18 Common Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid

18 Common Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid

Whether you’re a first-time interviewee or a seasoned one, there’s no denying that an interview can be a nerve-wracking experience. And while it’s far-fetched to be completely flawless, there are a handful of job interview blunders to avoid. It’s essential to be aware of these common job interview mistakes to avoid as you prepare for your next interview.

Dressing appropriately, preparing well, and being on time are just the beginning of nailing the interview. Negative body language and long-winded answers can be interview killers so preparation is vital. Here you’ll learn how to finish your interview with a bang by asking an appropriate closing question to address any objections the interviewer may have. Further, we review how to not act desperate the best way to follow up upon completion.

If you’re interested in building industry jobs, or any opportunity for that matter, and are in the process of interviewing for one, check out a handful of blunders to avoid below.

1. Not Being Punctual

Ideally, you should show up 10 minutes or a maximum of 15 minutes before the agreed time, as that’s the ideal measure of punctuality on an interview day. In this duration, you’d check-in, do some paperwork in case there’s any, and be led to an interviewer’s office by the company’s staff. 

Showing up any earlier than that might be sending off the wrong message. Of course, being late is a job-hunting mistake you’d want to avoid at all costs. If you can’t foresee the traffic, leave your house early. In the worst-case scenario of running late, you must notify the staff, or the interviewer through any means of communication necessary. If you do arrive late, don’t avoid the issue by acting like nothing’s happened, and don’t over-apologize. 

2. Showing Up Unprepared

Questions to ask and pre-interview research are super important in a residential construction job interview or any interview for that matter.   

Being unprepared may include:

  • You do not have sufficient background information about your position, the company, or even the interviewer(s) themselves
  • Forgetting copies of your resume and other essential documents, or even not carrying a pen with you
  • You do not know where the interview site is beforehand to avoid any delays on the big day itself
  • You do not have essential inquiries and questions to ask the interviewer
how to avoid common interview mistakes
3. Appearing Uninterested

Bringing a positive attitude and high energy after landing your interview is very important. Do your best to stay focused and don’t look complacent during the meeting. In addition to many other points on this list, you’ll want to be well-rested, upbeat, and prepared. Being distracted and possibly asking the interviewer to re-ask their questions can and will send the wrong message.

4. Failing to Research, Your Interviewer

Thorough research into what makes the company unique will show your genuine interest in the opportunity and may set you apart. You can leverage industry sites builderonline.com and probuilder.com in addition to human resource websites Glassdoor and LinkedIn to find relevant information about the company with whom you are interviewing.

After completing your research, you should create and rehearse excellent questions to engage your interviewer and show interest. The best questions speak to the company’s unique characteristics, help build rapport between you and the interviewer, and help further the dialogue.

5. Not Dressing Appropriately

Allison Doyle with Live About says it best. “Does it make a difference in how you dress for an interview? In many cases, it does. In a conservative business climate, appearances matter, while it isn’t as important in other environments. For example, attire for a summer job interview or a startup job interview will be less formal, but it does make sense to dress your best for the interview, regardless of the dress code at the organization.”

Below, Forbes offers 8 Tips to Dress for Interview Success

  1. The appropriate interview attire depends on the industry in which you’ll be interviewing and the geographic location and time of year.
  2. Spend time on the Internet researching the company, industry, and competitors to determine suitable interview outfits.
  3. Still not sure? Call the company’s HR department and ask what they recommend you wear.
  4. When in doubt, err on the side of being slightly overdressed, rather than show up looking too casual.
  5. Don’t have an appropriate outfit? Go to a large department store like Nordstrom or Macy’s and ask for help from a personal shopper or hire a personal stylist.
  6. Ensure that your clothes are cleaned and pressed.
  7. Avoid wearing perfume or cologne.
  8. Wear makeup and jewelry that are appropriate to the job/company/industry.

6. Having Negative Body Language

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, “49 percent of companies know if a candidate is a good fit for a position within the first five minutes of an interview and by minute 15, that number reaches 90 percent.”

One of the reasons they can make such a quick judgment is nonverbal communication. As such, body language, like facial expressions, voice tone, and posture, can reveal a lot. According to employers via the survey at CareerBuilder, some of the most common mistakes candidates make in the interview are related to body language:

  1. Failing to make eye contact: 65 percent
  2. Failing to smile: 36 percent
  3. Playing with something on the table: 33 percent
  4. Having bad posture: 30 percent
  5. Fidgeting too much in their seat: 29 percent
  6. Crossing their arms over their chest: 26 percent
  7. Playing with their hair or touching their face: 25 percent
  8. Having a weak handshake: 22 percent
  9. Using too many hand gestures: 11 percent
  10. Having a handshake that is too strong: 7 percent

7. Using Your Cell Phone

Another homebuilding interview blunder to avoid is easy; leave your phone in the car. In an interview setting, using your cell phone can reflect poorly on you whether you use it in the waiting or, worse, in the interview itself.

Show that you have boundaries and that you can focus by leaving your phone in the car. You never want to give the impression that you lack respect for the people involved in setting up the interview or the person interviewing you.

8. Giving Short Answers to The Big Questions

Recruiters may ask you several in-depth questions in an interview to assess your overall ability and qualifications. If you provide standard, unappealing, or even exaggerated answers to the interviewers, your chances to ace the interview may fall dramatically. 

Prepare and rehearse your answers to common questions beforehand, including how to answer what you are passionate about so that you avoid cliche and wrong answers. 

9. Badmouthing Your Previous Employer

Right or wrong, the convention is that you should not badmouth a former employer in a job interview unless there are extremely extenuating circumstances (something like racial discrimination).

You should avoid badmouthing your previous employer because it will raise several questions in the interviewer’s mind.

  • What’s the other side of this story?
  • Is this person impossible to please?
  • Do they not have reasonable expectations of their manager? Will they be a pain in the neck to have on staff?
  • Are they going to quit here the first time something happens that they don’t like?
  • Are they going to be badmouthing me someday too?
  • Why doesn’t this person realize that you don’t say things like that?

You are better off explaining to the potential employer that you are looking for a robust long-term career challenge, that you are excited about the prospect of working for their company,  and that you are focused on making the right decision.

job seeker avoiding common interview mistakes10. Reciting Scripts

It’s prudent to prepare responses to common questions (e.g., “Tell me about yourself”), but don’t be robotic. Instead of memorizing answers and repeating them line-by-line, focus on the overall concept.

“It’s like giving a good PowerPoint presentation,” says Atlanta career coach Hallie Crawford. “You have your talking points, but every time you present it, it’s a little different.”

11. Being Long-Winded

Less is more. The words coming out of your mouth should be of value and respond accurately to the question at hand. Don’t drift off-topic and take too long to answer a simple question. If you find the interviewer cutting you off to proceed to the next question, then take this as a cue that you’re overdoing it. 

Allison Green, a contributor at US News, says that “You might think, ‘Well, some people are long-winded, but it doesn’t mean he wouldn’t do a good job.’ The problem is that, at a minimum, it signals that you’re not good at picking up on conversational cues, and it raises doubts about your ability to organize your thoughts and convey needed information quickly.”

If you think you might be long-winded, Allison suggests the following:

  • If your interviewer tells you at the outset that the phone call will take 15 minutes, and part of that will be for your questions, don’t spend five minutes answering a single item.
  • When your interviewer starts giving you hints that she’d like brief answers–such as “really briefly, tell me about your role at the job”–that’s a cue that your replies have been too long.
  • If your interviewer cuts you off, that’s a glaring neon sign that you’re talking too much. It takes a lot for me to cut off a candidate–if I resort to it, it’s because I’m truly desperate to move on.

Our feature on behavioral interview questions and answers for management positions will provide you with additional strategies for answering tough questions.

12. Asking Bad Questions with Obvious Answers

“Asking bad questions — or asking good questions at the wrong time — may indicate a lack of interest, preparation, or intelligence,” states Susan Joyce with Job Hunt. Per Joyce, the following questions should never be asked in a job interview, and some of them should be saved until a job offer has been made.

  • What does the person in this job do?
  • How old is this company?
  • What are the requirements of the job?
  • What does this company do?
  • Who’s the main competition?
  • What are other jobs available here?
  • How soon could I apply for another job here?
  • How quickly can I get promoted?
  • Do you check references?
  • Do you conduct background checks before hiring someone?
  • Is passing a drug test required?
  • Will I need to pass drug tests after starting? How often? How much warning before the drug tests?
  • Do you offer maternity (or paternity) leave?
  • Do you have security cameras watching everything I do?

13. Bringing Up Salary and Benefits Too Soon or Too Late

Bringing up pay too early in the interview process and too frequently may be a turnoff for some hiring managers. While the level of compensation offered can make or break whether you decide to work for a company, you shouldn’t make it seem like it’s the sole reason you want the role.

Employers want to make sure you are the right fit, first and foremost. They want to make sure your core skills and qualifications are a great match. If compensation comes off as the most important thing for you, they may believe it’s not the right place for you.

That said, use good judgment when deciding how and when to bring up comp.

14. Not Anticipating Questions About Salary

Employers ask what your salary expectations are for several reasons. For one, they have a budget, and they also want to know if you know your worth and if you are at the required professional level. Being prepared for this question can be the beginning of the negotiation process, so you’ll want to make sure you give a well-researched response.

Indeed’s job posting board has a few recommendations for when a recruiter or hiring manager asks, “What are your salary expectations?”

Provide a range
If you don’t feel comfortable providing a single number, you may choose to offer a range instead. However, remember that the employer may opt for the lower end of your spectrum, so make sure your target number is as close to the bottom number as possible. Also, keep your range somewhat tight with a variance of no more than $5,000 to $10,000.

Example: “I am seeking a position that pays between $75,000 and $80,000 annually.”

Include negotiation options
In addition to your salary, there may be other benefits, perks, or forms of compensation you consider just as valuable. Including these as possible opportunities for negotiation is an option, too. For example, while the employer may not have budgeted enough for your ideal salary range, they may be willing to offer equity in the company to make the compensation package more attractive to you.

Example: “I am seeking a position that pays between $75,000 and $80,000 annually, but I am open to negotiate salary depending on benefits, bonuses, equity, stock options, and other opportunities.”

Deflect the question
If you’re still early in the hiring process and still learning the specifics about the job duties and expectations, you may want to deflect the question for later in the conversation. However, keep in mind you’ll still eventually have to discuss salary expectations. Either way, it’s a good idea to be prepared with a well-researched number in mind—even if you’re still factoring in additional information.

Example: “Before I answer, I’d like to ask a few more questions to understand better what the position entails. That way, I can provide a more realistic expectation.”

While it’s recommended to aim high, be confident, and explain your reasoning, having a well-researched compensation answer will ensure you communicate an appropriate market value for your services. This honest response will nevertheless give the interviewer a better understanding of how your expectations align.

15. Selling Yourself Too Aggressively

Yes, sell yourself. Bragging to the point of arrogance is another critical job interview blunder to avoid. While the interview is not a time to be humble, you should practice discussing your accomplishments without dominating the discussion.

16. Failing to Understand Their Objections

At times, you will think the interview is going well, but then you never receive a callback. Try to avoid this by closing the discussion with questions about how they feel about your qualifications after spending time with you. Getting their feedback will give you an excellent opportunity to address any shortfalls they believe that you have. It will also show your genuine interest a great opportunity and proceeding with the process.

For example, “John, it was a pleasure spending time with you today. Based on our conversation, I believe my background matches very well with the opportunity. Based on our conversation, do you have any specific concerns with my qualifications for the role?”

17. Expressing Desperation

A desperate job seeker can attract the wrong kind of manager. Perhaps a manager that leads with fear. Most want to get the process of interviewing over and land a great job, but be mindful of expressing desperation during the conversation. Showing distress is another critical job interview blunder to avoid.

WikiHow mentions a handful of ways to avoid acting desperate in your next interview.

  • Stop yourself from saying that you’ll “do anything” to land the job. As opposed to having the right experience or education to handle the job, telling the employer you’ll do anything to land it may turn him or her off. It suggests that you no longer have credible skills or value yourself enough.
  • On the other hand, don’t oversell yourself. Identify your strengths, but be humble when talking about your accomplishments. If you come on too strong, you’ll look desperately aggressive––and possibly a little scary. Nobody wants to hear a narcissistic rant about how brilliant you are or how you single-handedly saved the company; keep it realistic and always remember that it takes a village as far as the interviewer is concerned.
  • Monitor how many times you communicate that you are the right person for the job. It’s okay to let the prospective employer know that you’re the ideal fit for the job (after you’ve discussed the dimensions of the job as compared to your qualifications). Still, it will look like you are laying it on too thick if you keep telling him or her that you’re the best person for the job after each statement or comment. Spread it thinly––they hear you.

Similarly, Forbes notes four ways you may be acting like a desperate job seeker.

  1. You spend all of your job-search time and energy trying to make sure you look like and sound like the perfect candidate, rather than investing some of your time and energy deciding whether the job is right for you.
  2. You go to the job interview ready to dance and prance and do whatever the interviewer wants you to do — even divulging proprietary information from your last company if asked to, or answering inappropriate or illegal interview questions.
  3. After every interview, you toss and turn and pick apart your “performance.” You can hardly remember the interviewer’s side of the conversation — all you remember is your failings and shortcomings.
  4. As soon as you spot a new job opportunity to pursue, your first thought is, “Would these people consider me?”
  5. When you’re waiting to hear back after an interview, you have wild ideas like “What if I called them and offered to work for the first two weeks for free?”

18. Messing Up the Follow-Up and Not Understanding the Process

It’s essential to understand the process, and questions about the next steps are acceptable, if not expected. Monster suggests setting expectations at the end of the interview with these three simple questions:

“What’s the next step in the process?”
“When do you want to bring someone on board?” and
“How should I follow up with you?”

Consider making notes following the interview and send out a brief thank you email within the next 48 hours.

Common Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid Recap

After you’ve thoroughly prepared for this day and briefed yourself on some of these job interview blunders to avoid, all that’s left is to be yourself. Conduct yourself confidently, respectfully, and with a great attitude, and you’ll crush the interview process.

At Matchbuilt, we pride ourselves in supporting our candidates during the interview process. We’re jam-packed with tips regarding evidence-based recruiting practices, preparing for a Skype or Zoom interview, and tips for your LinkedIn profile. Are you getting ready to resign? Try to leave without burning bridges.

Here’s a video with five common interview mistakes for job seekers to avoid.