A girl is in a job interview. She is smiling and clearly enjoying the interview experience.

The Top 10 Interview Mistakes That You Must Avoid

Joel Mason
Interviews

The Top 10 Interview Mistakes That You Must Avoid

Joel Mason • Nov 07, 2022

Iv'e seen too many great candidates miss out on fantastic opportunities.

Why do so many people fail to impress in job interviews?

Many fail simply because they don't know what the interviewer is looking for.

In this article, I'll point out 10 critical mistakes that people make in interviews.

By showing you what interviewers expect, you'll be better placed to avoid making the same offer killing errors!

10 critical interview mistakes

This list is based on years of recruitment and interview coaching experience.

Most people don't even realise that they're making these mistakes time and again.

Over the next fine minutes you'll become one of the few people that truly understands what interviewers are looking for.

So here they are, the top 10 deadly interview sins.

1. Focusing too much on what you want

Many candidates go into an interview with one question in mind, what can this company do for me?

An interviewer can spot this a mile off, and trust me it doesn't go down well.

What's the interviewers agenda?

Don't forget, the interviewer wants to know if you are the person that can solve their problems.

They want to understand if you can make a positive difference in their organisation.

Your job is to demonstrate that we are up to the task!

Keep the interviewer’s agenda firmly in mind.

Throughout the interview, aim to continuously reassure the interviewer that you can make a difference to the company.

This might mean reserving questions such as “is there a clear career path?” and “what are the benefits like?” until later on in the process.

As part of your interview preparation, try to understand what challenges the organisation may be facing or which opportunities are open to them.

Your job is to convince them that you can exploit these opportunities and overcome their challenges.

Do this well and they will ensure they want to see you again!

2. Not doing your homework

Effective and thorough preparation is absolutely key to interview success.

An unprepared candidate can be spotted a mile off and their lack of preparation will reveal a lack of interest in the role.

Candidates that are unprepared always get caught out and sometimes even called out on their lack of interest.

This can be very embarrassing.

3 ways to prepare for your interview:

Interview preparation is simple but it does take some time.

However, it's time well spent!

1. Research the organisation

Don’t just read their website, every candidate will do that, rather do some creative, out-of-the-box research.

Read recent press releases and news articles about them or their competitors.

Watch videos on YouTube that might feature their CEO or top executives, explore the company LinkedIn page, chat to people who have worked for the organisation.

Your aim should be to understand the challenges that the company is facing. Then you can demonstrate in the interview how you can help them solve those problems.

2. Research your interviewers

You should have been given their full names which will allow you to look them up on LinkedIn.

Today, people’s social media accounts tell their story, they reveal a lot about an individual and LinkedIn is no different.

Some deep-dive research will allow you to understand their priorities, passions, interests and will reveal any common ground that you have.

3. Research the role

Understanding the role is essential to being able to prepare powerful examples to the questions that they will ask you.

A simple job description will tell you what key skills the role requires and what competencies they will be expecting you to demonstrate.

With the help of LinkedIn, you may even be able to work out who the role reports into and who had the role before you.

A look at their LinkedIn profiles can reveal a great deal of useful information.

3. Low energy

Interviewers pick up on this immediately and it can be very difficult to recover from.

A low-energy candidate sends the message, “I don’t really want this job”.

Plus, low-energy candidates are really boring to interview!

What does a low energy candidate look like?

While energy levels can be relative, a low-energy candidate will typically:

  • Have a weak handshake
  • Have Bad posture
  • Be poor at making eye contact
  • Speak with a mumble or be difficult to understand
  • Be slow to respond
  • Give weak unengaging answers

While you should, of course, be yourself in your interviews, you also need to remember that this is a performance, you are on stage.

You have one shot to impress them, why would you not give it your all?

Be conscious of your body language and the message it's giving the interviewer.

4. Using ‘we’ instead of using ‘I’

This is a very common mistake and one that most people make unconsciously.

In most behavioural-based interviews, you will be asked to provide examples in their answers.

These examples should demonstrate how you performed in certain situations in the past.

This gives the interviewer an indication of how you will perform in the future.

The mistake that people make when communicating their examples is that they predominantly use ‘we’ and not ‘I’.

This is a mistake because they are interviewing you and not your team!

Remember, the interviewer wants to know what you did and how you performed. They are not particularly interested in what your boss did, or how your team performed.

Let’s compare two interview answers

We'll pretend that the interviewer has asked you for an example of when you have worked to a tight deadline

Team-based answer:

“We re-prioritized our tasks and all worked overtime to deliver the project on-time.”

Individual-based answer:

“I realized that we wouldn’t complete the project on-time unless we re-prioritized, so I sat with each team member to look at their workload and establish priorities. I also knew that I needed the whole team on-board and happy to work overtime to deliver this project. I communicated why this was important and the impact that delivering for this key client would have. I was really proud of everyone pulling together to make it happen.”

Next time you are asked to give an example, focus on using the pronoun ‘I’ and avoid saying ‘we’. Think about what decisions you made and what steps you took as an individual and show the interviewer the impact that you will have on their organisation. It’s great to be a team player, but a job interview is a time when you should take credit for the difference you made to your team.

You can see the difference that using 'I' makes as opposed to 'we'.

5. Delivering unstructured answers to interview questions

Your answers need to be structured, clear communication is key to a successful interview.

Many candidates have a lot to say, they just don’t know how to say it.

When you are asked a question in an interview, it is imperative that you answer in a way that leaves the interviewer crystal clear about what you are trying to say.

In order to achieve this, it helps to follow a set pattern when answering questions.

This is especially true for questions that require detailed examples.

You should absolutely use the STAR technique

STAR is particularly useful in behavioural-based interview situations.

Using STAR will enable you to structure your answers in the following way.

▶︎ Situation – what was the context?

▶︎ Task – what was I asked to do?

▶︎ Actions – what were the specific actions that I personally took?

▶︎ Results – what were the results of these actions?

Answers that are not articulated in a structured manner are ineffective.

An unstructured and confusing answer will call into question your communication skills and whether you even know what you are doing.

Learn how to structure your interview answers with this guide.

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6. Forgetting results

It doesn’t matter how you went about trying to improve your team’s performance, reduce a budget deficit or bring a new product to market if you fail to mention the results.

The results are the measure of your success.

Too often candidates deliver great STAR structured answers but neglect to include clear, measurable results.

Be very specific regarding the results of your actions

this will require you to know your numbers and prepare some specific examples.

It can be helpful to write out your examples using STAR before the interview so that the details will be easier to recall to mind.

Results are a powerful indication of the difference you can make to an organisation.

Your results can often be the thing that will make an organisation want to invest in bringing you on board, so don’t forget to mention them.

Recommended tool

One of the best tools for collating results is 'Finding Numbers for Accomplishments' by Erica Recamp.

It will help you demonstrate your successes both in interviews and on your CV.

It really is essential reading for every job seeker.

7. Failing to answer the question

This one does not get spoken about enough!

However, it is more common than people realise.

I have heard many candidates provide good answers but simply to the wrong question.

It is all too easy to get caught up in the moment and assume that we understand what the interviewer is asking us.

I always stress the importance of actually listening to the question. It is essential that we answer the question that we are actually being asked and not a different question.

Before you dive into an answer take a second to ask yourself, “what have I just been asked?” If you are unsure always ask the interviewer to repeat or to clarify the question.

If you are in a video interview, then it can be helpful to make note of some keywords as you are being asked a question.

This will help you to stay on track as you begin your answer.

So, the next time you are talking, ask yourself this; “am I answering the question that I have been asked, or, am I just speaking about what I’m interested in?”.

8. Entering an interview unrehearsed

You can’t know every question that you are going to be asked in an interview.

However, it is possible to rehearse elements of your interviews beforehand and practice to the point where you are confident and proficient.

Most people walk into interviews blind. Very few people are lucky enough to be naturally confident and proficient in interview situations.

Interviews tend to feel very unnatural and most of us need to practice in order to perform well.

How can you do this? 

Let's consider two simple ways to prepare for your interview.

1. Know and practice your answers

Although you cannot know all the questions that you are going to be asked, you should know the types of competencies that you will need to demonstrate.

If it’s a sales role they will want examples of when you have increased sales, launched a new product or opened up a new territory.

Use the STAR technique to pre-plan your answers and then practice them out loud.

Certain questions such as “tell us about yourself” and “why do you want this role” are also very common and can be prepared beforehand.

2. Practice with a friend or a professional

Someone who can set up a mock interview scenario, ask you questions and provide you with detailed, constructive feedback.

The more practice you have, the better. You will grow in confidence and this can make all the difference to your performance.

The benefit of organising some sessions with an expert is that they know exactly what to look for and can also help you identify your blind spots and weak areas.

As you practise and rehearse answers, it can be helpful to focus on key messages you want to convey, instead of writing out and practicing a set script.

The aim is to know exactly what you want to communicate and then communicate it naturally.

You do not want to sound like you are reading out a pre-practised response.

9. Failing to ask great questions

More often than not, at the close of an interview, a candidate will be asked if they have any questions.

This is a fantastic opportunity, one that is sadly missed by so many people who either choose to ask no questions or who ask the wrong questions.

The best questions to ask are those that set you apart from other candidates, questions which demonstrate that you have unique insight and ideas.

It can be helpful to write down potential questions during your research and preparation.

If you are interviewing online, then keep a notepad and pen next to you and make a note of anything the interviewer says that you would like to find out more about.

Below are examples of questions which show insight and interest in the role

"I recently read that the organisation has set new environmental impact goals, how would this role contribute to that agenda?"

"I've noticed some competitors adopting a subscription model and I have some great ideas about how this marketing strategy could work for some of your products, do you think this is a direction the company would consider?”

“You mentioned earlier that you’ve recently invested a lot in technology for the teams. I was the digital transformation champion in my last role and loved advocating for the uptake of technology. I’d love to know what software you’re using?”

Read our list of the most important questions to ask in your interview.

10. Failing to end the job interview on a positive note

The conclusion of an interview is your chance to redeem a poor performance or solidify a strong one.

It’s also an opportunity that many candidates miss and give too little thought to.

People remember how you end the interview more than how you began; this is where you leave a lasting impression.

Many candidates neglect to end the interview on a positive note, they forget to thank the interviewers and they do not set themselves up for the next stage in the process.

Tips for ending your interview on a positive note

For more on this subject read my article titled 'Six Ways to End a Job Interview Like a Pro'.

Thanking the interviewers for their time, tell them that you enjoyed meeting them.

Ask about the next steps, if they give you a commitment for follow-up, they are much more likely to follow-through. Ask “When can I expect to hear from you?” Or “What are the next stages in the process?”

Another great question to ask is, “Is there anything that you would like to ask me that has not come up in today’s interview?” this is a great opportunity for an interviewer to clarify something that may be concerning them, and your opportunity to make sure that you do not leave any loose ends or grey areas.

If you feel that the interview has gone well, a great question to ask is, “How do you feel the interview went today?” If you put the interviewer in a position where they need to positively reenforce your performance, they are much more likely to follow-up with you and take you to the next stage.

Conclusion

If you follow the advice in this article you'll be in a much better position to succeed in your next job interview.

However, nothing can prepare you better than one-on-one practice with a professional interview coach.

If you want to succeed in your next interview, check out our interview preparation services here.

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