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Guest Post: Top 15 Interviewing Mistakes

When you are fortunate enough to be granted an interview, you have become one of a small group being considering for the job.  The interview is paramount in separating yourself from the pack.  Unfortunately for some, it is where they do not prepare well enough or stumble during the process.  This guest post by Nikki Ruth outlines some key pitfalls to avoid during the interview.  Nikki is a CV writer and founder of job interview coaching company My CV and Me.  Nikki has over 10 years experience conducting job interview coaching and is an active blogger.


A big part of a successful interview is avoiding simple mistakes. You can learn from the mistakes of others and avoid these top 15 interview mistakes.

1. Badmouthing your boss – 49% percent of interviewers cite badmouthing a former boss as the worst interview offense. Don’t speak negatively about your former boss or company. It’s the fastest way to talk yourself out of a job. Instead, put a positive spin on your experiences and your job search.

2. Not being prepared – If you really want the job, you need to do some homework. Find out all you can about the company, using their website. Read press releases to find out about their products, customers and competitors. You are looking for indications of where a company is going and what problems the company and the industry are having.

3. Sounding too rehearsed – While it’s important to practise your answers, try not to sound too rehearsed. When you are practising, write the answers in bullet points which will stop you memorising information word-for-word.

4. Not knowing yourself – Make sure you know what sets you apart from other candidates and be specific about what you’ve done that has made you successful. Know your background without having to refer to your CV. There is no one better than you to tell your story.

5. Talking too much – There is nothing much worse than interviewing someone who goes on and on. 35% of interviewers cite waffling as their pet hate. The interviewer really doesn’t need to know your whole life story. Keep your answers succinct, to-the-point and don’t ramble. The best way to do this is to prepare and practice your interview answers beforehand.

6. Focusing on the past – The projects you worked on ten years ago bring context to your career and the professional you have become. However the skills you now possess are what will be valuable to your new employer. Concentrate on your current roles and experiences.

7. Lack of enthusiasm – This is your first and sometimes only chance to showcase your personality. Be polite and upbeat. Show your enthusiasm for both the job and the company. Focus on positive topics and achievements.

8. Exaggerating work experience – Recruiters know if you’re exaggerating in interviews by vague responses, missing information and inconsistencies. If there is anything that appears odd, they will ask the same question in various ways. If you are telling the truth your answers will remain consistent. 

9. Not asking questions – Having no questions indicates that you have not thought much about the position. Prepare at least three questions to ask the interviewer. One of the most effective questions to ask is: “What do you think my biggest challenge would be in this position?”  You can discover if the interviewer has any concerns about you and can address these there and then.

10. Arriving late – Nothing makes a worse impression. If you can’t turn up on time for the interview, what would you do as an employee? If there’s even the remotest chance that weather or traffic might be a problem, leave early just to be sure.

11. Poor presentation – A limp handshake, not making eye contact, chewing gum and clock watching are all a big turn off. A lot of interviewers make up their minds in the first two minutes and spend the remaining 28 re-enforcing their judgment. First impressions count! The best way to be aware of your interview body language and the way you are coming across is to practice in front of a mirror. This way you can be confident that you are sending the right message in your job interview.

12. Treating the receptionist rudely – The receptionist is the first person you’ll meet in the company and they often take you to the interview. The interviewer will usually ask their opinion of you after you leave.

13. Asking about benefits or salary – You have a right to know about the benefits package you’ll be offered, but chances are the interviewer will bring it up on his/her own. If this doesn’t happen, you can broach the subject when salary negotiations begin.

14. Building a rapport with the interviewer – If the interviewer seems all business, don’t attempt to loosen him/her up with a joke or story. Be succinct and businesslike. If the interviewer is personable, try discussing his/her interests. Also pay attention to the interviewer’s body language. They might be sending you subtle signals with how they act that you can use to your advantage. You ideally want the interviewer to be doing the same things you are like maintaining eye contact, nodding, smiling, leaning forward or sitting relaxed.

15. Talking about ‘we’ – When you are describing your experiences stay focused on you, talk about what you did, not what ‘John’ or ‘we’ did. After all it is you going for that job not your entire team and interviewers want to know what your specific role in achieving the desired result was.


January 11, 2010 - Posted by | Guest Post, Interviewing 101


  1. great tips Jeff!

    Comment by Cris Janzen | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  2. Terry McKenzie, a friend of mine on Twitter, asked me today about Point 15 (talking about “we”). He said he usually takes about what his division did. Terry asked me to expand on this point.

    Terry, there is nothing wrong with sharing divisional accomplishments to boast about leadership abilities and key goals being met continuously. However, at some point you need to translate those situations to what you personally did. What was your specific role in the process? What roadblocks did you remove? What key decisions needed to be made? How did you mitigate risk? How to you apply your specific skills and abilities to the project?
    If you talk in generalities, it is hard to understand what you personally did that contributed to the success of the team.

    On this topic, I joke with candidates and remind them that it is true that there is no “I” in “team.” However, there is “me.”

    Comment by jefflipschultz | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  3. I really enjoyed the article. I plan on going back and reading the others you have on here too! Thanks for the tips!

    Comment by Joni Brewster | January 11, 2010 | Reply

  4. […] hired…no matter what your title, you can still interview poorly.  Recently, I posted an article on 15 mistakes you can make in the interview.  I offer you one more perspective as Katharine […]

    Pingback by Even Executives Can Interview Poorly « Jeff Lipschultz’s Blog | January 18, 2010 | Reply

  5. Very helpful list, thanks!

    Comment by Abe | January 22, 2010 | Reply

  6. If you have a positive attitude in the workplace then you will never make one of the 15 mistakes above.

    Comment by Tom Donovan | January 26, 2010 | Reply

  7. Great article! All 15 points are true. People normally seem to talk a lot during the interview. Mostly a lot of it isn’t even relevant to the interview. You should always talk less and listen more during the interview.

    Comment by AJ | October 7, 2010 | Reply

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