First Job Interviews: 50 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make
Your first job interview can be extremely nerve-racking, and the last thing you want to do is drop the ball. Depending on your mistake, it could mean the difference between getting the job or not.
Before you head into the
execution chamber hiring manager's office, take a look at these 50 common interview mistakes. There are some things you just can't afford to mess up!
Failing to research the company
Before you go into an interview, you need to look up the company and get a good idea of what it does. How can you answer the question, “Why do you want to apply for this company?” if you don’t even know the business?
Not knowing the job description
What are you applying for again? You may have applied for every job under the sun, so be sure to review the specific position before you reach the interview. Whatever you do, don't just try to wing it. You're nervous and your adrenaline is pumping—it's not going to go well.
Giving the wrong references
During your first job search, you probably don’t have references galore. That doesn't mean you should use your mom or dad, though. Try to use a professor, teacher, coach, or volunteer manager. It’ll look much more professional. And whatever you do, don't have a friend pretend to be a former manager.
Being terrible at social media
Your potential employer is almost absolutely going to look you up on social media. If your tweets are a constant litany of work-related complaints or racial slurs, you are not gonna get the job. Should employers care what you say on your own time? Maybe. Will they care? Definitely.
First interviews can frazzle you, but there’s a difference between nervous forgetfulness and not coming prepared. In most cases, a few notes to refer to from time to time won't be frowned upon.
Talking too much
Sure, the interview is a time where your (hopefully) soon-to-be-boss gets to know you, but there is such a thing as talking too much. The longer your ramble, the more you risk losing the attention of your interviewer.
Talking too little
Again, this is when the interviewer gets a feel for you as a candidate for the job. How are they supposed to know if you’ll fit in the company environment if you don’t talk much? If you're prone to one-word responses, try to prepare longer answers to common interview questions beforehand.
Criticizing your previous managers
This may be your first job interview, but you’ve probably “worked” before, so to speak. You could have worked as a volunteer or with a class group. Blatantly criticizing your previous leaders, no matter how much they might deserve it, shouldn't factor into your interview responses.
Providing misleading information
Trying to pull one over on your interviewer is never going to end well. Either they'll call you out on the spot, or worse, you'll get hired and then everyone will realize you weren't qualified for the job. That means if you throw out the trash at home, you’re not an “executive waste management consultant.” Be realistic about your accomplishments.
Complaining about job obligations
Complaining about the job’s obligations is a big no-no. The last thing an employer wants when looking for an employee is someone who complains about what they have to do. Either find a job you're more excited about or keep quiet.
Hitting your weaknesses too hard
At some point in your interview, you're likely to be asked about your weaknesses. You want to be honest, but don't go overboard. This is not the place to confess all your sins. Hit one or two max, and then follow up with the steps you're taking to improve in those areas.
Giving eye-rolling weaknesses
It can be tempting to answer the weakness question with a reply like, “I care too much,” Or “I'm a perfectionist.” You're not fooling anyone—bad interviewees have been using these corny responses for years.
Going overboard with strengths
You absolutely want to play up your strengths in an interview (it's kinda the point of the whole thing), but if you never let up with all the ways you're awesome, it's going to sound braggy. Or worse, your interviewer might just think you're straight-up lying.
Talking over the interviewer
Never talk over the interviewer—there's just no need. This whole thing is about hearing you speak. You'll get your chance if you just stay patient.
Focusing on your own needs too much
An interview is largely about what you can bring to the table. Your talking points should stick to what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you and why you need this job so desperately.
Negotiating during the interview
There is absolutely a time for salary and benefit negotiations. However, that time is not your interview, especially if you're on number one of many. At this point, the company isn't even sure they want to hire you yet. There will be plenty of time for negotiating after an actual job offer has been extended.
Leaving the questions to the interviewer
Yeah, the interviewer is going to ask you questions, but you should also ask questions too. The interview is just as much about you figuring out whether you want to work for the company. What is the company culture like? How long has your interviewer worked there? The goal is to figure out just how happy current employees are. You can't just come right out with that question—but you can ask around it.
Wearing clothes that are too small
Unless your interview is for a fitness instructor position or something that needs to show your glorious figure, wear clothes that fit your body properly.
Wearing clothes that are too large
Don’t hide in your clothes. It shows a lack of confidence and could give the interviewer the idea that you're sloppy.
Not wearing the appropriate attire
For once, skip the funny socks and the t-shirt with the funny quip. Dress for the job you're applying for. I’m not saying rent a tux, but a suit won’t usually hurt for office job interviews.
Allowing your pants to sag
If you allow your pants to sag outside of a professional environment, fine. We’ll judge you silently, but that’s about it. In an interview, sagging pants shows that you’re a bit of a slob, and it will lose you the job.
Smoking before the interview
If you can manage it, don't smoke on your way to the interview. And whatever you do, don't light up right outside the building. You never know who is watching.
Not brushing your teeth before the interview
For god’s sake. Please, brush your teeth. Even if you don't have an interview anytime soon—BRUSH YOUR TEETH.
Not showering before the interview
You know what the interviewer will remember about you if you don't? That you smelled. Not your resume, not your skills—your stank.
Wearing too much perfume or cologne
You want to smell good, but don’t go overboard. Don’t spray Axe all over you before the interview (or ever). Buy real cologne and use it sparingly.
Showing up late
Showing up late, no matter the reason, is going to make it seem like you don't care about the company's time. Now, genuine emergencies do come up at bad times, but if that happens, you better have a good excuse and act sufficiently mortified that you missed your interview slot.
Arriving too early
Arrive early, just in case, but not so early that it leaves your interviewer unprepared to receive you. It’s fine to arrive ten minutes before schedule, but anything more than that can be disruptive to the company. Sit in your car, find a coffee shop, or just walk the block if you have some time to kill.
Ignoring red flags
Let’s talk about red flags. A good interviewer is not going to come right out and say, “This place is terrible. Run away while you still can.” But there are subtle things you can pick up on that indicate that maybe this isn't the best place to work.
Bringing your parent to the interview
For those of you who would never do this, the mere thought almost seems ridiculous. However, you'd be surprised how often it actually happens. It's time to cut the cord, mom and dad.
Eating during the interview
Eat before or eat after the interview. Food in your mouth is rude. This isn’t the time to munch on some peanut butter crackers. Obviously this rule doesn't apply to lunch interviews—which require their own special preparations.
Bringing pets with you
Why? Why would you bring your pets with you? If you can’t find a sitter, they’ll have to stay at home by themselves. If you think this isn't an actual problem—think again.
Being rude to the receptionist
On the day of your interview, the receptionist will probably be your first point of contact with the company. They may not officially be part of the hiring process, but you can guarantee they'll rat you out if you act like an ass.
Asking if they drug test
If you have to ask, you're not getting the job.
You want the job, right? Appearing uninterested gives the message that you really don’t need the job or even want it. That might be true, but you've got to at least pretend if you want to stand a shot at employment.
Not being yourself
The interviewer wants to get a feel for you to see if you’ll vibe with the company culture. So acting the way you think the interviewer wants you to act is only going to backfire. Don't get too casual or loosey-goosey too quick, but do give them a genuine glimpse of what you're like to work with on a day-to-day basis.
Being rude to the interviewer
Really? Acting rude to the hiring manager will definitely get you a job. You're dealing with an interviewer, not a vulnerable woman at the bar—you can't neg yourself into a job offer.
Making a weak first impression
Your first interview is important, and it can be hard to make a strong first impression. You don’t want to make a weak impact and blend in with all of the other applicants in the pool, so take some time to think about what in your experiences and skill set sets you apart from the competition.
Doing anything to get the job…anything
We get that you really, really want the job. But telling your interviewer you'd do “anything” (and all the illegal/immoral things that implies) to get hired is going to result in rejection. And maybe a criminal investigation.
Being on your phone
Don’t ever take or make a call during the interview. Whoever is calling can wait 30 minutes for the interview to be over. If you know there's a genuine emergency brewing around interview time, it would almost be more acceptable to ask to reschedule than to be constantly glancing down at your phone.
It’s a professional environment, alright? This means you shouldn’t hug the hiring manager or anything weird like that. You’ll stand out, but not in a good way.
No one likes to have a conversation when the other person is smacking gum. This goes double (mint) for blowing and popping bubbles.
Clicking your pen
You’re nervous and anyone can understand that, but clicking your pen constantly is a huge mistake. It’s plain annoying, and it's one of those things you can slip into without noticing. If you can't bear the thought of having empty hands, at least hold a pencil over a pen.
What was that? What did you say? Um, alright. If no one can understand you, then you won’t stand out. Mumbling is a good way to show that your communication skills suck.
Not standing to introduce yourself
As you introduce yourself, stand up to shake hands. Why? No idea, but it's a thing we do.
Not bringing a pen and notepad
Chances are you won't need to do any heavy note taking during your interview. But carrying a pen and notepad can help you look prepared and put-together.
Making inappropriate jokes
If you have to ask yourself, “Is this joke appropriate for an interview?” it's not.
Not bringing a copy of your resume
Yes, the hiring manager will probably be well-versed with your resume, but it's great to bring an extra copy or two, just in case. It's nice to have something to refer to when a memory lapse sets in.
Not making eye contact
Eye contact is crucial. It shows confidence, respect, and interest. Avoiding eye contact can make it seem as though you’re disinterested or not telling the truth, even if that's not the case.
Sit up straight, have a firm handshake, smile, and talk directly to the person asking you a question. If confidence isn't your thing, here's a hint–it's not about being confident, it's about looking confident.
Slumping in your chair
Slumping is bad for your posture and gives the impression that you’re unprofessional or uninterested. You’re not bored. Sit up straight.