Ways to Blow Your Job Interview

Businesswoman Taking Interview Of Woman Sitting On Desk Against Clear Sky
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 Kittisak Jirasittichai / EyeEm / Getty Images

Landing a job interview puts you one step closer to receiving a job offer, but you still have to impress your interviewers. Be sure to avoid the many potential pitfalls on the way to an impressive job interview. You might believe you are the right person for the job, but you'll never get the chance if you blow the interview by shooting yourself in the foot.

Several elements of the interview all present ways job candidates can make mistakes. Some of the mistakes might seem obvious, but others can be more subtle. Make sure you are not hurting your chances by falling into these traps.

Appearance

For your appearance to matter, first, you need to make sure you appear for the interview on time. Being late for the interview is a sure way to get off on the wrong foot with your interviewers and perhaps kill your chances before the interview even starts. To avoid giving the wrong impression with your appearance:

  • Dress appropriately: Underdressing is a sure way to let your interviewers know you either don't respect the workplace or that you are unfamiliar with what is expected in your chosen industry.
  • Avoid too much cologne/perfume: Overwhelming other people with a particular scent creates a distraction you don't want. You might be remembered for how you smelled and not for your skills. Before the interview, ask a trusted friend if your scent needs to be dialed down a notch or two.
  • Don't smoke or chew gum: Not smoking at the interview should be obvious, but if you were smoking before the interview—especially in a closed-in location like your car—it will be obvious, and it will be a turnoff. Chewing gum during interviews is also verboten.
  • Cover piercings and tattoos: Body art has become more acceptable in some circumstances in recent years, but know your industry. Many interviewers will dismiss candidates immediately if they walk in with facial piercings or visible tattoos. The bias might be because that's not the image they want to present to their customers. Limit yourself to conventional ear piercings, and cover the tattoos.

Focus and Attention

Making a connection with your interviewers might be the most important part of the process. When deciding between several candidates with similar skills and experiences, the one who gets the job offer will be the one the interviewers felt most comfortable with. Make sure you're not doing any of these things to give them the impression your focus is elsewhere:

  • Checking your phone: You don't need to check your phone at all during the interview—not while you're being driven to lunch, not while you're eating, not even when your potential boss may be on the phone himself. You want to be mentally focused on having the best job interview possible, and you don't want to appear as though you've got more important things to do than to sell yourself for the job.
  • Poor handshake/lack of eye contact: If you greet people with a weak handshake or don't look them in the eye, there are many ways they might interpret your behavior, and none of them are good. They might think you are timid or intimidated, or they might think you are disinterested. Maintain eye contact throughout the interview, and be sure you are addressing all members of the team interviewing you; don't fixate on only one or two people while ignoring the others.
  • Seeming emotionless: If you are speaking with a monotone voice or giving the impression that you are bored or unimpressed, interviewers quickly will become unimpressed by you. Don't go overboard, but be enthusiastic about the opportunity.
  • Going off on tangents: Failing to answer questions directly and instead addressing different topics will frustrate interviewers. You'll have plenty of time to get to the topics you want to address, but be sure to answer their questions honestly and directly first.

Knowledge

Your potential employer wants to hire someone who knows the job and the industry and is willing to learn what she does not know. Avoid giving the impression that you don't know your stuff:

  • Unfamiliar with the company: If you can't discuss the basic history and mission of the company where you're interviewing, you'll come across as someone who has not done his homework.
  • Struggling to name accomplishments: Employers will know from your resume what your previous job duties were. At the interview, they'll want you to be able to talk about your accomplishments. If you struggle to list them, they'll assume you had none.
  • Asking few or no questions: Employers want employees who are a good fit, so they expect you o be interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If you struggle to come up with questions, you'll come across as disinterested or unprepared.
  • Too much information: Employers want to learn about your professional skills, knowledge, and accomplishments. Sharing your family drama, political or religious views, or other personal details of your life is sure to be a turnoff.

Attitude

Employers want to hire someone who will be a team player, who wants to be a part of the company, and who is likely to fit in with others. Avoid doing things that will give the impression that you are not such an employee.

  • Refusing certain tasks: If interviewing for a job as a TV news reporter, for example, don't tell your prospective boss you aren't willing to carry and use a video camera. This makes you seem inflexible. Instead, acknowledge that you lack experience with that particular skill, but stress you are willing and able to learn it.
  • Badmouthing/blaming others: Your previous job may have been in a toxic environment, and your previous boss may have been an awful human being, but discussing that at a job interview gives the impression that you are the one who struggles to get along with others. Focus on what you want and the type of environment you want to be a part of.
  • Failing to ask for the job or follow up: This should be simple. Be sure to actually state that you want the job in question. This usually is a good thing to reiterate at the end of the interview as you are thanking everyone and preparing to exit. As well, don't forget to follow up with emails to each member of the interviewing team with an email thanking them for their time. Once again, reiterate in the email that you want the job and see yourself as a good fit for the opportunity.

Money and Advancement

It's a given that jobs typically are about earning income, and professionals want to advance in their careers. These are important topics, but be sure to avoid broaching them in a clumsy way:

  • Asking about money: Bringing up money too early in a first interview could have your interviewers questioning whether you really enjoy your chosen profession or if you're just chasing after a paycheck. Certainly, they understand that you want to be paid, but they want to hire someone who is in the profession for more than money. Let them broach the subject first.
  • Focusing too much on advancement: Most bosses like hiring ambitious people, but don't make the mistake of coming across as impatient or entitled. Instead of asking how long it will take you to earn a promotion and a raise, ask instead about opportunities for advancement and if the interviewer can provide you with general examples of the path and timeline for current employees who have risen through the ranks.

Contracts

Some jobs require contracts, whether they be employment contracts specific to the job and the employee or more general contracts, such as non-compete agreements.

  • Contracts: Trying to negotiate non-negotiable terms is a good way to give the impression you've not done your homework. Instead, seek advice before the interview from others in similar positions so you can get a better idea about where the employer might be flexible.
  • Noncompete agreements: Asking about how you can get around the terms or how long you have to wait to find employment with a potential competitor is sure to be a red flag for most employers. Instead, simply ask what the terms of the agreement are. It's also OK to ask to see a copy of the agreement, especially if a job offer has been made or seems likely.
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