6 common interview mistakes to avoid


Mistakes in the interview room are commonplace; after all, we’re all human. No one has a perfect interview technique, and, of course, some mistakes are inevitable. However, as part of your interview preparation, it’s vital that understand what the most common interview mistakes are, in order to avoid making them yourself:

1. Arriving late

Candidates can look up their route the night before, leave early, and still turn up late due to unexpected delays. Whilst these situations are often through no fault of their own, it can set a very bad tone for the rest of the interview, not to mention what it implies about their time management skills.

My advice here is that you can never be too organised when it comes to planning your journey. I would suggest that you practice your route beforehand if it’s particularly unfamiliar and aim to get to the interview location about 45 minutes before. Head to a nearby coffee shop and use this time to go over your notes, take some deep breaths, and get into a positive, confident mindset.  Make sure you’re sat in the reception of the company building at least 15 minutes before the interview.

2. Ignoring everyone besides the interviewer

On the day of the interview, you will come across plenty of your potential colleagues; whether it’s in the elevator on the way up, whilst you’re sat in reception or walking through the corridor on the way to the interview room. Understandably you will be in the “interview zone” focusing most of your attention on the hiring manager and what you are going to say to them. Nonetheless, don’t forget to at least smile to everyone you walk past. If time permits, for example, when sat in reception, make polite conversation.

Often, the hiring manager will ask these people for their first impression of you. Of course, they won’t base their hiring decision on this alone, but if you come across well, this will certainly will work in your favour and speak volumes about how well you will get on with your colleagues.

3. Reciting the company website

One of the first interview questions you are likely to get asked will be “what do you know about the company?”  You may have done your research, and can recite the company website off the top of your head, but do you actually understand what the business does, and could you explain this in your own words?

Instead of reading off the website, look to other sources such as social media updates, case studies and press releases. This can give you some context and provide a better understanding of how the business works in practice. In the interview, talk about your findings and mention what you found interesting. This will show you are engaged and have made a conscious effort to understand the business better because you care about this opportunity.

4. Rambling on

It’s natural to go off on a tangent when you’re nervous, and that couldn’t be truer in the interview room; whether it’s through fear of an uncomfortable silence or just a build-up of pre-interview nerves channelling themselves into anxious energy.

Ahead of the interview, have a structure in your mind for your interview answers. For instance, in a previous blog, we discuss using the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Analysis, Result) when it comes to answering competency based questions. Practice answering some interview questions, sticking to this framework. You will find that having a loose structure to stick to will help you to stay on track with your answers, and cover off all of your main points succinctly.

5. Speaking negatively

During the interview, certain questions can prompt candidates to speak negatively about themselves or their previous company, whether it’s answering the question “why are you looking to leave your current employer?” or Tell me about a time you failed”.

Whilst I encourage candidates to be as transparent as possible, you should also tread carefully in these situations. I would advise you research which tricky interview questions you might get asked, and that you practice phrasing your answers in a positive and factual way. For instance, if asked “why do you want to leave your current employer?” you could say something like “I am looking to leave my current employer because whilst I feel that this role has taught me a lot, I believe I could progress my career much further in a larger organisation such as this one, with more opportunities for development”.

6. Not having questions at the end

One of the biggest gripes for a hiring manager is a candidate who doesn’t have anything to ask at the end of the interview. Make sure you prepare a number of questions, but listen out for answers to these during the interview, and have some spare questions up your sleeve.

It would also be a good idea to go into the interview with a notepad in hand so that you can jot down any new questions which crop up as the interviewer speaks more about the organisation and the role.

The bottom line is, most interview mistakes are avoidable, you just need to know which to look out for. One final thing I will say is that despite your best intentions, you may still make a common interview mistake. If this happens, don’t beat yourself up. This doesn’t mean you have ruined your chances, and at the very least, you have learnt a valuable lesson for next time.