6 Interview Mistakes You Must Avoid

By Chris Travis on Monday, May 04, 2015

Trying to land your first full-time job after graduation can be a lot of work. Not only are you constantly searching for jobs, but you're also competing against hundreds of applicants to just get an interview.

And when you finally do get an interview, you might feel like this is your one shot at a job. So don't make yourself too nervous, and make sure you prepare for the interview. As you start to prep, keep in mind these common interview mistakes people make.

1. Arriving too early

Don't: show up 20 minutes early.

Do: show up 5 minutes early.

This is the easiest mistake to avoid. Maybe you've been told or heard somewhere that being early is important, and that it communicates just how much you want the job.

If you're applying to a small startup, they might not have a receptionist or even a lobby. So actually, showing up to 10 – 20 minutes means that your interviewer will have to deal with you 10 – 20 minutes before you're scheduled. Best case scenario, you'll end up having to awkwardly wait in the lobby.

It's okay to arrive to your interview early in order to prevent the unforeseeable things that could make you late. Just walk around the block, go to a local coffee shop, or just wait outside until 5 mins before your scheduled time.

2. No experience in the role

Don’t: pretend you have more experience than you do.

Do: be up front about what you've done.

Yes you want the job, but if you don't know something or don't have experience in a particular area, it will eventually come out. And you'll just end up wasting your (and your interviewer's) time.

Don't try to BS your way through this one. If a role requires specific experience, don't try to stretch the truth to cover it up. You'll probably interview with several people (e.g., a hiring manager, possible peers, maybe even people from other departments). So if you're lacking something that the role requires, one of them will figure it out.

Instead, you should be up front from the start. If they like you, they might offer you a different role or decide that that you can learn that aspect of the role on the job.

3. Lack of knowledge about the company

Don't: show up uninformed.

Do: research the company and the role.

Don't assume that employers should have to sell themselves to you. Employers want to hire people who are excited about what they're doing.

Make sure you've thoroughly researched the company, its leadership, products, competitors, and customers. Know what they do. Know where they're located. Know their latest products. You don't have be an expert on a company, but at least read the About section on their website.

One of the best ways to impress your interviewer is to intelligently talk about the different functions of the job and how they fit into the company's overall strategy. Companies aren't looking to just fill position, they are wanting to hire people that desire to be apart of a company that is trying to achieve great things.

P.S. Know the company culture and dress appropriately. Dress slightly nicer than you would for the role. So if you're interviewing at a tech startup on the West Coast, don't wear a suit. But if it's a finance company, don't show up in jeans.

4. Poorly communicating your story

Don’t: tell them your life story.

Do: tell them a succinct and relevant history.

Your interviewer is not going to take the time to get to know you. Most interviews are anywhere from 30 min to an hour. And the typical "So, tell me about yourself" component makes up only a small part of that. So don't show up ready to tell them your life story.

This is why the interview is your chance to be memorable and stand out from the competition. A great way to achieve this is by telling the story of your resume.

Supply a narrative to the list of bullet points that your resume consists of. Talk about how your work experience, has prepared you specifically for this role. If you don't have work experience, talk about internships, research projects, or even courses.

This is your opportunity to talk about what you are looking forward and why this job is a great fit for you.

5. Bad questions

Don’t: ask questions broad easily answered questions.

Do: ask specific questions that show you understand the role.

Yes, you should ask questions. But don't just ask questions for the sake of it. Bad questions will make you look bad.

Your interviewer will use your questions to determine what kind of experience you actually have in the area. If you ask obvious, Google-able questions, interviewers will think you don't actually understand the role.

Prepare questions ahead of time and make sure they have a purpose. Ask questions that get interviewers to tell the story of the position. Why does the position exist? How does it help the company achieve it's goals?

6. Poor phone etiquette

Don’t: use your phone.

Do: turn your phone off

Lastly don't ever use your phone during an interview. Or your tablet. Or your laptop.

If you want to check the time, wear a watch. Or just don't check the time. Your interviewer will keep track of the time.

Even turn your phone completely off—don't just silence it. You never know if a notification from some random app get through. To most, this seems like common sense—yet it still happens.

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