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Biggest Job Interview Mistakes

Typical advice for interviewers: Don’t lie

Top 10 interview mistakes

The lists of job interview mistakes are a con and a false sense of security. This weeks post is “HRNasty’s list of interview mistakes” and I have a different attitude on this topic. The normal Google search for “Top 10 Interview Mistakes Made in an Interview”, are for those with the manners of a cave man and I am probably insulting the cave dweller. If a candidate needs to be reminded of what is typically recommended, they are going to:

  1. Have problems with the rest of the interview
  2. Not be successful once they land the job

Usual Suspects

The following tips are given by your typical HR/recruiter blog posts. The candidate hears this advice and then feels confident about landing the job because they avoid the below-listed mistakes. The candidate is set up for failure. In my opinion, the usual list of “Do Not’s” don’t provide any real help to a candidate new to the interview process. Interview mistakes are made and opportunities lost. 

Interview mistakes

The usual suspects (I mean interview mistakes)

Below are the usual suspects provided by your usual not so helpful HR experts:

  1. Don’t be late to the interview, arrive a few minutes early. (Duhhhh)
  2. Don’t badmouth prior co-workers, prior managers, or prior companies. (This is just petty)
  3. Ask questions during the interview. (You would be surprised how many candidates do NOT have any questions and this comes off as arrogant.)
  4. Don’t lie about salary, start or end dates. (We are going to be discovered when we do the background check)
  5. Keep it professional. (Try to keep your personal opinions out of the conversation.)
  6. Do NOT answer the “how much are you looking for” question until you are ready to negotiate a salary.
  7. Don’t ask about the benefits plan during the first interview.
  8. Don’t look at your phone while in the interview.

I’m in HR not accounting

OK, so I don’t know how to count to ten and I only provided 8. Remember, I am not in finance. After reading the common themes over and over, I got so disgusted with the exercise I quit. Here is the problem with this advice. It really doesn’t help anyone get through an interview. This advice would help us get through LIFE but it shouldn’t give you any confidence when it comes to the interview. What this advice says to the reader is the following:

“If I don’t check my phone, if I show up on time, and I don’t badmouth my prior manager, I have a shot at landing the job”.

Interview advice or just common courtesy?

I call bullsh@#. The above common courtesy. If we need to be reminded of this stuff then we should have been Darwinized out of the system of LIFE. Every single one of the above points to common courtesy. If you went on a first date and encountered any one or two of the above – Mrs. Right will turn into Mrs. Wrong, and Mr. Right just became your future ex. Regular readers know I like to compare the interview process to the dating scene so let’s compare and contrast the numbered bullets above with the numbered wreckage below.

Interview mistakes in dating parlance

  1. If Mr. Right is late, it’s easy to assume we were ghoasted. (If you are 2 minutes late, the recruiter is wondering if they were stood up.)
  2. If Mrs. Right starts bad mouthing prior relationships, I hear nothing but baggage I gotta’ carry and I am not a Sherpa. (The recruiter doesn’t want to carry your professional baggage.)
  3. If Mr. Wrong doesn’t ask you any questions on the first date, then this will be interpreted as no interest, no chemistry and no fireworks back at your place later in the evening. (AKA, no job offer!) 
  4. You don’t want to hear that Mr. Right has a great job, then find out he is un-employed. (Recruiters don’t want to run a background check and see jail time or see a different number on your W-2.)
  5. Keep the interview conversation focused on what needs to be learned. (We don’t need to hear about skeletons in the closet, ever.)
  6. On a first interview, DO tell the recruiter your salary requirements. (If Mr. Right asks you how many kids you want in your family, you don’t skirt this question.)
  7. We shouldn’t ask Mr. Right how much he makes or what kind of car he drives on the first date. (This just looks like a #GoldDigger looking for benefits.)
  8. If we are constantly looking at our phone on a first date, Mrs. Right will think I have more important things to do and people to see. (The recruiter will think the same thing.)

Interview mistakes in business

So, the below are a few pieces of advice that I believe WILL make you more successful in an interview situation and will help you avoid the uncovered interview mistakes.

  1. Try not to answer a question with a question

EG: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?” We do not want to answer a question with a question. “What do you want to know?” does not answer the question. Tell the interviewer a little bit about what you like to do outside of work. This helps us appear likable. Talk about why you are interested in the position and why you think you are a fit. Answering a question with another question is wasting valuable interview time. 

  1. If experience on your resume isn’t relevant, it isn’t experience

I see a lot of resumes that have information unrelated to the experience listed in the job description. Information listed on the resume should be directly relatable to the job description.  

  1. What blank space says

Blank space on a resume says “I could have told you more about my accomplishments, but I couldn’t think of anything and / or “I got lazy”. You pick. If you have less than a full-page than see number 2 above and then adjust the width of the margins on the sides, top and bottom. You can also increase the font size to help fill up entire pages. Half empty pages say “half qualified candidate”.

  1. Always tell the truth

There are too many interviewers involved in the interview. With this many interviewers, it is difficult to keep track of discrepancies. Many companies will run background checks, criminal checks and depending on the position, credit checks. Large companies may ask for a W-2 and grade transcripts. Be as accurate as possible when it comes to start and end dates with prior employers and salaries earned.

  1. Give your references a heads up

Send your references a job description and let them know what came up during the interviews that they should reinforce about your prior history.

  1. Send a thank you letter or email to everyone you talked with

This is a strong move because so few candidates follow through. This is the opportunity to reinforce WHY you are interested in the position. If you botched an interview question you can say “I have been thinking about the question you asked me and wanted to clarify my answer. . . .”.

  1. Ask the recruiter for any advice they may have

Recruiters will give up a lot with just the single ask. Remember, you are representing them. If you don’t look good, the recruiter doesn’t look good.  Recruiters want to present solid candidates.

  1. Two friends who are meeting over coffee

Too many interviews feel stiff because the candidate feels like the interviewer has ALL the power and they need to just answer the question. I want to work with folks I can have a beer with. Recruiters and hiring managers don’t want to work with people who are scared. Candidates that treat the interviewer like an IRS agent are destined to fail.

With the above, you more insight into the interview process and interview mistakes that can be avoided. If you picked up a nugget or two, I have plenty more where this came from. I gleaned this from watching interview mistakes made which got candidates declined. Just click on any one of the “HRNasty” categories on the left-hand pane.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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