Impress the Future Boss: 9 Interview Mistakes to Avoid

by Kentin Waits on 30 November 2011 5 comments
Photo: Bigstock

A job interview is one of those few formal moments left in a world that is becoming less and less formal. Understanding just how much we need to up our game to ace an interview can be tough. If you’ve gone to all the effort of landing an interview, present your most poised and polished self by avoiding these nine mistakes. (See also: How to Answer 23 of the Most Common Interview Questions)

1. Arriving Late

Plan for contingencies. If you’re interviewing in a new city or a new part of town, it’s easy to get lost or make a wrong turn. Maybe you hit traffic or can’t find a parking space. Life happens. Prepare for the worst-case scenario and give yourself plenty of room to make it on time. It’s always better to be 20 minutes early and sit in your car preparing than 10 minutes late and arrive apologizing.

2. Keeping Your Cell Phone On

Silence that cell phone before you even enter the building and keep it off until you’ve left. A ringing phone shows lack of respect for your interviewer’s time and shows that you’re a novice in handling the basics of business etiquette. To be safe, don’t rely on vibration mode to do the trick — a buzzing briefcase is just as bad as a ringing one.

3. Offering a Limp Handshake

There is an art to shaking hands properly. Etiquette dictates that you should let your interviewer extend his hand first. Return the shake with one that’s firm and confident. Don’t be too passive; don’t be too aggressive. If you’re worried about it, try a few test shakes with a friend beforehand.

4. Not Bringing a Copy of Your Resume

Your interviewer may not have your resume on-hand. Maybe she’s passing it around to colleagues or fitting you in between meetings and has misplaced your paperwork. In these moments, it’s nice to pull a freshly printed resume from your bag and not make your interviewer run and retrieve the original. This shows forethought and preparation, and it’s a great way to start an interview.

5. Ignoring Body Language

Exuding confidence is never a bad thing in an interview — but confidence goes beyond your resume, your qualifications, and your suit. Make eye contact with your interviewer, especially when you’re answering a question. Stand and sit up straight, smile, and speak clearly — make this brief time your time to shine.

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6. Being Too Chatty or Too Casual

Interviewers are trained to put you at ease, and that’s a good thing. Just don’t get too comfortable. Remember, the occasion is still formal; the interviewer is gauging not only your qualifications, but your demeanor and your ability to fit in with the rest of the group. Avoid personal stories or negative talk about past employers.

7. Not Doing Your Research

Expect questions from your interviewer that are designed to gauge your knowledge of the company. In the Internet age, research takes all of 15 or 20 minutes of effort online. Learn some facts about the company — when it was founded, new acquisitions it’s made, who the main competitors are, etc.

8. Ignoring Table Manners

More and more interviews take place over a meal. Remember, even though a restaurant atmosphere may be more casual, the interview isn’t. Don’t order complicated or messy food, don’t order something more expensive than your interviewer, and don’t ever order alcohol. Treat the wait staff at the restaurant especially well, and brush up on those basic table manners.

9. Not Sending a Thank-You Note

The post-interview thank-you happens in two stages: first, in person at the conclusion of the interview, and then with a hand-written note that you send in the mail. Yes, it may seem archaic to send a note via snail mail, but it conveys a sense of propriety, professionalism, and follow-up that just might set you apart from the competition.

None of these tips will come naturally at first, especially for new graduates just entering the working world. Interviews are admittedly a dog-and-pony show, and sometimes the level of formality can be stifling. But knowing how to navigate that formality to showcase your strengths and qualifications will take you from interviewee to interviewer much more quickly.

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Meg Favreau's picture

I'm very happy that arriving late is #1 on this list. Since I've moved to LA, I've been especially sensitive to tardiness (this being the traffic capital of all things as it is). Hurray for punctuality!

Guest's picture
Joshua

These are all excellent tips, although 20 minutes early is a bit much. Research is especially important - I always ask potential hires if they have visited our website. I'm always surprised at how many people say no. Lastly, thank you notes are important. Again, I'm surprised at how many people don't send them - to me that is an indication that you are not interested in the job.

Also - keep in mind that interviewing for as internal position is much the same although your company may have specific rules you must follow.

Guest's picture

Great tips. Giving yourself ample time is definitely top priority because arriving late is pretty much the worst thing you can do. However, you shouldn't go into the office too early, that may make the interviewer pressured. My mom worked in HR for a little while and always stressed to me how important a hand-written thank you note is, and what it means to someone who took the time to sit down with you. An email just isn't the same and may actually show a lack of professionalism.

Guest's picture

I will definitely remember number 6 and 9. Among the list, these 2 suggestions are among I need to correct. I try not to practice too much before an interview since this can increase my tension and worry. Although confident, I am still a little bit unimpressed with the improvement of my body language.

Guest's picture
Anifat

Going through this tips, i believed it will help me a lot. i dont know that you need to send a Thank you note to your interviewer after the interview, i thought it will look somehow, most especially from this part of the world where i come from (Nigeria).

Thanks A lot.

Anifat.