10 Terrible Job Interview Mistakes | Top Universities

10 Terrible Job Interview Mistakes

By Guest Writer

Updated June 12, 2019 Updated June 12, 2019

You’ve submitted your application and got a positive response: an invitation to interview. What could possibly go wrong from here? Quite a lot, it turns out…

Here are 10 common job interview mistakes that could seriously damage your chances of getting the role.

1. Turning up late

Such a classic, but nevertheless a biggie. Meeting a potential employer isn’t coffee with a mate; if you’re late, it affects everything. No amount of apologizing can fix a half-hour delay. Interviews are like a trial period for a position; if you wouldn’t do it on the job, don’t do it here.

George Bernard Shaw once said: “Better never than late.” Quite right, George – except not turning up to a job interview is even worse than being tardy. If you have to cancel an appointment – which you should never do unless absolutely forced – do it long before the date to avoid looking flaky.

2. Turning up too early

“If you want to be on time, turn up early” – or so we’re taught when young. But sitting in the lobby for half an hour before show time puts pressure on your interviewer and is a potential source of embarrassment for them. They won’t like you for it.

The perfect middle ground is turning up half an hour before your interview, settling down in a nearby coffee shop, then entering the lobby with 5-10 minutes to go. Zero desperation, total confidence.

3. Criticizing previous employers

Never speak ill of previous employers. Don’t discuss that ‘nightmare’ manager, or your colleague’s drug habit, or that HR rep who attacked you in the toilets. Not only is it unnecessary, but it will paint you in a bad light – and workplace gossipers are the greatest source of irritation in the modern office, or so research suggests.

If you’re leaving a workplace due to social difficulties or bullying and you are specifically asked about it, just say: “The company was great, but I’m ready to move on.” Few people will question you further. You are not a telltale, and that is something your interviewer will respect.

4. Social media gaffes

What you post online isn’t just for your friends. A 2014 Jobvite survey found that 93% of hiring mangers investigate candidates’ social media presence before the job interview. Of these, half reconsider applicants based on their findings – usually for the worse.

Yes, we know that Futurebound set was ‘SO SIK’ but do you need to put that beady-eyed, late-night snap up on Facebook? Big no-nos include: references to illegal drugs; posts of a sexual nature; and (to a lesser extent) swearing. Moderate what you publish; you’re a grown-up now and need to act like one.

5. Using your phone

In a CareerBuilder/Harris Poll survey, 60% of hiring managers cited use of a mobile phone as one of the biggest job interview mistakes made by applicants.

They’re not alone. A 2015 Pew study in the US found that 94% of people think phone usage in a meeting is unacceptably rude. Psychologically, even placing your phone on the table between yourself and an interviewer gives the impression of a social barrier within the room. Just put it away.

6. Failing to dress the part

In the above CareerBuilder survey, 50% of hiring managers said that inappropriate dress could cost an interviewee the job. Similarly, an OfficeTeam survey of employers discovered stories of candidates who smelled of cigarette smoke, wore mismatched shoes and turned up in sweat pants. Don’t be an anecdote: scrub up.

Personal hygiene, fresh breath and clean clothes are a must. Avoid revealing or overly casual clothing and accessories. Make-up should be kept minimal – now is not the time to debut that orange lipstick, no matter how ‘you’ it is. (Unless you’re applying for a job where dressing creatively is part of the role!)

7. Forgetting about LinkedIn

All CVs should connect to LinkedIn profiles. Hiring managers love LinkedIn because it allows them to view candidates side by side, in the same format, with no design issues. It’s a small thing to include on your résumé header, but it looks professional as well as thoughtful.

8. Enquiring about benefits and salary too soon

A Robert Half survey several years ago indicated that 80% of employers are cool with interviewers asking questions about salary. This may seem high, but consider the remaining fifth. Every time you ask that question, you’re taking a 20% risk of putting your interviewer off.

While it can be tempting to double-check a salary in an interview, or even enquire about the perks of a job, restrain yourself. Now is not the time to ask those burning pay check questions. Wait for the offer before opening negotiations.

9. Not asking any questions

While some topics are best avoided, it is advisable to ask some questions. In fact, interviewers expect it; questions demonstrate your interest in a role and show you’ve got some initiative. A 2012 CareerBuilder survey of 2,500 employers found that 32% of hiring managers think candidates who don’t ask questions are making a mistake.

As with anything, there are good and bad bets here. Make sure you read up on your options and have some top-notch, relevant queries ready to go.

10. Not sending follow-ups

Writing a follow-up email maximizes your chance of a positive response – if done correctly.

Notes should be short and to the point, thanking your interviewer for their time. You could include additional resources mentioned in the interview, or follow up on a question asked. Be polite, avoid looking desperate and you should be fine.

So there you go: 10 critical job interview mistakes you now won’t be making. Think you’ve got the hang of things? We look forward to seeing the lucrative results.

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This article was originally published in December 2016 . It was last updated in June 2019

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