Job interview mistakes you never knew you were making

Written by: Georgina Bloomfield
Published on: 7 Apr 2016

When you’ve just had a job interview, you inevitably get asked ‘how did it go?’ and usually you’ll respond with ‘yeah, it was okay’. The truth is, you may think that there was something you could’ve done better but you’re not quite sure what it was. If you had the ability to re-watch your interview you’d likely cringe at some of the things you found yourself doing. Unfortunately, the likelihood of being able to re-watch your interview is very low, so take a look at my tips instead of what you might be doing wrong:


Wearing the wrong thing

It’s easy to put too much effort into a job interview outfit when you really want the job. Your intentions are great, but don’t wear something you’ve never tried on until the day before the interview – or even worse, burns when you iron it on the day (that’s happened to me!) – Preparation is key, but don’t get carried away with what goes with what and avoid thinking that if you don’t stand out through your outfit you won’t get the job. As well as clothes, fragrance is also really important. If you see an interview as a ‘special occasion’ as you’re most likely dressing to impress, you don’t want to load on the fragrance too. Overpowering perfumes and aftershaves can be distracting and make you seem careless. If necessary, only have two or three sprays of the stuff. As for makeup, avoid wearing too much. Less is more – this does of course depend on the job you’re applying for. Use common sense here – you want a professional, natural look.

Body language

Body language is a hard thing to be aware of until you know you’re doing it wrong, or recognise bad body language from somebody else. If you’re struggling, then try imitating the interviewer’s body language. Don’t do this too much; otherwise you’ll look as if you’re trying too hard. Remember to smile too. It’s easy. You’ll come across as a positive, enthusiastic and energetic prospective employee. As for physical body language, remember to have a firm handshake, and make eye contact when you initially meet the interviewer!

Inadvertently lying

We all exaggerate from time to time. According to the Telegraph we tell approximately ten lies a week. Of course we lie for all sorts of reasons; whether it’s to spare someone’s feelings or make ourselves look and feel better. In an interview, if you lie (even if it’s a teeny white lie) it could catch you out later on. Even if it’s something non work-related such as activities you do outside of work. If you depict yourself as someone who works out four times a week and then once you land the job you become the office slob, it’ll be a reflection on your personality and you may find that people can’t trust you as much as they thought they did. This is mostly an unconscious thing people will pick up on, but be careful what you say in an interview. If you can back it up, great.

 Too many anecdotes and/or jokes

An interview is all about talking about yourself, your achievements and your prospective career choices. However, it’s not a place to crack a joke every three minutes or discuss anecdotal stories that aren’t relevant to the question you’re answering. If you do use anecdotes, make sure they serve a purpose to answering the question. For example, if you get asked about whether you can perform under pressure, give a good anecdote of when you did. Jokes are great too – they lighten the mood and show the interviewer that you have a personality. The only problem is after you’ve told a couple of funny jokes; you might eventually make a joke that’s really not funny. Don’t get too carried away and keep the jokes short, light and most of all relevant.

Being too early

It’s a given that arriving late to an interview is a massive mistake to make. Unless it’s out of your control as to why you’re late, it’s seriously not worth it. But being too early can also have its drawbacks. It can make you look desperate but also put the interviewer in an uncomfortable position. You don’t want to be hurrying the interviewer up or hoping that they had a cancellation and can squeeze you in. If you’re half an hour early, by the time they come to meet you, you may have a pretty bored expression on your face from waiting which won’t give the best first impression. If you do arrive unexpectedly early, wait in the car for a bit, go to a café or go for a walk around the area.

Not bringing the right stuff

Interviews are sort of a show and tell of your skills and expertise. It’s a good idea (if applicable) to bring a portfolio with you or a notepad to jot down notes or ask questions from. Physical ‘props’ act as a good engager for keeping the conversation on track and keeping the interviewer interested. If you can physically show your best work, this can do nothing except help you get the job. It’s far more difficult to explain a project you worked on to an interviewer than to be able to physically show your achievements (whether it’s a finance graph, image or report).

Nervous ramblings

Nerves are really hard to control in interviews. Nobody chooses to have them. A major sign of being nervous in an interview is to ramble on and say everything that comes to your mind, as well as interrupting short pauses and making your answers so long that they become a bit irrelevant. The interviewer may have a level of understanding when it comes to nerves, but try not to let it get the best of you. See if you can try talking a bit slower, allowing natural pauses in conversation to happen and using hand gestures. Being able to read the body language and any verbal prompts from the interviewer is also really handy.

Some of these interview mistakes might seem pretty obvious as things you shouldn’t do – but it’s easy to do them without being aware that you’re doing them. It’s not easy to be completely aware of everything you’re doing in a nervous situation. But, if you can lay off the overwhelming perfume and try to reign in the amount of jokes, you’re on to a good start!