Avoiding 7 Common Interview Mistakes

Most people rank the interview process with having a root canal or visiting your obnoxious Aunt Maggie. An interview can be painless, however, if you avoid these seven common mistakes. Relax, smile, and present your best self. Then remember to follow-up with a thank-you note.

Mistake #1: Not Turning a Negative into a Positive A common interview question is: “What is the biggest mistake you have ever made?” First of all, be selective in the mistakes you reveal. Disclosing a huge career mishap may convey a lack of discretion more than a dose of honesty. Then again, if there are glaring black holes in your resume that present a mystery to the interviewer, now may be the time to address those issues. By bringing up the topic yourself and providing a direct, articulate answer, you put him at ease and show that you are aware of the situation.

Remember always to turn a negative into a positive. So you made some mistakes. Who has not? Explain how those mistakes enabled you to grow and effect positive change in your life and career.

Mistake #2: Arriving Late for the Interview This one is a no-brainer. Please be on time. Set five alarm clocks or buy a rooster. Plan your route well in advance, make sure the car has gas, and set out your clothing the night before.

Mistake #3: Researching the Company Inadequately When I first arrived on the job market with diploma in hand, I did not have the advantage of a laptop and the world wide web. We did have access to many fine search engines through the college library. I recall spending hours, with the help of a very patient librarian, compiling a thick notebook of information concerning a major news syndicate. I even fashioned little color tabs for each of the sections entitled services, structure, and top reporters. All of this was in place before I even contacted them for an informational interview. Maybe I was a little over zealous, but my hard work paid off in a job offer; plus, I felt confident and at ease during the interview itself. The old reminder, do your homework, still rings true.

Mistake #4: Dressing Inappropriately In our casual world, dressing inappropriately has become a way of life. Despite this, the old rule remains that dress still makes the man or woman, especially in the marketplace for jobs. The key is to attire yourself conservatively, most likely in a suit if appropriate for your industry, and for women, nice low heels—no stilettos, ladies. Adorn yourself with only a small amount of tasteful jewelry, no costume or fake trinkets. Do shower, brush your teeth and groom yourself.

On my first interview for a public relations job, I knew that image went with the territory. I painstakingly planned out every detail of my wardrobe a week in advance, consulted friends for their opinions, perused each piece again the evening before, and made several checks on the way out and in the restroom beforehand. No, I did not act out of vanity, but out of absolute terror that I might make a bad impression. I was rewarded for my efforts with a surprise second interview with the CEO who made my year by remarking that I definitely reflected the image the company wished to convey. Later, I received and accepted a position. First impressions are so very important.

Mistake #5: Talking Too Much and Asking Too Many Questions It is important to seem informed, but too many questions and chatter will find your way to the door. Inquire intelligently about the job to show you are interested in the company and engaged in the conversation. Keep your personal details and dissertation to yourself, please.

Mistake #6: Sharing Negative Information or Thoughts About Former Employers Your last boss was indicted for embezzlement and had an affair with his secretary. Keep it to yourself. Never say anything bad about anyone on an interview even if it is a little thing like his preferring a certain color of paper clips. It is too easy to be conceived as untrustworthy, or just as bad, a grumbler.

Mistake #7: Neglecting to Connect Your Strengths and Experience to the Job Describing how you fit the job seems to be an obvious part of your interview, but amazingly enough, many applicants leave this important step out. The employer waits for you to prove that out of all the resumes and phone calls, you are the one he has been searching for, and he must act to secure you. Be sure to toot your own horn, just do it on key and with class.