6 Job Interview Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

How to Botch an InterviewInterviewing for a new job is a stressful process. How do you convince a total stranger that you’re a competent, qualified adult? Well, start by making sure that you are, in fact, a competent and qualified adult, and then study these six job interview mistakes so that you can avoid them during your own quest for employment. We all make mistakes, but if you prepare yourself properly, you’ll never have to make these mistakes. Ever.

Mistake #1: Going in blind

Interviewer: So, what do you know about our company?

You: Oh. Um, I read that you, um, make cardboard boxes? You’re a cardboard box manufacturer.

Interviewer: Well, that’s not quite right, actually. What we really do is provide hospital supplies to third world countries. We do send the supplies in cardboard boxes, though.

You: I’ll just let myself out.

What to learn from this mistake: When you’re on the hunt for a new job, sometimes all the positions you’ve applied for start to blend together in your mind. It’s easy enough to get mixed up about which jobs you’ve applied for, but if you’re asked to interview for a position, you need to do your research before the interview takes place. If interviewers can tell that you didn’t even take the time to Google the company, they’re going to assume you’re lazy, an assumption that won’t be entirely off base.

Mistake #2: Not asking any questions, or asking irrelevant questions

Interviewer: So, potential employee-to-be, do you have any questions for me? Anything more you’d like to know about the position or about the company?

You: No, I don’t think so.

Interviewer: Really? There’s nothing you’re curious about?

You: Um . . . no, I think I’m good.

Interviewer: So you don’t want to know what kind of software we use, what your work schedule would be like, how large your team would be, or what I meant when I referred to your moral and ethical obligation to treat my pet iguana, Harold, as though he were your own child? You’re not curious or concerned about any of those things?

You: Nope. I honestly just need a job. I really don’t care what it is, as long as I get paid to do it. Plus, I think reptiles are where it’s at, if you know what I mean.

What to learn from this mistake: Again, this job interview mistake comes down to you looking like you don’t care about the position you’re applying for. If you don’t display genuine interest in learning about the job, why would the interviewer think you actually want that particular position? Don’t let the interviewer think you’re just looking for any old job.

Mistake #3: Not dressing properly

Mistake #3 is not dressing appropriately.Interviewer: Hi, I’m Mr. Stefanopo—is that a Led Zeppelin T-shirt?

You: Yes, yes, it is.

Interviewer: Are you aware that this is a highly respected law firm?

You: Yes. Are you aware that Led Zeppelin is a highly respected rock band?

Interviewer: I’m afraid we’re going to have to go in a different direction for this position. That being said, would you be interested in going out for drinks later? I’d like to buy you and your T-shirt a beer.

What to learn from this mistake: The solution to this one is simple: dress appropriately! Maybe you’re not after a law office job—heck, maybe you’re not after an office job at all. Even if you’re looking to get hired as a retail employee or a factory worker, you need to look neat, clean, and well groomed for your interview. If you can’t take the time to shave your stubble, trim your beard, brush your hair, or wear clean clothes to an interview, how on earth can an employer trust you to dress or behave appropriately when it’s time to actually start working?

Mistake #4: Lying or exaggerating

Interviewer: What would you say your flaws are as an employee?

You: Well, I’m definitely a perfectionist, and sometimes that makes it hard for me to have realistic goals and expectations for myself.

Interviewer: I see. Can you give me an example of a time when your perfectionism worked against you?

You: Oh—um, yes, of course. OK. So last week I was, um, finishing up this big project. It’s complicated, so I won’t get into the details now, but basically, the fate of my department rested on this work. Anyway, I wanted the uh . . . the one part . . . I wanted it done a certain way. But I didn’t have time to do it that way. So, like, that was pretty frustrating. Because, you know, I’m a perfectionist and stuff.

Interviewer: But did the quality of the project actually suffer?

You: Oh, no. No, I never actually let my obsessiveness affect my work. I’m far too much of a perfectionist for that.

What to learn from this mistake: Two lessons here: First, you will always find yourself caught in a lie you tell in an interview. It might not be right away, but sooner or later, it will come back to bite you, and not in a fun way. The second lesson is that your interviewer has probably been around the proverbial block a few times. Interviewers will know if you’re giving them the answers you think they want rather than answering honestly, and they won’t like it. Respect yourself and your interviewer: don’t lie. If you’re qualified for the job, your real accomplishments will speak for themselves.

Mistake #5: Bad-mouthing former or current workplaces

Mistake #5 is bad-mouthing former or current workplaces.Interviewer: So, why are you looking to leave your current position at ThisPlaceSucks Inc.?

You: It’s terrible there. Everyone is so petty and inconsiderate, and no one ever acknowledges all the hard work I do. Do you know that I haven’t had a raise in four years? Everyone is always complaining about something—you know how they say that small minds talk about people? Well, yesterday I heard Kevin tell Mark that Jamie hadn’t gotten his reports done on time because Carol didn’t send him the data quickly enough. That is so like Carol. I told my boss about all this, and he just shrugged. He never takes me seriously. Typical.

Interviewer: And you don’t think it’s possible that you might become annoyed by the people who work here as well?

You: Nah, I don’t think so. Things seem much better here. I think the people here are probably all actually robots, which is great because no one will ever make mistakes or get on my nerves. No mouth breathers among robots either, so that’s a win.

What to learn from this mistake: This job interview mistake occurs when people are frustrated with their current positions and are desperately seeking change. Regardless of your feelings of frustration, you shouldn’t bad-mouth past or current coworkers, bosses, or workplaces. You’ll just come off sounding either petty or mean—not exactly qualities employers are searching for. You also never know who your interviewer might be—it’s very easy to burn bridges when you don’t know you’re talking smack about someone’s sister-in-law.

Mistake #6: Not following up

You: Ah, what a wonderful interview! I’m so excited about how well that went. I think I will reward myself by sitting at home, watching Netflix, and definitely not sending a thank-you note to the interviewer. I look forward to her completely forgetting me by five o’clock tonight. Ah, what a great day!

What to learn from this mistake: The final major job interview mistake you can make? Allowing your interviewer to lump you together with all those other applicants. Send a polite note or email, depending on the circumstances, and then you can congratulate yourself on a job well done. Unless, of course, you’ve made one of the other five mistakes above, in which case, you may want to go back to the job-search drawing board.

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