on the drive to your interview, your clothes will smell of smoke and will be noticeable to most individuals you come in contact with in a non-smoking environment. Even if it’s allowed, smoking during and interview generally gives an impression of nervousness


As some interviews are conducted during lunch, dinner, networking events or other similar environments, your interviewer or others may be ordering cocktails. Even though others are indulging, you are better off sticking with mineral water or club soda. At the very most, order a white wine spritzer and stick to one. You want to be alert and at your best, not mellowed out.


Have you ever been asking for help at a minimart and the sales clerk is chomping away.

Have you ever wanted to take that sales person behind the counter and make him


Enticing as it may be to have someone along to hold your hand or help you fill out an application, it could cost you the opportunity if being considered for the position. Being dropped off, picked up or even being

seen saying goodbye to your friend, parent or spouse at the building door can make you look as if you don’t have the nerve to go out on your own.


You wouldn’t make a speech or talk in front of your PTA or church group without planning what you were going to say, yet people walk into their job interviews every day assuming they will be able to answer

any question off the top of their heads. Don’t assume! Make a list of the questions you would ask if you were interviewing someone else for this job, then rehearse the best possible answers. If you have already been on an interview, go over the questions that you feel you could have answered better. Use a tape recorder, listen to yourself and do some role playing with a friend or relative.


Inevitably, you will be asked by the interviewer “what is your greatest weakness” or “if you need improvement, in what area would it be?” Giving a straight forward, totally honest answer is a mistake the interviewer doesn’t expect you to make. It’s all part of the interviewer’s technique to have you eliminate

yourself from the competition. Answer the question with a positive weakness such as, I’m a very organized person, but you’d never know it from looking at my desk.”


You must know your background and your resume thoroughly so that you are prepared to answer any question with out hesitation. If you are asked a question about your background such as dates, you shouldn’t have to refer to your resume. Hesitating, being vague or groping for the right words destroys

the impression you are trying to create. Make a list of ten work-related items you do well or know about. Then, during your interview, come up with graceful ways to bring them up.


If you were the interviewer, would you hire someone who took over the conversation, hijacked the entire interview and put you on the defensive? Keep your questions relevant to the position and be brief.


On the other hand, when the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions?” and you respond by saying you don’t have any that is also a bad idea. It makes you look uninterested, unimaginative and suggests that you didn’t pay attention during the interview, or all three.

If you can’t think of any questions, rely on the homework you have done. Let’s say you are interviewing for a position in the real estate market. Having done your research on the strength of the market, you may ask, “Do you expect the market in this area to remain as strong as it has been in the past six months?”


Ask not what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company! Sound familiar? If you seem more interested in the profit sharing plan and vacation policy than the job duties and requirements, the prospective employer will develop serious concerns about your priorities. Of course, you have the right to know about the benefits a company offers, but chances are the company information will be offered. After all, their benefits are a selling point. If the subject isn’t brought up, you can broach the subject when salary negotiations begin. Explain that the offer you’ll accept depends on the value of the whole compensation package.


Did you ever go window shopping and fall in love with an item and have to have it before checking to see how much it cost? It may have taught you to look at the price right away so you can reject the item mentally before having your heart set on it. Interviewing for a job is pretty similar. Let your interviewers

discover how wonderful you are before you tell them how much you cost. If they try to sneak a premature peak at your price tag, let them know you have given the salary some thought but you need to know more about what the job entails. In many instances you will already know the company’s salary range and they will assume you fall into their criterion if you are interviewing.


There are guidelines and law about questions that can and cannot be asked during an interview. The problem is that not everyone involved in the hiring process knows which questions aren’t allowed-and in complete innocence they may bring up a prohibited question. If your prospective employer asks you how you manage to work full time and take care of you children, he or she may be genuinely interested or just making conversation to set you both at ease. Don’t jump up and scream accusations. Instead reassure

your interviewer that you can handle all of your responsibilities. Even if the employer’s intentions aren’t honorable, a dramatic protest is unlikely to get you the job offer. If you don’t get hired due to the responses of inappropriate questioning, you can file a complaint. If you do get hired, you can bring up the issue later as a full fledged employee and make important changes for the company’s benefit from the inside.


Don’t ever, ever say anything derogatory or negative about an employer, coworker or company

you have worked for in the past. It marks you as a complainer and it’s a small world. You don’t know who the person who’s interviewing you knows.


Don’t drop names. Attempts to play “who do you know” with your interviewer may have an unfortunate tendency to backfire on you. Drop the name of someone at the company and it could turn out to be the hiring manager’s worst enemy!

Announce that you went to school with the chairman of the board’s daughter, Mary, and it may come off as elitism. Even worse, the interviewer may wonder why Mary didn’t ask her father to put in a good word for you. A much better approach is to use inside contacts. Ask them to recommend or introduce you to the power that be.


It doesn’t matter if you only slept four hours last night and are coming down with a cold, when you get to the interviewer you have to appear bright-eyed and eager. You must be cordial and polite. Job candidates with a lackluster demeanor or an attitude rarely get the job offer.

Mental energy is what it takes, so psych yourself up before making your entrance. Some lecturers

and TV talk show hosts do it by playing lively music right before going on. If that’s impossible, just play an upbeat tune in your head. Think of yourself as an entertainer and know that the show must go on!


A limp or otherwise distasteful handshake is like bad breath, one of those things that even our best friends may never tell you about. Even if the interviewer does not offer their hand, offer yours. Test out

your handshake. Try this. Go to a trusted friend or relative and ask, “If I were going to develop the world’s most perfect handshake, would I make mine a little firmer, a little shorter, softer, longer or what?” Then shake his or her hand to demonstrate.


Clock watching gives the impression that you are late for a more important date, are bored or uninterested. Avoid that problem by asking when you set up the appointment, how much time you should allow for the entire interview. Your interviewer may be running behind, you may have to complete an

application or take some tests or you may be asked to meet with another decision-maker.


In 1999 jobs out of 1,000, you’re going to be called to work as part of the team, not to make a single-handed rescue of a botched effort. Never convey the message “you guys really have a problem here, but I can show you how to turn this company around.”

Instead, sprees how well your talents and experience mesh with those of others in the department, division or company


Expect the unexpected. Occasionally, interviewers have been known to test job applicants by surprising them with loaded questions or blunt comments such as “What makes you think you can handle this hob

when people with twice your experience don’t have the never to apply?” Remain calm even though your injured ego may be fleeing for the nearest exit. Some companies like to see just how professional


You may be given an application to complete or test to take. Make sure that you complete the entire application even if you have a resume. There may be questions on the application that are not addressed in your resume. Never give an answer on an application “see resume.” Leaving questions blank unanswered or referring to your resume shows your inability to take direction.

Your impatience and your unwillingness to follow instructions. Finally, there is an art to interviewing, so it may take a few interviews to get the hang of it. Use your interviews and your mistakes as learning tools to improve on future interviews. Now that you know the do’s and don’ts of interviewing, go out and get that job.

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