Don’t Make These Mistakes in a Job Interview

To increase your chances of landing the job, don't commit any of these major faux-pas at your next interview.

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Miriam Salpeter
Miriam Salpeter
It’s not always easy to identify exactly what to do or say in an interview to win the job, but there’s little question about what not to do. Employers have no lack of horror stories about candidates—many of the following are examples from actual interviews.

Be sure you don’t commit any of these major faux-pas at your next interview:

1. Don’t be late. Make a good first impression. Leave yourself enough time to get to your interview, and if you’re not familiar with the location, take a test drive before your interview day.

[See 8 Steps to Getting Hired After a Long Time Unemployed.]

2. Don’t cut anyone off or curse out the person who takes your parking spot. It could be your interviewer.

3. Don’t let the door close behind you before the person walking close on your heels gets in. Same for the elevator door. (See #2)

4. Do not be rude or cavalier with the receptionist. Rolling your eyes or acting annoyed when asked to fill out paperwork will not stand you in good stead. If you don’t already know this, the receptionist’s impression does affect your chances. Treat everyone with respect.

5. Don’t be visibly annoyed if the interviewer keeps you waiting. Tapping your watch and shifting around loudly in your chair will not help your cause. If you believe the organization does not treat you well or the interviewer does not value your time, take it into account when evaluating the opportunity. Even if you are annoyed, maintain a polite façade. Remember, you can always decide not to accept the job offer if you don’t like the way the company treats you.

6. Don’t answer your phone during an interview. In fact, turn off your phone. Don’t check your emails, Facebook, or Twitter status. (For some people, reaching for their phones may be so second-nature, they don’t even realize they are doing it. If that sounds like you, turn off your phone and put it out of reach.)

[See How to Stay Relaxed During a Job Interview.]

7. Don’t forget to prepare questions to ask your interviewer. Don’t ask anything you could find out via basic research. Do not ask anything pertaining to the salary, benefits, or perks of the job. Don’t ask anything that suggests you’re hoping to use this job as a stepping stone to another opportunity. Asking about promotion opportunities will probably make your interviewer believe you are not committed to the position. Don’t ask about telecommuting or flexible work hours. These are topics to raise after you have a job offer.

Do ask things that make it clear you've done research. For example, "I noticed in the February issue of Forbes your CEO was honored for her commitment to volunteerism. How does her focus on helping non-profits impact the organization and the team?" Do feel free to follow up on questions they asked you during the interview. For example, "You asked about my experience working in a team environment. Can you tell me how teams function here, and describe any specific goals for the team I would lead?"

8. Don’t say anything negative about your last boss, organization, or anyone else.

9. Don’t over emphasize how important your family life, social life, or hobbies are to you. Keep your personal life to yourself. The point of an interview is to win the job; employers hire you for your competencies, not because you have four children or never miss your amateur soccer practice.

[See Answering High-Pressure Interview Questions.]

10. Do not say anything suggesting you are desperate for the job. Maybe you’re out of money or your son is about to start college, but these factors will not persuade any company to hire you. Desperation is a turn-off for hiring managers.

11. Don’t lie or overinflate your qualifications.

12. Don’t mention anything illegal, use slang or obscenities, or tell any stories about when you were drunk.

13. Don’t say you can “do anything.” Focus on your key skills and accomplishments as they relate to your target job.

14. Don’t forget to answer the questions the employer asks you.

15. Don’t forget to follow up after the interview.

Results of interviews are never guaranteed, and even interviewers themselves often disagree about what qualifies as a strong interview performance. Avoiding these “don’ts” will help you start off on the right foot.

Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.