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5 Interview Mistakes You Need to Avoid

By Emma Tee on

Combined, we have over 80 years of recruitment experience so we’ve experienced our fair share of interviews! There have been some stellar ones with people being offered during the first, others that haven’t gone so well, and, as you can imagine, we’ve collected some great stories throughout the years, mostly around interview mistakes… 

As Recruiters we’re either interviewing or arranging interviews on behalf of our clients, so we don’t tend to get unnerved by them as we know what is expected, but appreciate that as a job seeker, you don’t have the same exposure which can lead to those nerves creeping in and mistakes happening. 

Whilst most people’s interviews go off without a hitch, interview mistakes do happen and interviewers understand that – most of them are human, after all! The problem comes when you make a few mistakes, it’s at this point that they could become detrimental, even going as far as to cost you the job.

Below we’ll go through the most common interview mistakes and feedback we hear most often so you’re aware of what you should and shouldn’t be doing next time you head to an interview. 

  1. Timings

This is something we see time and time again and is mostly aimed at those who arrive late, but does also apply to those who arrive too early. Why we hear you ask? Because it’s a red flag to potential employers as some see it as an inability to manage time or a lack of consideration for others’ time. 

If you’re a natural early bird, rather than rock up to the office half an hour before your meeting, we recommend that you leave it until 10 minutes, even if this means waiting in the car park or grabbing a quick coffee nearby. Arriving 10 minutes before shows that you’re prepared and gives you plenty of time to grab a glass of water, acquaint yourself, and settle your nerves. 

On the other hand, if you’re running late, take some time to call ahead. Often being late is for a reason outside of your control and most people will understand that as long as you give plenty of notice. Ignoring that you’re going to be late and not giving your interviewer the heads up will not land well. Make sure you have the contact details of the company to hand and apologise in advance

2. Behaviour

As much as we wouldn’t like them to, first impressions count! Research shows that most people make a first impression of a person within 7 seconds, so it’s worth bearing in mind. 

From bad manners and chewing gum wide-mouthed to turning up in joggers with arms firmly crossed across the chest – we have seen it all and trust us when we say that those that don’t show the right behaviours won’t fair well at interview! 

When attending an interview, you’ll want to consider your body language as positive body language will help you connect with your interviewer. You’ll want to show that you’re engaged and have a genuine interest in the role, so start the interview strong with a good handshake (there is nothing worse than a limp handshake!), and follow it up with other positive behaviours such as maintaining eye contact, having an open posture, and nodding along when your interviewer speaks. 

Oh, and keep your phone in your pocket or bag! Nothing screams “I’m not interested in this job” more than glancing at your phone! 

3. Research

This is one we like to bang on about, but it’s something that most people struggle with. You need to be as prepared as you can be, not only will it help you calm your nerves but it’ll show the interviewer that you have a genuine interest in the company and role.

We have written a whole blog post on how to research before heading to an interview, which can be found here

It’s also worth considering questions that you can ask at the end. Almost every interview will end with the interviewer asking you if you have any questions for them, so it’s good to have some questions in the bag as, again, this shows that you’re fully prepped!

4. Dressing Inappropriately

When we first started back in the 80s, dressing for an interview was simple. Turn up in a suit. But, with many companies adopting either a smart-casual or fully casual approach to work wear, it’s become more difficult to gauge in recent years. 

Firstly, if you’re stumped with this one, don’t be afraid to ask. If you’re working with a recruiter, it’s easier to find out as they’ll understand the vibe of the office and will be able to advise. If you’re not working with a recruiter, again, you can ask the employer directly what the office dress code is – they honestly won’t mind answering the question! You can also try to gauge what people wear by heading the company’s social media pages or website. Usually, there are team photos that can help you.

If you’re still unsure, you can’t go wrong with a smart shirt, but our top recommendation is to wear something comfortable that shows your personality (preferably not joggers!).

5. Communication

Your communication skills will be showcased as your start to answer the interviewer’s questions, and you’ll want to get the balance between talking too much and too little just right. 

Again, we’ve seen it all. We’ve seen those who are confident regaling their entire career history that spans forty years, some who stick to ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘uhhh I’m not sure’ answers, and those that are so eager to answer the question, they start to interrupt. 

To learn how to strike the balance, we recommend you do a practice interview. Gather some generic interview questions and ask your friends and family to help by acting as interviewer and listening to their feedback (they will only want what is best for you!). If, during the interview, you are struggling to answer a question, do not be afraid to ask for clarification. Remember the interviewer wants you to be the right person and wants you to understand the question and answer it correctly.