10 Job-Interview Mistakes to Avoid

Help yourself out in a job interview by avoiding these risky actions.

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We all make the occasional mistake in a job interview. To help you avoid a few of the big ones, this list is for you.

Many mistakes occur during the first five minutes of a job interview. You are nervous. The interviewer is just settling in, and there’s no structure yet.

This list identifies the types of interview mistakes that interviewers see far too often. Mistakes pull you out of the running awfully fast. And while these are often not "interview killers" on their own, they are clearly job-interview risks you are wise to avoid.

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1. Joking around. Don’t tell jokes. Don’t consider it a fun opening line or ice-breaker. The odds of you offending someone (or even worse telling a bad joke) are too high. Don’t do it. If humor is an important part of who you are, find a way to share an interesting anecdote about a work-related event. Not a joke.

2. Using bad words. No matter which interviewer you get and no matter what you know about them, don’t swear. Not even the minor words. Besides the obvious risk of offending you someone, you also can look smug and too comfortable.

3. Telling really long stories. You might be incredibly nervous or excited to share something, but don’t get caught in the long story trap. Long stories are boring, often off topic, and slow the interview to a terrible crawl.

4. Wearing uninspected clothes. Old twisted ties, blouses that are falling apart at the sleeves, poor fitting shirts. No matter your clothing fault, it sends the wrong message. And yes, the hiring manager notices.

5. Getting too personal. We all have tough times in life. But tough times are personal and should stay private. Whether answering a question about a gap in your resume or explaining why your last boss didn’t like you, do everything you can to keep it objective. No emotion and no personal stories.

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6. Being a copy cat. The interview preparation expert who suggested many years ago to match the body language of your interviewer was wrong. If you have ever interviewed someone who sat up when you did, leaned back with you and crossed his or her legs in concert, it is a bit creepy. While there is a way to generally match the overall tone of the serious or social job interview, don’t do it literally.

7. Can’t stop talking. Some people just love to talk. Are you trying to fill up time to avoid more questions? Are you just a social person? Either way, some interviewers don’t know how to stop you. So you have to stop yourself.

8. Avoiding details. Sometimes an interviewer will ask the same question three or four times. They do this because job candidates don’t answer them. Whether or not it’s on purpose, it is frustrating for the interviewer. Often they keep asking because they believe the person has the answer and the candidate just needs some help. And sometimes they just do not want the candidate to blatantly avoid the question.

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9. Unwanted hair. Hollywood actors are famous for wearing a thin mustache or goatee. They get away with it because they are famous people preparing for an important part in a new movie. You are not famous, you are not preparing for a movie role, and the facial hair probably doesn’t look good on you.

10. Toughing it out. If offered a drink of water, take it. If offered a chance to use the rest room, take it. These are legitimate offers, not cruel tricks to see if you’ll bite. You do not look weak by accepting a glass of water.

Avoid these and you’ve given yourself a legitimate shot at a second round interview. Good luck!

Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and learn about his two popular job-search books.

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