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Top interview mistakes

Top Interview Mistakes

The top interview mistakes make the world of interviewing for a job a cruel and unwelcoming world.  I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be. This week’s topic: How the candidate can take much of the cruelty out of the process. There are a lot of unknowns in the world of interviewing. Even when working with a recruiter that coaches you, things don’t always work out the way they should. There are just too many unknowns when it comes to job interviews.  Even if we figure out the interview system at one company, it may not work out at the next company. The interview answers that move you one step further with Company A, may throw you out of the process at Company B.

Our own worst enemy

In my humble opinion, I would say that 80% of candidates TAKE THEMSELVES out of the process because of their own actions or lack of action. The top interview killers show up over and over consistently. 

Here are the top interview mistakes. In my opinion, there is no EXCUSE for the following faux pas.  

Resume Killer: The resume is the source of one of the top interview mistakes. When hiring managers point out typos on a resume, it’s over. 

Is your resume tailored to the job description? 

There is one reason why 100’s of resumes are submitted and discarded. The resume didn’t answer the requirements of the job spec. I am sure the candidate feels adequately qualified for the position, but most resumes don’t reflect the appropriate experience. Presenting yourself via the resume as being “In the ballpark” isn’t good enough. Tailor your resume to the specific job description. Focus on the first 4-5 bullet points of the job description.  All resumes you turn in should be tailored to the specific job qualifications. If you have a single resume for all of the positions you are interested in, you will fail. I cannot stress this enough.    

Beyond the resume, there are several job interview mistakes. The number 1 way to avoid these is to talk with someone familiar with the company you are interested in.

Social Media

LinkedIn and Twitter profiles can shed insight into what makes the hiring manager tick. Social can show what activities they like, and where their passions are.  Networking your way into the company can help a lot.  You do NOT need to network yourself to the hiring manager. A 30-minute talk with someone who worked at the company or is currently employed with the company will change your game.  These folks went through the interview process. They didn’t make interview mistakes. Even talking with someone fired from the company is better than going into an interview blind. Do everything and anything you can to network. Put yourself into a position where you can avoid the top interview killers.

Ask these questions

  • What is the dress code for the department? What should I wear to the interview?  Too many candidates get this wrong and walk in overdressed or underdressed. Being overdressed can be a good thing. . Don’t wear a suit and tie to a startup if you are applying for a developer position. It may be appropriate for a think tank or a corporate job. Unless you talk with someone, you are just guessing.  Avoid the t-shirt and jeans if you are going to a business unit. This is an interview killer before the interview started.   
  • What is the culture of the company? Does the company value work-life balance or are they hard charging 60 hours a week machines? You would be surprised how many candidates interview with a startup and discuss their desire for work-life balance.
  • What are some of the new products or initiatives in the works? It really does boggle my mind these days when a candidate indicates that they haven’t done an iota of research on what the company does. 
  • How often does the company conduct reviews?
  • What is the culture of the company?
  • What is the review process like? 

Set the tone of the interview. Don’t let the interviewer set the tone

We want to find answers to these basic questions and then confirm the information. We don’t want to ask questions to the person conducting the interview. This can set an entirely different tone for the rest of the conversation. When you are  “confirming” facts it shows you did your omework and is obviously interested. Someone asking questions that could have been answered with research sends an entirely different message. 

What you can control:  I don’t know how often candidates throw themselves under their own bus when interviewing. If I had a nickel for each time a candidate took themselves out of the running, I wouldn’t be talking to candidates. I would be on an island surrounded by scantily clad women who know how to bait hooks, clean fish. , and handle the accouterments for lighting a cigar.

Don’t ever throw yourself under the bus

I don’t know what it is. Whether candidates are nervous, insecure, or haven’t heard themselves interviewed – I find most candidates take themselves out of the picture by saying too much. A wise man once said:

It is better to keep one’s mouth shut and let everyone think you are the fool than to open it and remove all doubt. 

Real-life examples

  • A candidate’s son had a life-changing event (it was positive) earlier in the week. For 30 minutes, the candidate talked about how proud they were of their son. As happy as I was for the candidate, I wasted 30 minutes of my life. I learned nothing of the candidate’s qualifications. “Easily distracted and unable to focus on the task at hand.”
  • The candidate doesn’t get along with their prior manager, so they want to leave.  I am surprised how often I ask a candidate, “Why are you interested in leaving your current company,” and I get something similar to “My manager is stupid,” “I don’t get along with my manager,” or “I don’t get along with my co-workers. Our managers are no different. It’s not the manager. It’s you. Doesn’t get along with the manager translates to “Doesn’t play well with others.”

There is ALWAYS an opportunity

  • Candidates that work in very large companies seem to take the initiative and explain the reasons they are looking for new opportunities with (something along the lines of) “There is no opportunity with their current employer.”  There is ALWAYS opportunity.  . No more opportunity translates to “lack of initiative.” 
  • A candidate takes the initiative to tell me they were let go for no reason, and they explain that they don’t know why. It surprises me how often candidates feel they need to vent to me about the last company. Yes, I work in HR, but for the record, HR people don’t share a Vulcan mind meld or database between companies. Being let go for no reason translates to “lack of emotional intelligence.”   
  • The candidate doesn’t know what job he/she is interviewing for. They are interviewing for any job and will ask:
    • “What jobs do you have open?” 
    • “What jobs do you think would be a good fit for my skills?” 

This is what I refer to as a first-round knockout.  


My advice to solve the above top interview mistakes is to write down interview questions and your answers. In the same way, most candidates ask a friend to proofread their resume, and practice your answers with a friend. State your answers out loud so your tone, your attitude project. Your partner will be surprised by what they hear in your answers.    

Sincerity and consideration are critical in today’s fast-moving world. Showing a little goes a long way. In my opinion, it takes so little to show well in an interview because 80% of candidates don’t. 

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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