Interviews are daunting, nerve-racking, and exciting all at once. There’s no shortage of good interview advice out there on how to prepare for common questions, what you should wear, and what you should bring with you to make a great first impression and put your best foot forward.
However, there are some subtle interview mistakes you may not even realize you’re making. Or, you may be intentionally committing interview faux pas despite your best intentions. Check out this list to nip “interview don’ts” in the bud and increase your chances of landing the job.
Perhaps at the top of every list of “what not to do in an interview” examples is arriving late. But being far too early can also make the wrong impression. Showing up any more than 15 minutes before your interview may catch your interviewers off guard and cut into their preparation time, especially if the company doesn’t have a receptionist or designated waiting area.
Wanting to smell pleasant isn’t a bad thing, but overloading on fragrance is a major interview faux pas. If you wear too much cologne or perfume, it’ll distract your interviewers – or worse, send them into an endless sneezing fit. Go extremely light on fragrance or skip it altogether.
Dress codes can be tricky to decipher as trends change and everyone seems to have their own definition of “business casual.” Dressing professionally for interviews is important, but going over the top will make you (and potentially your interviewers) uncomfortable. Good interview advice regarding attire is to wear an outfit just one notch above the workplace dress code. You can find out what that is by asking your contact at the company or checking out team photos on their website or social media pages.
The only person being interviewed is you. If you’re carpooling with a friend or family member, ask them to wait outside the building or find something to do while you’re interviewing. If you love your dog like a child and take them everywhere with you, get someone to watch them. Even if you’ve discovered your potential employer has a dog-friendly office, it will likely be perceived as an overstep to bring your canine companion.
If you have to bring your phone with you, leave it out of sight in your pocket, briefcase, or purse. Though many of us have the habit of setting our phones out on the table at home or at restaurants, there is no need to have it visible during an interview.
Similar to the tip above, you simply don’t need access to any digital devices during the interview. They will only serve as a distraction and give interviewers the impression that you’re not totally focused on them or the opportunity.
Even if you prepare solid responses to common interview questions ahead of time, you can’t anticipate all of them. If you’re asked a tough question, don’t be afraid to take a few moments to consider your response. Don’t make the interview mistake of thinking you have to answer right away, as this may result in word-vomiting or providing a vague and unhelpful answer. And if you didn’t understand the question, ask for clarification!
Having no questions to ask is a big interview faux pas! Come prepared with a list of questions about the position and the company. If by chance they are all answered organically by the end of the interview, take a moment to reflect and try to dig deeper into something that was mentioned earlier. When all else fails, ask your interviewer what they like best about their job. Most people are happy to talk about themselves.
There are wrong questions to ask as an interviewee, and inquiring about compensation too early in the process or at an inappropriate time is one of them. Salary and benefits are huge factors when it comes to accepting a new position, of course, but don’t give the impression than money is what matters most to you.
Tempting as it may be, don’t trash-talk past or current employers. “Why are you looking for a new job?” is a common interview question, and while the truth may be that you absolutely hate your current position or you were let go unfairly from your last job, that’s not how you should answer it. Put a positive spin on your response by focusing on the future and your desire for professional growth.
When thinking about what not to do in an interview, don’t forget about your non-verbal communication. Many of us have nervous habits like bouncing a leg, cracking knuckles, or clicking a pen that we may not even realize we’re doing. Be aware of your body language and get a trusted friend to give you honest feedback on how you can improve to project a calm and confident demeanor.
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