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10 biggest mistakes people make in job interviews


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You filled out the job application, got the call (they’re interested, phew!), but now… it’s interview day.

If the thought of selling yourself to a stranger brings you out in a cold sweat, you’re not alone – but you can help yourself by not making the following common mistakes…

1. Not dressing appropriately

Paul Webley, managing director of Blaze Media Digital Marketing Agency in Merseyside, says: “If you are coming for an interview in a marketing agency, dress smart. No need to be in a suit. It’s cute if you are but just dress how you would expect to dress in the job and, if in doubt, err on the side of being slightly smarter.

“With us, there are loads of photos of the team in the office on the website and socials (which you should have looked at) so there is no excuse.”

The Blaze team (with Paul back left). Pic: Blaze Media Digital Marketing Agency

2. Handshake mishaps

Paul’s second interview mistake is: “This one is a real pet hate and probably doesn’t matter as much in the current world but… learn how to shake a person’s hand. You have to do this within every job from time to time.

“There is nothing more off-putting than a limp shake. Having a firm, polite handshake is a basic human skill in business and beyond.”

3. Complaining

This is another one from Paul: “We had someone a few months ago tell us that they didn’t think they should have to come into the office for an interview. This was for an office-based role. If they don’t think it’s worth coming in then the job is not going to be for them.”

4. Not checking your tech

Tas Ravenscroft, senior consultant at recruitment firm Cherry Pick People, says: “Overlooking details like the interview location or the platform being used (such as Teams), and not testing your tech beforehand, can disrupt the interview process. This is especially crucial as most first interviews are now conducted via video conferencing.”

Tas Ravenscroft, senior consultant at recruitment firm Cherry Pick People
Tas Ravenscroft, senior consultant at recruitment firm Cherry Pick People

5. Bad mouthing previous employers

Tas says: “We see that candidates sometimes feel too comfortable on interview and decide to talk about their past experiences (if aggrieved) negatively, which is a big NO. Instead, my advice is to focus on the lessons learned and how you’ve grown from challenges in your career.”

6. Not asking questions – or asking about benefits or sick pay policy

Tas says: “There are no right or wrong answers to this, but asking questions at the end of the interview is a big YES. It shows you’re interested, engaged and would like the opportunity to either progress or land the role.

“I’d say in your first interview, ask about company culture, day to day tasks, expectations of this role, who’s the best performer and why?

“Questions I’d stay away from are benefit-related questions, or I recently had someone ask what the sick pay policy was like in the first interview… Safe to say they didn’t get invited back. If you work with a recruiter, you will have salary and benefits info before, so no need to ask on interview.”

7. Not showing enthusiasm

For Mike Carlucci, managing director of Reading-based Italian-food importer Tenuta Marmorelle, this is a big one: “A lot of people at the moment are applying for everything and anything. They apply for hundreds of jobs.

“The result is that you get applicants who are not enthusiastic or passionate about the role or sector as they see it just as a job. There are few people looking for actual careers at the moment. In our industry, the food industry, you need to have passion and enthusiasm.”

Pic: iStock
Pic: iStock

8. Talking too much

Andrew MacAskill, founder of Executive Career Jump, says: “Sometimes this is down to nerves, other times it is down to overthinking and often it is due to the questions being too broad, which leads to them saying lots and hoping the right answer is in there somewhere.”

Ian Nicholas, global managing director at Reed, says a common slip-up people make is to carry on talking after giving their answer.

“Some interviewers may purposely leave a pause just to see how the interviewee will react under the pressure – so be confident in what you’ve said and know when you’ve finished.”

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9. Under-preparation

Habiba Khatoon, director of Robert Walters UK, says: “This means they haven’t researched the company, are unaware of the key aspects of the role they are interviewing for and can’t make connections between their CV and experience and the role.

“Most interviewers can easily catch on when a candidate has turned up unprepared and when they do, they can lose interest in that candidate quite quickly.”

Italian food importer Mike agrees: “It is so important to spend five minutes to go on to the website, see what the company does, how they started and any general information you can get. This really makes someone stand out from the 100s of applicants.”

10. Being late – or too early

James Rowe, managing director of the Recruitment Experts, says: “I would suggest arriving 20 minutes early to give you time to prepare, but don’t walk through the door too soon! Turning up five to 10 minutes prior to your interview start time shows you’re punctual but won’t rush the hiring manager… they need breaks too!”

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