How to Limit Your Mistakes During a Job Interview

Two Methods:Limiting Your Mistakes During an InterviewAdditional Help

Getting a job depends a lot on how you present yourself during the interview. It’s not only about your academic background or technical skills and experience but it's also very much about your attitude, body language, perceived fit with the workplace and the way you approach the interview as a whole.

Making a good impression on an interview requires knowing how to keep the mistakes to a minimum; the following steps are aimed at helping you avoid the most common mistakes and to use this knowledge to your best advantage.

Limiting Your Mistakes During an Interview

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    Prep yourself about the company before the interview. You might not have enough idea about the company when you applied for a job but that has to change between the time you're asked for an interview and the time you're sitting in there explaining why you want to work for the place so badly. Not knowing much about the place you're interviewing at reveals to the interviewers that you don't really care and that sets the interview offside from the beginning. Do some background research now and gather as much information about the organization as possible. Some ways to do this include:
    • Read the company's or organization's annual report and related documents. Know all about their latest ventures, financial situation, philanthropic endeavors, awards and achievements. In particular, know what they expect from staff and how they reward high performing staff.
    • Do a search online for the company or organization. Few businesses stay offline, so even if it's just a Facebook page, you can find out information about your potential employer. Read through the website or related pages and soak up everything you can.
    • Be knowledgeable about the company's or organization's products and/or services, expertise, and milestones. If there is a long history, read up on it.
    • Avoid rote learning company facts. They don't want facts recited back at them; as you learn, think about how your job skills will match what you've learned and what you can do to help the company or organization achieve more of the goals its aiming for.
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    Be prepared with essentials. Take extra two or three copies of your resume, cover letter, references, college transcripts, professional documents, and anything else needed with you. Do this even though you already submitted them earlier.
    • Ensure that all documents produced by you are well typed, free of typos and organized.
    • Carry everything in an ordered file or folder; this neatness and organization already reveals the level of your professionalism when the interviewer sees you refer to it or hand documents to them from it.
    • Keep a pen, small notepad and a flash drive with your important documents in it in case they want a soft copy of anything.
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    • Take some time before the interview to run through some "practice questions." Plan to have specific examples of past challenges and successes you had, and gear your answer towards the job for which you are applying. For instance, if you are interviewing for a management position, be prepared to give examples on how you motivated people, or effectively led a group of individuals to achieve company objectives.
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    Dress appropriately. First impressions last. It is human nature to presume that a person turning up in jeans to an office job really doesn't have their mind on the job and therefore really doesn't want the job. Same for unironed clothing, clothing with obvious stains, disheveled clothing, and clothing that is too revealing or informal. Once the interviewers have a negative impression from your clothing, it's hard to shake this. Don't allow your clothes to let you down; this is one area in which you can excel. And be sure that over-dressing is always preferred to under-dressing for a job interview; it shows you're serious about the job.
    • For men: wear professional suits, slacks, and a formal shirt. Make sure your socks match your pants; alternately, match your shoe color.
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    • For women: Wear a suit with either pants or skirts.
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    • Don't neglect the shoes. People do look! Make sure they're polished and match the outfit.
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    • Use excellent grooming - comb or brush your hair neatly, clean your teeth, all the usual things your mom taught you.
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    Be punctual. Always arrive 15 to 20 minutes before the interview time. Allow time to park your car or for the public transportation to get you where you need to be. Go inside the building and use the additional time to relax until you are called on. Practice some deep breathing while you wait and go over interview answers in your head if you need to, otherwise just focus on peaceful thoughts. This way you don’t have to rush in, and you can stay calm and focused during interview.
    • You may be the best in your field but also least punctual person in your region. However, your employer doesn't need to know this yet. If you do have a problem with always been late, raise this with your boss after you've landed the job and work out special dispensations for your night owl tendencies then. Societies that value punctuality do not place talent before being on time, so don't push your luck by being late to the interview.
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    Greet readily and smile. When you enter the interview room and meet the interviewers, be respectful to them and greet them with a smile on your face. When you are asked to have a seat, sit up straight and stay confident. This way you will look professional and mature, as well as setting them at ease about your intention to listen and respond with eagerness.
    • Always bear in mind that you're human and your interviewers are too. And basically, humans want to get along with one another. So, being affable and likable is a big part of selling yourself; your interviewers are trying to see if you are someone who will "fit in".
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    Stay calm. There might be situations when you're asked something and you think you don't have clue as to how to answer. Don’t be nervous – the fact is you think you don't know but if you've done your research as outlined earlier, there will always be an answer, even if it has to be a lateral one.
    • If you don't know something technical, answer confidently that that area is not your field of expertise and you would like to gain knowledge on that in future.
    • Answer all the questions politely and take notes if required.
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    Be precise. When asked about your qualifications and why they should hire you, be specific. State in a way that catches interviewers’ attention and make them feel that they would make a mistake if you are not hired.
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    Prepare for some delicate questions. Most of the time, interviewers ask some tricky questions because these are how they separate the people they want to work with from everyone else. And quite simply, if you're not well prepared, you will get caught off-guard. So be ready to answer the typical questions that throw many interviewees:
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    Always be positive. Be positive about your past experiences and qualifications. Show them how much knowledge you gained by giving examples and how they can be useful to them if you are hired.
    • Remember not to brag or show off as it might kill the entire mood.
    • And definitely don't roll your eyes and launch into a completely negative explanation about how your previous boss and co-workers were the worst so-and-so's you've ever had the misfortune to know; nobody will employ someone who is both so negative and so ready to dump on others!
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    Be professional about phone interviews. If you have a phone interview always remember the only impression your interviewer can get about you is the way you speak. Make sure you use right key words to create a good feeling. Smile when you talk and stay confident because interviewer can sense that even though s/he can’t see you.
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    Be courteous. If you get the job you applied for, don’t forget to send a thank you email or a note. And even if you don't get it, it can't hurt to say thank you for their time. Going that extra mile even when you don't get the job can be something that gets remembered when they do need someone with your skills base and they still have your notes on file. You might be their second choice, or tied for first and showing the appropriate professional courtesy may give you the advantage you need over their other choice. Never shut the door.
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    Ask Questions. You will be given the opportunity to ask questions. Remember, you are interviewing them as well. The time to find out you don't like the manager or the team is before you're hired. Recall scenarios you didn't like at previous jobs and ask how they handle the same situation. You may only get to ask one or two questions, so make them count. For example, if you like structure and documented processes, ask about their Procedures Manual. If they tell you their procedures aren't fully documented, you might not be a good fit there (or you may be able to document their processes for them for extra points).

Additional Help


  • Prep yourself well about the company and why you want this job. Interviewers usually ask what makes you think you are the right person to be hired. This cliched question should be answered originally though – you have to be very smart in answering it well and to link your wants to those of the company. It’s not only about your technical knowledge but also about your character, personality, leadership quality and your level of motivating both yourself and others.
  • Don’t take rejection personally. Be professional and thank them for giving you the opportunity to interview you. Try to learn from your mistakes and each time you will do better than the last one. In some cases, you might be their second choice and for some reason, choice number one declines the offer. Courtesy extended during and after the interview will pay off big time here.
  • Never forget to turn off your cell phone. It is extremely rude and unprofessional when your phone rings or even vibrates in the middle of an interview. If you don't know how to turn it off, leave it in your car or pull the battery.
  • Without fail, always aim to arrive early; arriving before the specified time allows for hitches and nerves to be dealt with. Bad traffic and limited space in parking lot might kill your time and you have to be on time for the interview; running will leave you out of breath and filled with nerves.
  • Always have a good night's sleep before the interview day. Many times people get tense and can’t sleep properly. This will affect your concentration and ability to focus on the questions being asked, especially more conceptually driven ones.
  • Keep your important papers and clothes ready well beforehand. You don’t want to waste your time on the interview day looking for what to wear. If you're attending a lot of interviews, have a special interview outfit set aside in the wardrobe and have it cleaned regularly.
  • Always answer every question. If the interviewers ask several questions in rapid succession, use your pen and paper to jot down the questions, then go back and answer them. This shows thoroughness and attention to detail - both highly desired traits.
  • You are being evaluated from the time you set foot on the prospective-employer's property until you leave. Act accordingly.
  • Some interviewers ask questions that reveal how you think. The answer may take hours or days to develop - they do not expect you to "know" the answer, but they do want to know how you would start solving the problem. "I don't know" is clearly the wrong answer here and should be avoided. If you don't know how to begin, jot down the question, tell the interviewers you'll think about it, meanwhile continue with the interview and let your subconscious work on it while you answer other questions. This shows the ability to multitask. When you have some thoughts about the question, revisit the question when there is a pause in the interview, or when they ask you if you have any questions. This demonstrates thoroughness and organization.

When you arrive for the interview, your first point of contact may be a receptionist or secretary. Don't be condescending ("Hi, sweetie") or rude ("How come there aren't any reserved parking spaces for visitors?"). Treat her with respect; she may be asked for her impression or perception of you.

If offered a cup of coffee or other refreshment, it's best to refuse. Think of how embarrassed you'd be if you spilled it!


  • Sometimes interviewers take a break during the interview. Make use of that time and talk about something interesting like the economy or international relations. Show them your diversified knowledge on current world affairs. Don't simply sit there and twiddle your thumbs or complain about how this is costing you time to get back to your current job.
  • If you're taking a group or panel interview, it is possible that one of them is going to play the difficult interviewer. This person might ask questions to puzzle you. Don’t be nervous and answer them politely and realize that there are deliberate reasons for the different interviewing styles before you. On the whole, interviewers try this technique to check how well you can handle reacting under pressure and to difficult scenarios.

Things You'll Need

  • Professional clothing
  • Professional folder or file for carrying copies of everything relevant, such as extra copies of resume and extra copies of references
  • Pen, notepad, flash drive
  • Floss – a last minute check of the teeth can save an ugly smile!
  • Address and phone numbers of the interview unless you already know it by heart or experience; nerves can cause you to forget otherwise
  • Online research ability, company prospectuses, annual reports, etc.

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