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Ask an Interviewer: What Common Mistakes Should I Avoid?

You might not even be realizing that you’re making them, but there are many mistakes that even the most experienced candidates make during interviews. Some of these common mistakes are so glaringly obvious, and yet many people are guilty of them all the time. Below, we list some of the most common mistakes, how to avoid them, and how to recover if you can’t.

Inappropriate Dressing. Everyone says that what you wear to an interview can make a big impression—and it’s true. Yet, so many men and women wear unprofessional outfits or casual attire to an interview. It doesn’t matter if the business is a startup company or a large corporation. Or even if the interviewer told you to dress casually. Until you have the job, professional appearance is mandatory.

Being Distracted. Cell phones, food, drinks—why anyone thinks these are appropriate during a work interview is beyond us. And yet, people bring their coffees, sodas, and snacks to interviews all the time. Some candidates even text or browse their cell phones, completely ignoring—and thus, disrespecting—the interviewer. Avoid this. If you must fuel up before the meeting, ditch your food and drink before entering the building. Silence your cell phone, and focus all your attention on the interviewer.

Not Paying Attention. And while we're on the subject, interviewers loooove when you are distracted and not paying attention--not. A common pet peeve is when candidates fail to focus on what the interviewer is saying. Their eyes glaze over, they start viewing the scenery. If you're bored during the interview, what makes the potential employer think that you won't be bored at your job? If you really are having a terrible time paying attention, then perhaps you should re-evaluate your work options. If it's some fluke that you tuned out the interviewer, then re-focus and pay attention. 

Fuzzy Work History. Right, so we understand that job descriptions from ten years ago may be a bit difficult to recall. But when you don’t know the details of your own work history, it’s a bit of a red flag for potential employers. Brush up your resume beforehand so you’re not stumped by questions about your own past.

Knowing Nothing about the Company. While you're brushing up your own work history, don't forget to learn about the company as well. One of the easiest questions asked during any interview is, “What do you know about our company?” It’s easy because you could have done your research beforehand. In fact, you’re expected to. With today’s technological opportunities, it’s not difficult to browse the company’s profile online—at the very least. Don’t let the interviewer stump you with history’s easiest question. Do your homework and be prepared.

I’m Late, I’m Late, I’m Late. Arriving late is indicative of your poor time management skills and shows that you don’t care about your interviewer’s time. It ultimately comes down to a lack of respect for the company. Sometimes, you simply can’t help it due to an unforeseeable event, such as a traffic accident. In that case, study the traffic route to the interview location, and leave early.

Too Much Information. Answer the question. It’s simply that easy. Though your future employer is looking for more than the monosyllabic answer, don’t ramble, don’t go on and on about your life and future goals. Answer the question as specifically and directly as possible.

Taking Too Long. In other words, being unprepared. Interview questions are pretty standard and common, and while some interviewers will understand if you don’t know the answer to a question instantly, taking too long can be annoying. Some might let you skip the question, and though we advise against this, if you must, then you must. But it’s always best to prepare and anticipate standard questions before the interview, and know how to answer them. (We’ll be reviewing these common interview queries in a future blog, so stay tuned.)

Nothing but Complaints. It’s obvious that you want to leave your job for a reason. Why else would you be interviewing at a new company? But badmouthing a previous boss is simply bad form. It will reflect on how you might view your potential position at the new company. What if your interviewer turns out to be your future boss? He or she might wonder if you would badmouth them in the same way. Avoid it at all costs, and if your interviewer asks you a question about your former supervisor, answer it directly and professionally.

Keep in Mind: Be Prepared. Throughout all our advice on interviewing and preparing for a job, there is one prominent tip that will always remain. Always do your research and prepare for the interview in the best way you can. Don’t let anyone stump you when you could easily avoid the awkward situation by doing your research. Avoid these common interview pitfalls and you’ll be nailing that next interview.