10 Mistakes to Avoid in a Job Interview

Avoid “Fatal Statements.” Here is your guide to winning that job.

Posted Sep 01, 2015

Research, and the opinions and observations of professional recruiters were used to compile this list of 10 major mistakes that are commonly made in hiring interviews.  Avoid these:

1. Weak Handshake.  Professional recruiters will almost always mention this.  Although it seems like a trivial issue, a weak or awkward handshake may matter, and it definitely drives home the point that first impressions are critically important.  Many interviewers make up their minds about a candidate very early in the interview, so start off on the right foot with a firm and confident handshake.
2. Poor Appearance.  Again, first impressions matter.  No matter what the job, look professional and dress well.  Interviewers may be prone to stereotypes (e.g., “sloppy appearance = sloppy work”). 
3. Showing Lack of Interest.  Be attentive to the interviewer, make eye contact, and avoid yawning or looking disinterested.  These may seem like minor behaviors which shouldn’t matter if you are qualified for the job, but remember that interviewers can be swayed by a seeming lack of interest, and may conclude that “low interest = low motivation.”
4. Too Brief Responses.  Our research on hiring interviews found this the to be the single most common negative behavior in job interviews – giving a one word or very brief response to questions that obviously call for a longer answer, such as “How did you enjoy your last position?”  (“Fine” is not the answer they are looking for).  Use the opportunity to fully answer the question and show that you are an engaged and motivated worker.
5. Not Demonstrating Knowledge of the Company/Position.  Do your homework on the job and company you are interviewing for beforehand, and be prepared.  Interviewers will commonly ask why you are interested in the particular job or company, and you should be prepared and able to show why you are a good fit and the best person for the job.
6. Rambling Responses.  While too brief answers are bad, so are rambling, run-on responses.  Be focused and to the point with your answers.  It is ok to pause to collect your thoughts before giving a direct and complete answer, but don’t give answers that go on and on.
7. Complaining About Past Jobs.  In all likelihood, the interviewer will ask about past positions and why you left.  Never complain about a past employer or job.  Rather than saying that the organization was bad, or the job was boring, turn it into a positive statement (e.g., “I was looking for a position that was more challenging and utilized more of my skills”)
8. “Fatal” Statements.  Our research on job interviews found that there were a number of responses given by interviewees that essentially led our interviewers to make an immediate “thumbs-down” decision.  Some of the fatal statements included complaints about previous bosses, the use of profanity, or references to engaging in illegal or unethical behavior.
9. Mentioning Negative Information.  Just like fatal statements, any negative information is given greater weight than positive information in the final decision.  Focus on your strengths and virtues and try to turn any negatives into positive statements.
10. Lack of Etiquette.  It is very important to be courteous and appear grateful for the opportunity.  Saying “thank you” is imperative, and you may want to follow up with a brief email note of thanks.

If you are looking for additional tips on how to handle yourself in a job interview you can go here or here.

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