How to Avoid Interview Mistakes

Five Parts:Presenting yourself wellUsing skilled communicationsKeeping your attitude in lineHelping the interviewerAdditional Help

Doing well in an interview with the hiring manager is the most important thing you can do to win the job. Managers tend to hire people who meet their expectations. That's why it's important to understand what those expectations are. This article highlights some of the most common complaints of interviewers and illustrates how to avoid making mistakes.

Part 1
Presenting yourself well

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    Dress appropriately. Generally speaking blue jeans and flip flops are not appropriate dress for an interview. Neither is very short skirts or low cut blouses, but, a three piece suit may not be appropriate, either. What is appropriate depends upon the open position. What you wear when interviewing for a banking position will differ from what's appropriate when interviewing to be an assistant for an up-and-coming fashion designer. A general rule of thumb is to dress as you would when working in that job.
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    Give a great first impression. Are you dressed appropriately? Is your hair style attractive? Are your fingernails clean and trimmed? If you wear makeup, is it subdued enough for a work setting? Did you stroll into the interview on your cell phone? Also, for younger interviewees, walking into an interview with your mother may prove that you’re not ready to be independent. Make a good first impression and the interview won’t be lost from the beginning.
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    Be punctual and arrive on time. This is an absolute must. To be sure you will make it on time, take a ride to the location a day or two before the interview so you know how to get there. Leave the house an hour earlier than you normally would, because traffic jams and bad weather happen at the worst times. Take a few moments to calm your nerves, and, if you like, say a prayer and check yourself in a mirror. When it is time to walk in the door, do so about ten or fifteen minutes before the interview is supposed to start. Never arrive late. If something comes up, such as a traffic accident, call the company as soon as possible to make them aware of the situation.
    • If you are significantly under stress, you may wrongly read and remember simple things like the time or agreed place, or to charge your cell phone if it is a phone interview. This is a known feature of human psychology. As funny as it may seem, check the time and place at least twice, better still, do this on different dates.
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    Be professional. Professionalism is highly valued. Are you chewing gum, smoking or tapping your pen on your portfolio? Everything you do will be judged in some form or fashion by the interviewer. Omit anything that might exclude you from further consideration as a potential job candidate.
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    Place your cellphone in one mode only and that is off. It's simply rude to leave it on during an interview and even more so to answer a call.

Part 2
Using skilled communications

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    Speak clearly and concisely. Remember the phrase, "Never use two words when one word will do." Address each person you meet as "Mr." or "Ms." and articulate your words using proper grammar. Also, keep your answers short and to the point. Talk to communicate a message, not just to fill the quiet spells in the interview. Speak up and out, so that your interviewer doesn’t ask “What did you say?”
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    Listen carefully. There are few things more disconcerting to an interviewer than a candidate whose responses aren't on point or one who constantly asks to have questions repeated. Stay engaged in the give and take of the conversation. Ask clarifying questions when you need to. Give answers that are on point. Lean slightly forward. Maintain appropriate eye contact. These behaviors indicate you're actively listening.
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    Ask targeted questions. The only thing worse than asking poor questions is asking no questions at all. Poor questions focus on what the company can do for you. They include questions about health benefits, salary or paid time off. These questions should wait until after an offer is forthcoming. (This is also in line with effective negotiating tactics.) Good questions ask about what you can do for the company. Questions like "How do you measure success in this position?" or "How would you describe your ideal employee?" show you 'get it'.
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    Give sufficient replies. It is surprising when candidates are unprepared to talk about themselves or their accomplishments. Interview questions seem to catch these people off guard or they give very short answers that don't convey much information. Interviewers interpret this behavior as laziness or disinterest. Take time to review common job interview questions and decide in advance how you will handle them. Practice telling (short) stories about your accomplishments.
    • Revise some general questions which have been asked many times. You think these are the very simple questions but you might not be able to give the appropriate answer without prior rehearsal, due to nerves or distraction.
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    Display the fact that you have researched the company. Too many candidates interview with companies they know nothing about. If you can't be bothered to do basic research the interviewer will infer you're not willing to go the extra mile. The bigger the company, the more unforgivable this will be.
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    Be strategic with your questions. Forgetting to ask how long the previous person was in the role will cause you to lose out on valuable information. You should also find out what priorities would require your immediate attention. This will tell you if everything was left in order, or if you will have to sort out a mountain chaos. It should also tell you how much time the boss will give you to sort out the mess. Try to find out what type of corporate culture you will be entering - what you need to do to progress in the organization. Having received the answer to all these questions, you may decide to politely excuse yourself and head for the exit.
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    Don't ask about benefits. This is immaterial in a first interview, even in a second. The salary, perks etc. will come onto the table, and the employer will offer these. You should not ask for it. You don't want to leave the impression that you are just in it for the money or the prestige.
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    Leave the interview knowing what happens next. You need to know what happens next. Having this information will help keep you from fretting about an offer and more importantly it will facilitate effective follow-up. Questions such as, "When do you anticipate making a decision?" or "When should I expect to hear from you?" are completely appropriate.

Part 3
Keeping your attitude in line

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    Leave your arrogance at home. Candidate arrogance is a common complaint among interviewers. Candidates too often cross over from confidence to arrogance. There is a fine distinction between the two. Confident people relate to interviewers as equals, while arrogant people are condescending, giving the impression they think they're above other people, either socially or otherwise. Be especially careful about arrogance when you're interviewing with someone younger than you or if you're interviewing for positions that are a step or two down from your last role.
    • If your nerves cause you to appear arrogant, find a coping mechanism that will allow you to work around that unfortunately appearance.
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    Keep your criticisms about your last employer to yourself. It is bad form to bash your former employer. If you speak ill of a former manager, the interviewer will assume you would do the same to him or her. Bad mouthing the company, manager or your former co-workers is always self defeating. You may be tempted to confide when the interviewer feels more like a friend than a decision maker but don't do it! It tells them that you're disloyal, easily discontented and a loose cannon waiting to go off again.
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    Show that you're engaged and interested. Examples of unsuitable interviewing behavior include acting disinterested, answering your cell phone, relentless eye contact, not meeting the interviewer's gaze, talking incessantly and being too familiar. Interviewers have certain expectations about how you should act. These expectations fall in line with the rules of common courtesy. Being polite, businesslike, friendly, attentive and appropriate will stand you in good stead.
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    Do not forget that the Interview is not over until you're outside of the building. There is nothing more heartbreaking than acing the interview only to blow it as you're leaving. This happens more than it should. For example: Just as candidates get to the door one interviewer will casually ask, "By the way, how did you manage to get time off today?" It's surprising the number who answer, "I called in sick." Likewise beware of casual interactions inside the company's building or facilities. Don't say or do anything that would reflect poorly on you if it were shared with the hiring manager.
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    Be careful all of the way. Yes, it sounds like this is just a little too much, but you can never be too careful in an interview. You want to eliminate anything and everything that might keep you from being considered for employment. Eliminate as many of the possible problem areas as you can so that the employer focuses on what you bring to the table in terms of qualifications. Also, don’t lie about something just because it looks bad. Your interviewer may consider you dishonest. If you honestly ‘forget’ to mention something, then that is a different story…

Part 4
Helping the interviewer

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    Adapt to your interviewer. Some interviewers dislike the process, and may say so, and they might be swayed more by a friendly attitude. Furthermore, if you are lucky enough to have an informal and friendly interviewer, you will feel more relaxed and find it easier to give perfect answers. Just don't get so comfortable you forget why you're there!
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    Bring extra copies of your resume along with a separate list of your references. More than likely, your resume is what netted you the interview. However, being prepared with extra copies will allow you to make sure the interviewer has it to refer to. References do not get checked until a company is seriously interested in a candidate. If you are asked for your references in an interview, great! Make sure you're able to supply them upon request.
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    Be in a good and natural mood. Smile, show interest and enthusiasm. Simply be positive in your body language and your speech. If you ooze positive energy it will rub off on everyone around you.


  • Project your energy and emotions through your eyes.
  • Lint rollers are always a good idea.


  • Turn your cell phone off.
  • Avoid smoking beforehand as the smell of cigarettes may be off-putting to the interviewer.
  • Sit up straight and act professionally.
  • Don't talk too much.
  • Your first point of contact may be a security guard or receptionist. These people may be asked for their impressions of you. Be polite and respectful. Don't roll your eyes if the guard asks for identification, and don't address the receptionist as "honey" or "sweetie."

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Categories: Interview Skills