10 Common Interview Mistakes to Avoid | Harris School of Business
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10 Common Interview Mistakes to Avoid

It’s natural to be nervous during an interview, but planning ahead can help you avoid these common mistakes

Mistake #1: Arriving Late

Arriving late sends the impression to the interviewer that you do not care about the job. Do everything possible to arrive about 10 minutes early. Map out the route, check traffic patterns, and do a “dry run” by driving there a few days beforehand to make sure you know the way.

Mistake #2: Poor first impression

First impressions count! Be sure to smile, use a firm handshake, and make eye contact when meeting the interviewer, as well as anyone else you may meet at the company. Also, if you are a smoker, do not smoke right before the interview. Smelling strongly of smoke can create a bad first impression.

Mistake #3: Inappropriate attire

Dressing in a sloppy, casual, or revealing way can hurt your chances of getting a job offer. Try to dress one level up from the position for which you are applying. When in doubt, wear a business suit. See our Tips for What to Wear for Women and Tips for What to Wear for Men in our Career Services section.

Mistake #4: Answering your cell phone

This is a big no-no! Looking at your phone, answering a text, or taking a phone call during an interview tells the interviewer that something is more important to you than the interview. Turn your phone completely off and put it away before the interview starts.

Mistake #5: Not researching the company/Not having questions

Interviewers will expect you to know something about the company. Make sure you research the company’s history and know a little about its competitors. Also, re-read the job advertisement so that you remember exactly what they are looking for in a potential employee. Come prepared with a list of about five questions that you want to ask about the company or the job position. For suggestions on how to make this list of questions, read Questions to Ask at a Job Interview.

Mistake #6: Poor body language

Slouching, crossing your arms, not smiling, and not making eye contact are all signals to the interviewer that you may not be very interested in the job, or that you may not be confident enough in your skills. Practice positive body language. Videotape yourself in a mock interview, and see what you can do to improve your body language.

Mistake #7: Being negative/complaining

If you are currently in a job where you are unhappy, it may be tempting to complain about it during the interview, but never do this! The employer wants team-players who will be positive about the work.  Rarely does an interviewer ever want to hire a complainer.

Mistake #8: Talking too much or talking too little

When people get nervous, sometimes they can’t think of anything to say, while others may do the opposite and talk too much. Interviewers want to learn enough about your skills, experience, and personality to see if you will meet their needs. But they don’t need to hear every last detail about your past job or your personal life. Try to strike a balance by preparing concise and informative phrases ahead of time that you can use to explain how you will be a good fit for the position.

Mistake #9: Lying

It may sound obvious that you should never lie in a job interview. However, sometimes people lie because they are simply trying to say what the interviewer wants to hear in order to make a good impression. Don’t fall into this trap. Be honest, even if it means telling the interviewer that you don’t have the exact skills or experience they want.

Mistake #10: Asking about salary/pay

Asking about your salary during the interview makes it seem like all you care about is the paycheck. You want the interviewer to know that your biggest priority is the opportunity to work for their organization. Any discussion of the salary should wait until after a job offer is made. If the interviewer asks you about salary, you also should not commit to an exact figure. You can tell them what you understand the salary range to be, and that you will be happy to talk about it more if a job offer is made.

Bonus tip:

Mistake #11: Not following up

Sending a thank you note or a thank you email is an important final step. If you neglect this step, the employer may think you are not interested in the job. The thank you note can be just a few sentences long, but make sure it conveys something unique about the interview, so that it sounds sincere.