Job Interviews – 101 Common Mistakes to Avoid

You have found a great job opportunity. You have the necessary skills and experience. Everything is going according to plan, but for some reason you aren’t selected. What happened? It’s likely that you committed an interview mistake. Most hiring managers are willing to let one or two small matters slide. However, if you commit several of the common interview mistakes you will never make the short list.

We interviewed hiring managers, recruiters, and even job seekers to identify the most common mistakes made by job applicants. We intentionally did not rank the list of interview offenses, since their impact will vary widely depending on the attitude of the interviewer. As you review the list below, some mistakes will appear quite obvious even common sense (and humorous). Some mistakes apply only to one gender but there are plenty to go around.

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We recommend that you review our list and make a personal checklist of your own, based on the job, the company, and your past experiences. Prior to each interview look at the list again. In this way, you will become conditioned in your behavior and responses. After each interview debrief yourself as soon as possible. Go through the list, checking those items that were mishandled.

By carefully crafting your answers and avoiding interview mistakes, your confidence will increase and your job campaign will improve dramatically.

101 Job Interview Mistakes:

  1. Arriving late for interview (and not calling to advise the interviewer)
  2. Bringing food and drink into the interview
  3. Wearing huge medals, chains, and gaudy jewelry
  4. Smelling of smoke
  5. Referring to any member of the staff in some derogatory or suggestive way
  6. Using foul language
  7. Forgetting to bring extra resumes
  8. Taking liberties with interviewer Ex: addressing by first name
  9. Leaving your cell phone on (and answering)
  10. Wearing shirt unbuttoned down the front; sleeves rolled up
  11. Bad mouthing your past supervisor or employer
  12. Dressing very casual or overdressing – simple conservative always works
  13. Failing to send thank you note after interview
  14. Wearing shorts, T-shirts floppies, sneakers, baseball hat, blue jeans
  15. Hair disheveled or unkempt
  16. Chewing gum
  17. Wearing tie or shirt with stains
  18. Messed up clothes- poorly pressed
  19. Tracking dirt, snow, rain, etc. into the office
  20. Showing off tattoos
  21. Wearing dirty or scuffed shoes
  22. Putting briefcase or purse on interviewer’s desk
  23. Poor posture when sitting- slouching
  24. Failing to give firm handshake
  25. Making derogatory references to gender, race, or age
  26. Unshaved
  27. Body odor;bad breath
  28. Too much perfume or aftershave cologne
  29. Shuffling papers and notes during interview
  30. Failure to bring critical reference material -dates, names, addresses etc
  31. Failing to get names and titles or bus cards of people interviewed
  32. Failing to acknowledge everyone in the organization Ex: receptionist, assistants etc.
  33. Assuming one or more of the staff are not influential in hiring decision
  34. Interrupting receptionist or other staff with frivolous conversation
  35. Laughing boisterously during interview
  36. Telling jokes during interview
  37. Failing to thank interviewer and express enthusiastic interest in the position
  38. Failing to ask their level of interest – how you fit – the next step
  39. Asking who else is applying – What are their names
  40. Replying: ‘I already answered that question’
  41. Lying
  42. Losing temper or arguing with interviewer
  43. Asking detailed salary questions on first interview
  44. Focusing on medical benefits and sick time during initial discussions
  45. No answer for “What kind of position are you seeking..What are your job objectives?”
  46. Fidgeting – fooling with hair and hands, cracking knuckles
  47. Picking up and fussing with stuff on interviewer’s desk
  48. Asking personal questions of interviewer
  49. Hemming and hawing when answering
  50. Failing to answer a question – stalling – ignoring a question
  51. Failing to be prepared for the most common questions
  52. Asking about vacation and comp time in the beginning
  53. Asking for flex time unless it is a routine and expected part of the job
  54. Coming to interview sick
  55. Bringing a friend or relative along (even to the waiting area)
  56. Directing the interviewer – “You should…do this or that”
  57. Failing to smile and show enthusiasm
  58. Rambling on instead of a clear concise answer
  59. Answering questions with irrelevant details
  60. Exaggerating skills and achievements
  61. Failing to maintain eye contact
  62. Acting as if you are the obvious choice or already have the job
  63. Being dismissive of the HR staff and its function
  64. Offering apologies or qualifiers before an answer
  65. Failing to do research -asking questions that you should already know the answers to
  66. Showing off your knowledge about the company with items of common knowledge
  67. Implying you are deserving of a promotion before you start
  68. Failing to backup supposed skills with specific examples
  69. Being a philosopher: Focus instead on your concrete value adding abilities
  70. Being unprepared for tough questions about past failings, problems, dismissals etc.
  71. Interrupting the interviewer
  72. Using threatening language – “If I don’t get this job…..”
  73. Mispronouncing an important word or name
  74. Failing to address the interviewer by name in the course of the interview
  75. Failing to overcome negative observations or conclusions made by interviewer
  76. Saying money doesn’t matter
  77. Asking for something to eat or drink
  78. Asking “When can I expect my review and how often do you give raises”
  79. Failing to follow interviewer’s lead:If all business-then you be all business etc.
  80. Holding interviewer hostage: Recognize when the interview is over
  81. Failing to find out the next step in the process
  82. Focusing and commenting on the office trappings, titles, and office size
  83. Declaring what you don’t do or won’t do
  84. Making references to employment law and labor regulations
  85. Debating issues with interviewer
  86. Emphasizing your medical conditions
  87. Being a pity applicant: employer is primarily interested in their needs not yours
  88. Talking down to the interview implying your skills and experience are superior
  89. Saying “You probably don’t know this because of your age or lack of experience but…”
  90. Failing to change your personal voice mail to a professional response
  91. Don’t cross your legs or ankles during interview
  92. Failing to warn family and roommates of possible calls from prospective employers
  93. Conducting telephone interviews in noisy environment or subject to interruptions
  94. Using existing employer’s telephone or email to communicate with prospective employers
  95. Forgetting critical info – Who are you interviewing with? Time, address
  96. Making reference to prospective employers on social networks and blogs
  97. Failing to get detailed directions beforehand
  98. Texting in front of the interviewer or other staff
  99. Asking to use the phone for routine matters
  100. Talk about politics or controversial events involving politics, religion etc.
  101. Offering details about personal life not needed by interviewer