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Career Advice

Interview Mistakes to Avoid

It’s no exaggeration to say that interviews are a minefield.  A veritable room of eggshells which must be transversed as delicately and as stealthily as possible to avoid major disaster.  

But eggy explosive metaphors aside, interviews are indeed very tricky situations. The dos and don’ts of interviewing for a job are numerous and wide-ranging, and there is a very good reason for this. Unlike application forms and CV’s, interviews are an immediate experience, there will be little time to backtrack or clarify your meaning…on the whole, you have one opportunity and one alone.

But in the heat of such a high pressured and often intimidating situation, momentary lapses in concentration occur all too easy, often with major consequences.

When considering the difficulties which come with interviewing for a job, it can help to put yourself in the position of the interviewer (yes they are people too). The chances are that the person or people opposite you, are seasoned interviewers, well used to seeing an endless parade of potential employees come before them in a wave of tedium and mediocrity. Given such experience, it’s no wonder then that they develop certain pet peeves and expectations of what a candidate should, and more importantly shouldn’t do.

As experienced recruiters ourselves, here are a few of most common interview mistakes which really get on our proverbial goat;


suitthatfits4Inappropriate Attire

When attending an interview,  it’s very important to dress correctly.

If you are foolish enough to turn up to an interview wearing a garment adorned with profanity, violent imagery, or anything which might be considered inappropriate for a work environment, then the chances are an employer won’t want you working for them. Your attire might not be any indication of the kind of employee you would be, but the interviewer won’t labour on that… you are dressed inappropriately and for many, that’s a clean-cut reason to put a great big X straight through your name.  First impressions matter, and inappropriate attire makes a very bad one.

That’s not to say that formal work clothing is the only option open to you. Many modern workspaces are casual places and thus employers will actually prefer you to dress to this code, however the key is to be sure what their expectations are well in advance of the interview.  If you are unsure you should ask in order to avoid an embarrassing wardrobe faux pas.
Untidiness  running

Entirely separate from the issue of attire, is that of tidiness. Indeed even the best tailored outfit, will send out a negative message when worn badly. Of course there are standard pieces of advice; everything ironed, shirts tucked in, scuff-free shoes, and so forth but, there is one surprising thing that you should remember when it comes to tidiness. Punctuality.

Nothing will make you look untidy faster than a last minute dash to an interview.  Hair windswept, sweating from nerves and exertion, lopsided clothing, and all of the rest, will scream at the interviewer ‘I didn’t leave enough time to get here, and then I had to rush’.

Of course such a circumstance probably won’t be the determining factor in whether you get the job or not, but in such competitive times you can’t afford any unnecessary marks against you.

Make sure that you arrive in plenty of time to attend your interview, leaving enough time to visit the restroom and make one last appraisal of your appearance.

A negative attitude towards your previous employer or job may well be justified, but bear in mind that your interviewer doesn’t know that, and there won’t be enough time to satisfactorily explain the situation to them. Indeed, be overly negative in an interview situation and the only thing that an interviewer will hear is ‘I am a troublemaker, and very difficult to manage’.  That might not be the case, but it doesn’t matter…within the scrutinising environment of the interview, impressions are king!

This is a more difficult rule to obey than you might think, especially given that one of the most commonly asked questions in an interview is ‘why do you want to leave your current position?’.

Avoid the temptation to go on a rant about how detestable your boss is, or about how much you despise your co-workers, there will be plenty of time for that later when you have got the position and your new employers have a more accurate sense of who you are.



Not knowing your stuffquestion-mark (1)

The interviewer won’t expect you to have a masterful knowledge of the role or the company, but they will expect you to have completed the level of research which will demonstrate your engagement.  Failure to do so might make them conclude that you don’t care about the position, and if you don’t care, then why should they?

Here is where research skills can really come in handy, but if you are unable to find all of the information you need, don’t be afraid to make contact prior to the interview and request it.  This will at least show that you are actively attempting to answer your own questions before the interview, but will also give you a basis from which to start when it comes to asking questions within the interview.

Many people assume that asking questions within an interview situation will betray a lack of research, but this is only true some of the time.  Well considered relevant questions can demonstrate real engagement with the role and the company, just make sure that what you are asking, couldn’t have been easily discovered before the interview.



Confidence Verging on ArroganceArrogance

Many people feel very intimidated / lacking in confidence within an interview situation, and subsequently feign confidence to the point of arrogance, as a counter mechanism. Also, some people are just plain arrogant…an equally unattractive quality.

We could tell you dozens of ways to appear more humble in an interview situation, but these often only serve to minimally blunt such behaviours. More useful we think, is to get you to look at the issue of arrogance from the perspective of an employer.

Arrogance sends out a number of messages to an interviewer, all of which combine to discourage them from employing you. It suggests that you are too single-minded, too self-interested, lacking in self awareness, and most importantly that you will be very difficult to manage.  That is not an employee specification that many employers will want to bring onboard.

That’s not to say you should be as timid as a field mouse, confidence is after all one of the winning characteristics to display during an interview, but you must be very careful to temper your confidence, to prevent it spilling over into undesirable arrogance.



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