5 Job Interview Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

5 Job Interview Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Taunee Besson, CMF, CareerCast.com Senior Columnist

Q: Up to this point, I've conducted an effective job search. I have a plan for my career trajectory, I've developed a network of contacts for job recommendations, and I position every cover letter and resume to individual employer needs. Any tips on how to avoid job interview mistakes, so I can make the process work in my favor?

A: To maintain your admirable track record, you'll need to consider a variety of questions before you go to your first job interview. For instance, have you spent time thinking about how to prepare for the job interview? Do you have a clear understanding of what the relationship between you and the interviewer should be? Have you put together a list of questions for your potential employer? Do you know what to do if you receive an offer for less than what you're worth? Failing to address these issues can lead you to make serious job interview mistakes.

Below are 5 common job interview mistakes that job seekers make on a regular basis. Avoid these mistakes, and your chances for job interview success will improve tremendously:

Any time you head into unknown territory, it's a good idea to do a little research in advance. Conducting a job interview with someone you've never met isn't exactly climbing Mount Everest, but there will undoubtedly be psychological and verbal traps to avoid during the course of your conversation.

To prepare yourself correctly for a job interview, find out as much as you can about the company and the job opening ahead of time. Useful background data may include: sales volume, profit for the last several years, debt load, major products and/or services, opportunities for growth, number of employees and branches, the mission statement, corporate giving to charitable institutions, reputation and background of management, and job responsibilities. Most, if not all, of this information should be available online.

Other info, such as the company's approach toward promoting from within, the job description, or the salary may require a little more digging. Contacts are generally the best way to find stuff like this out.

When you're looking for a significant other, do you try to act like who you think the other person wants you to be? Or do you realize that a long-term relationship depends on honest communication?

When you're taking part in a job interview, it makes sense for both you and your interviewer to be candid and open with each other from the start. Rather than approaching a job interview with the goal of getting the job, think of it as a vehicle for finding out if the company, the management and the job itself are a good fit for your skill set. Too many job seekers pride themselves on getting a job offer, even if it's for a job they don't even want! Unfortunately, making this job interview mistake can create a situation where a job seeker is forced to take a job that's not a good match for them.

When you look at your interviewer from across their desk, do you have the uncomfortable feeling that this person is in total control of your future career? Relax, you're not alone. The truth is that many job seekers give their interviewers WAY too much credit, and not nearly enough empathy. Put yourself in your interviewer's shoes for a moment: They have to watch out for job interview mistakes just as much as you. What if they hire the wrong person? Or worse, what if that person turns out to be an office cancer who drags down the whole team?

Your interviewer has their own set of job interview mistakes they can't afford to make, since they have the unenviable task of having to choose the best person for the job. They're under a lot of pressure, maybe even more than you. So instead of being intimidated, think of you interviewer as just another nervous professional trying to do the best job they can.

The last time you bought a car or a house, did you ask any questions about the financing, construction, reliability, etc.? Do you want to impress your potential manager with your grasp of the job and knowledge of the company? Then prepare a list of intelligent questions that will both help you make the right decision, and make a great first impression.

Doing your homework serves two important functions in a job interview. Good questions provide you with information you need to make a decision about the job, and they impress your interviewer. An effective manager knows you've done your homework by what kind of questions you ask. They realize that you understand what the job requires, because you're able to discuss its potential opportunities and challenges. When you're asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview, simply shrugging and saying "not really" is a HUGE job interview mistake.

Have you ever taken a job when your gut said it wasn't the right job for you? If you have, you probably told yourself that you worries were stupid, and would go away once you actually started at the job. Unfortunately, it only takes a couple of miserable weeks to prove that your original instincts were correct.

In our left-brain culture, we tend to give little credibility to our hunches because they're seen as illogical. But the truth is that personal history often proves them right. The next time an interviewer embarrasses you, asks illegal questions, makes promises that are too good to be true, insults your intelligence, refuses to answer important questions or boasts that 60 hour weeks are "the way this company believes in doing business," finish the interview, write a pleasant but noncommittal thank you note, and cross the job off your list. Life is too short to work with a jerk. And ignoring warning signs that you'd wind up having to deal with a mean boss is one of the worst job interview mistakes of all.

  • Job Interview Mistake #1: Thinking you can "wing it."
  • Job Interview Mistake #2: Saying What You Think the Interviewer Wants to Hear.
  • Job Interview Mistake #3: Assuming the Interviewer is In Charge.
  • Job Interview Mistake #4: Leaving the Questions to the Interviewer.
  • Job Interview Mistake #5: Ignoring Red Flags.

Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search, executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is an award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and a best-selling author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a number of other websites and publications.

Career Topics
Job Interviews