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12+ HR Experts Share Costly Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid

Updated on May 06, 2021 19093 views

What are the common job interview mistakes most jobseekers are making?

Learning how to pass an interview is crucial if you are serious about getting a job.

While there are tons of mistakes that I see job seeker make, I decided to take a back door seat and hear from other practicing HR in the industry.

I reached out to some HR professional and asked them this single question

“What are some common job interview mistakes most jobseekers are making “

And they were gracious to share errors they see job seeker mistake.

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Top Job Interview Mistakes Job Seekers Are Making According to 20 Practicing HR professional

  1. Not taking the interview serious
  2. Improper Dressing and Atire
  3. Lack of preparation
  4. Lack of two- or three-minute answers to fundamental interview questions
  5. Talking about yourself and about your expertise without the context of the job you are applying for.
  6. Lack of skills, knowledge and experience required for the role
  7. Not bringing a resume and assuming they have one printed 
  8. Going into the interview cold.
  9. Lack of Confidence
  10. Speaking too quickly instead if taking time to think their answer through
  11. Not reading the Job Description properly
  12. A ctually treat the interview like a first date!
  13. They don't do their research on the company




Name: Sam Samarasekera

WebsiteJefferson Frank



It may sound like a simple piece of advice, but it’s vital that you approach it with a professional mindset. The most common mistake I see is people just not taking it seriously enough. Ultimately, a job interview is one of the most professional situations you can be in—it’s a meeting that will dictate whether or not someone will employ you, so it deserves to be treated with a good degree of respect. Arriving late, not dressing appropriately or failing to do any basic research beforehand are huge no-nos. 

I recently interviewed someone who couldn’t tell me a single thing about our company. That’s an incredible level of disinterest at a time when you should be most keen to make a good impression. If you can’t make that base level investment of your time, it leaves a huge question mark over how reliable you’ll be as an employee, regardless of your ability on paper.

“Although some of the interview will be about assessing whether you have the skills and experience to be an asset to the organization, a big part of the process is gauging your cultural fit. Making a bad first impression leaves an interviewer with reservations that are really difficult to shake off when it comes to deciding whether to hire you.”



Name: Timothy Wiedman

LinkedIn: Timothy-Wiedman


Interview Tip #1: Proper Attire: Dress for the job you're seeking

 These days in many organizations, wearing "casual Friday" clothes has become the standard "dress code" all week long. So in that sort of setting, what would be the expected attire during an interview for a management position? While "business casual" might be acceptable, could an applicant ever know that for sure?  

The point is, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Given the competition these days, it can be very difficult to get an interview at an "employer of choice" in the first place. So why would anybody want to risk "under-dressing" for an important interview? Dressing up makes most people feel more confident about themselves, and that confidence will positively impact their tone of voice and general demeanor during the interview process. Further, confidence is a trait that most employers value, and it can set one candidate apart from the others. So smart candidates (regardless of whether they are male or female) will dress conservatively and wear their best suits to an interview for a management job -- even if it's a (so-called) entry-level position. If some of the interview sessions turn out to be informal, an applicant can always ask, "Do you mind if I take off my jacket?" Ultimately, by using this approach, each potential boss or colleague that a candidate meets during the interview process will see him or her dressed for success. And positive first impressions make a job offer much more likely!

 Interview Tip #2: When asked, "Why should we hire you for this position?"

 Employers are generally looking for the best "fit" that they can find after considering the characteristics of the candidate, the position to be filled, the culture of the work team, and the organization's overall mission and philosophy. In essence, they are trying to complete an organizational jigsaw puzzle, and there's a missing piece that has to be found. However, only certain pieces will fit properly.

So when asked, "Why should we hire you?," you need to tell a potential employer what YOU can deliver (in terms of education, experience, skills, abilities, talents, interests, or aptitudes) that might uniquely match the requirements of the position in question. And even if you don't actually have full-time managerial experience in the business world, you may have high school or college experiences that could be of interest to a potential employer. Some possible examples might be:


  • a young man who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at 15 years of age
  • a student who excelled in a competitive endeavor (e.g., musical performances, chess tournaments, science fairs, etc.)
  • a student who was the class valedictorian or salutatorian (especially if there were not multiple winners at their school)
  • a student who was the senior class president (especially at a fairly large school)
  • a student who was elected the president or vice president of the student congress
  • a student who was elected captain (or co-captain) of a varsity sports team
  • a student who was elected president of any large student organization

 Some common threads among these positions? They provide an indication of persistence in pursuit of a goal and/or leadership abilities. And those traits may well be of interest to recruiters who seek new-hires with management potential.



Name: Armida Markaraova

Website:  TheCareerBloom

Twitter:  @amarkarova


There are two mistakes that stand out the most with job applicants during the interview process:

  1. Talking about yourself and about your expertise without the context of the job you are applying for. It is important to research the company you are applying for and find out its mission and goals. When you talk about your accomplishments and qualifications, shift the conversation from "Here is why I am great" to "Here is why I am great for your company" That changes the tone of the conversation and lets your potential employer know that you are interested in working with and for them.
  2. When negotiating a salary, most people say "These are my salary expectations". Change the tone from "Here is what I want" to "Here is why I am worth it" Show the value you bring to the table and how your skills will make the company grow. 



Name: Tom Dofli

Website: Pathfinder-Software

Twitter: @pathfinder__uk


The interview is the most delicate part of the job-hunting process. If you are called for an interview your CV looks interesting and the employer wants to find out more. The mistakes job seekers commonly make at this stage are caused by a widespread underlying issue - failing to see the bigger picture. Candidates look at interviews from their own perspective and forget that the interviewer is there to answer three questions:
- Does the candidate show to possess the skills, knowledge and experience required for the role (and stated on the CV)?
- Will the candidate be a good fit for the company culture and the role?
- Is the candidate easy to work with?

Miss one point and the opportunity is lost. The most skilled candidate won't make it through if it's a difficult person to work with or misaligned with the company culture. 
Nail all three and you will stand out immediately. Whenever you hear the advice "you need to stand out at interviews", you do it by showing the interviewer that you are a "yes" to all his questions.

The common mistakes revolve around these questions and fall into the following categories:

  1. Not performing due diligence.
  2. Not paying close attention to the interviewer and the questions.
  3. Not adding value.
  4. Not asking the right questions (or questions at all).

1. Not performing due diligence.
Sounds trivial but the number of candidates that show up to interviews without proper preparation is surprising. This is the step you can't skip because it will help you avoid all the other mistakes. You need to know all the crucial information about the company and the role you are applying for - if you can't take the time to prepare or, even worse, think it's not important, what does it tell the interviewer about you? How are you going to be a good fit or to use the skills you claim to have? It shows low interest and lack of professionalism. 
Even if you have relevant experience and qualifications, make sure you are aware of the company's recent developments, the company's mission and vision, the products and the industry.
Rule of thumb: you are properly prepared when you can confidently explain in which industry the company operates, the technologies adopted or developed, what the company does, the products or services offered and who the customers are, focusing on the areas that the role you're applying for touches the most.
Bonus tip: try to connect with someone that works or has worked at the company to gain extra insights.

2. Not paying close attention to the interviewer and the questions asked.
The interview is a conversation, not an exam or a test, and you are not a student anymore. The interviewer has to evaluate your skills and experience, but also your overall personality as a potential employee that will be collaborating with other members of the organisation. Your personality and attitude will be taken into consideration and personable candidates always reach better outcomes. This is not to say you have to break jokes, but rather pay attention to the interviewer and showcase your personality and values. The first rule to engage in a good conversation is to listen, so pay attention to the kind of questions you are asked - it will help you understand the interviewer's concerns and address them with precise answers. Some of these questions might carry underlying meanings that you can detect if you've done your due diligence. For example, questions like "where do you see yourself in 3 years" could be asked to test how long you plan to stay at the company, what kind of aspirations you have, how determined you are to progress within the organisation etc. 
If the interviewer asks generic questions, like "what hobbies do you have" or "what do you do in your free time" don't start talking endlessly about your passions but rather use the answers to show traits of your personality that suit the role and the company. Maybe you take classes (enjoy learning), you run events (entrepreneurial), you enjoy the physical activity (hardworking and motivated) or play in a team (good collaborator).
Rule of thumb: As human beings, we are naturally drawn to like people who make us feel comfortable and the best way of doing it is to feel comfortable yourself. Sure, you will be nervous but doing your due diligence (point 1) will help you feel at ease as you will be confident and prepared. This will also improve your mood as you won't be as scared and anxious, appearing more relaxed and creating a positive environment.
Bonus tip:  Some questions can catch you off guard or be brain sizzlers designed to test your thinking process. Whether you get a brain sizzler or a question you don't know the answer of, don't panic and show the interviewer how you think in order to find the solution. Your thinking process is as important as your knowledge, if not more so for specific roles. An example:
Q. "How many ping-pong balls could you fit in this room?"
A. "This room could measure 6 meters in width, 3 in length and 2 in height, which makes its volume equal to 36 cubic meters. A ping-pong ball has a radius of approximately 2 centimetres so its volume is of around  34 cubic centimetres. Since it's cubic units, it takes a thousand units to increase by one order of magnitude meaning that I could fit more than a million ping-pong balls in the room."

If you don't know how to find the volume of a spere or other technical information, is fine - in that case, you'd say something like: knowing the volume of the room and the volume of a ping-pong ball, I would simply divide the volume of the room by the one of the ball to find the solution.

3. Not adding value.
The most successful interview is the one that shows what it would be like if you were already an employee. Companies hire professionals that can add value to the organisation so if you can do the same during the interview, you will be noted. It doesn't mean that you have to provide a business or a tech solution on the spot and revolutionise the company, but if you've done your due diligence, you might have spotted something that can be improved or have some ideas. When you present ideas or notes during an interview, you are proving that you are willing to add value to the organisation which means you understand the company and the problems it's facing. Most importantly, it shows the interviewer that you are passionate about it and proactive (not just reactive) so you would probably be a good employee.
Rule of thumb: As you are preparing for the interview, look for areas of improvement or opportunities that the company has not experimented with. This might be something that a competitor is doing or something that has proven successful for your previous employer, so make a list of ideas or possible opportunities that you can share during the interview.
Bonus tip:  Act as if you were already covering the role or simply voice what you believe makes an organisation operate better. Even if your suggestions have been tried in the past or aren't feasible, you will be perceived as a stronger candidate. 

4. Not asking the right questions (or questions at all).
Since the interview is a conversation, you should be asking questions. Most candidates don't, either because they don't really care or because they are too scared. The interviewer is your best chance to find out more about the company, what it's like to work there, the management style, the culture, the kind of employees they go after etc.
Ask questions to understand if the company is a good fit for you, remember that is a two-way process: the interviewer is evaluating you while you evaluate the company.  Plus, asking relevant questions (not just any question) tells the interviewer that you care about the role, you are not just there to get a paycheck and it reinforces your proactive and passionate attitude. Not asking questions is associated with generic candidates who are fine working everywhere and for everyone, which is not how you want to come across. Simply put, it's a sign that you would be a good employee and it plays with the other steps I've explained.
Rule of thumb: You should leave the interview with all the information you need to make a decision about your next move. That means that you should have asked questions regarding the company, the employee, the management and the role in order to fill any gap not covered by the job posts or the interviewer.
Bonus tip: You've done your preparation so you know everything about the role and the company but pretend that it was your first day of work, what information would you need to know? Those are the answers you should be looking for.  If you can't think of anything, you can ask information about the rest of the people in the team, what happened to the person that was covering the role before you or even what plans the company has for the future.


Name: Kathleen Steffey

Website:  Naviga Recruiting

Twitter: @NavigaServices


In my view, lack of preparation kills the chance of being selected.

There are so many actions to take in order to prepare for the interview properly.  I've seen many candidates make rookie mistakes, even in the prime of their career.  Below are my top 5:


  1. Not bringing a resume and assuming they have one printed 
  2. Not dressing appropriately for an interview/choosing to dress too casual.
  3. Not preparing multiple questions that shows a lack of deeper curiosity and interest.
  4. Talking WAY too much during the interview and not exposing enough listening skills
  5. Doing no research in advance of the interview where the candidate appears to not know about the position and company in advance of the interview.



Name: Adrienne Tom

Website:  Career Impressions


A few common interview mistakes that job seekers make, preventing them from moving forward in the process include:


  1. Going into the interview cold. Meaning no preparation has occurred in advance of the interview to support success. Lack of preparation typically translates into disjointed answers to questions, challenging communications such as stumbling or rushing over responses, and /or lack of customized details that speak specifically to the employers’ unique job requirements. Even 30 minutes of preparation prior to an interview can help eliminate this major mistake. Job seekers should take time in advance of every interview to clearly understand the audience (employer), the job requirements, and how work history aligns with their needs. Prepare a few stories of success that address common interview questions that also demonstrate the return on investment/value you can provide the interviewer should you be hired for the role.
  2. They are distracted. Sadly, a lot of job seekers enter an interview not fully focused on the moment at hand. They carry their cellphone in their hand and check it throughout the interview. Some are drinking coffee or fidgeting with their nails. A better approach is to put all other thoughts and items aside and enter the interview fully focused on the people in the room. Give the interviewer(s) your complete attention to demonstrate interest and commitment to the process and the opportunity.
  3. Not listening or speaking over the interviewer. Often job seekers rush to answer questions or jump to respond too quickly instead of really listening to what is being asked. This can cause miscommunication or awkward responses. It can also be a big turn off for the interviewer if they feel that the job seeker is always trying to speak over them. Eventually the interview will stop trying to compete with job seekers that are not interested in hearing them out.  A better approach is for job seekers to take a moment after each question is asked to gather thoughts and formulate a strong response. Let the interviewer finish talking before starting a reply.
  4. Lack of results in interview answers or general responses. Often, when pressed to share specific details of career achievement, answers are vague or generalized and don’t impress. Yet results and specific stories of success are critical to demonstrating level of ability.  An interview is designed to fully flesh out capabilities and provide proof of claims, so job seekers need to spend time carefully composing and practicing examples of achievement – with context – to demonstrate how they are the best fit for the role.



Name: Jason

Website:  Transizion

Twitter: @transizion


Job seekers who make critical mistakes during interviews tend to not come into the interview with a story of self. In other words, they don't have at least two- or three-minute answers to fundamental interview questiosn, ones that should be easy to answer. Such questions include "Tell me about yourself," "What are your greatest strengths?" and "Tell me about a time when you needed to work on a team."

When preparing answers to these questions, you want to quickly tell the interviewer the situation, what you need to do, how you executed your task, and the results you procured from your efforts. All told, you need to communicate to the interviewer what exactly you did and the results that came about from your efforts. If you keep your answers focused, you'll be able to cover different moments from your career without coming off as scatter-brained. You need to make sure your responses comprise of enough details that they are remembered once you leave the interview room.



Name: Sean Sessel

Website:  Oculus Institute



1. Lack of confidence: This cannot be hidden. 55% of communication is through body language, and 38% is through tonality. Because 93% of communication is through means that are primarily under subconscious control, lack of confidence will be blatantly apparent. If you don't have faith in yourself, why should anyone have faith in you?

2. Failure to communicate enthusiasm: Employers want employees who are self-motivated instead of people who are going to show up for a paycheck and do the minimum. If you don't convey that this is a job that you really want to do, then you'll probably lose out to someone who does. Take a step back from trying to sell them on why you're such a good candidate for them so that you can authentically convey why they are such a good environment for you.

3. Basic courtesy: Far too many people don't demonstrate basic warmth in their interactions, especially with people they don't think are decision makers. Trust me; people talk. Be respectful and pleasant with everyone you meet; look them in the eyes and smile. For the people who spent a significant amount of time with you, send them authentic thank you note with nothing but gratitude. A major part of a job interview isn't about just whether or not you can do the job but also whether people can see themselves enjoying working with you."




Name: Emily Frank

Website:  Denver Careercatalyst

Twitter: @EmilyKikueFrank


  1. Speaking too quickly instead if taking time to think their answer through. It's better to have a thoughtful answer than a fast one.  If you're on the phone, there's obviously a little more pressure to answer questions quickly, but even then, I encourage people to make "thinking noises," like repeating the question, "that's a good one," etc., until they have thought through a good answer.  In person or online, I tell people to take 2 or 3 deep breaths before answering a challenging questions.
  2. Not telling specific stories.  Stories detail a single event, have details, and have a beginning, a middle, and an end. We are wired to resonate with stories, so when the interviewer says, "Tell me about a time when..." you should really be telling them a single, specific time.  Too often, people will respond to a question about a time they handled conflict, for instance, in generalities: "I try to avoid conflict when I can, but when it's unavoidable, I try to see both sides and come to a mutual compromise."  That doesn't truly tell the interviewer anything about how you, the individual in front of us right now, handled a single conflict in the past, so it also doesn't tell us how you're likely to handle one in the future.  Tell stories.  The stories don't even need to have good outcomes all the time, as long as you conclude with what you learned from a less-than-desirable result.
  3. Failing to do company research beforehand.  Going in to the interview, you should know key words and phrases, details of what the organization or company does, what's covered in their mission statement, etc.  You should be able to speak clearly to why you are interested both in the industry as a whole and to that organization in particular, and you should know a little something about who they serve and what they value.  In an age when this information is readily available through your phone, you have no reason not to have done some research beforehand.  You can even make some notes on important talking points and bring those in to the interview.


There are more things, of course-- some people answer the question they wish they were asked instead of the one they were actually asked for instance.  But those are my top 3, the things I see over and over when I prep my clients for interviews. 



Name:  Justin

Website: Nigel Wright

Twitter: @nwrecruitment


Lack of preparation/research is the main factor alongside general interview experience, i.e if in a job for a long time, then might not be comfortable/used to be in an interview setting.

Further on preparation, not knowing your own responsibilities and key achievements, i.e what have you done, how did you do it and what was the outcome/result

Differentiate between what did YOU do vs what did the team do

Not answering the question, i.e not being specific enough to the answers, links to the bold text above



Name: Sussan Lucas

Website:  Evil HrLady

Twitter:  @realevilhrlady


Many job seekers decide that they want the job before they interview! You can't know much about a job or a company culture or how you would get along with the boss by reading a job description. As a result, they focus on selling themselves in the interview, rather than focusing on if this would be a good fit for eveyone.



Name: Nick Glasset

Website: Origin Leadership



Without a doubt the mistake that most job seekers make that cause them to not get offered a position is that they actually treat the interview like a first date! They’re trying to pander to the needs of the company and to be a candidate that they will want to hire. When you try to impress the interviewer just so you can get hired, you won’t come across as confident and capable, instead you’ll appear hesitant and unsure of yourself. Just be yourself! Do your homework on the company, pick out your favorite outfit, be ready and prepared... but show up as you, not as what you think they want. 



Name: Laura Spawn

Website:  Virtual Vocations

Twitter:  @virtualvocation


By the time you’ve gotten to the interview stage, you’ve already made it past the biggest hurdle: the slush pile. Recruiters, especially those looking for telecommuting professionals, often find themselves inundated with hundreds of resumés for a single job posting. If you landed an interview, this means you were among the best of the best.

But you’re still far from a shoe-in. Many jobseekers stumble in their interviews because they fail to prepare ahead of time for what’s ahead—and that doesn’t just mean getting up early to get ready and printing out a few hard copies of your resumé. In addition to presenting yourself as a clean, prompt professional, preparing for an interview means preparing for what you’ll be asked and how you’ll respond. 

For this, we often recommend to jobseekers that they create themselves a script with answers to common interview questions or questions they anticipate being asked. The contents of your script will vary by industry, but regardless of your career field, craft your answers in a way that ties back to your resumé and cover letter and makes you memorable, and don’t shy away from using persuasive and industry-specific language that proves you know what you’re talking about. In a virtual interview, you may be able to reference your script (or notes from it) during your actual talk with the recruiter, but if you're interviewing in person, it can still serve as a useful study guide as you prepare for the big day.


Name:  Missy Scot

Website: Missy Scott


  • They don't do their research on the company - I think it's really important to know what's going on with the company. Have they been featured in the news? Had any important acquisitions or did they IPO? What's happening with their CEO? And the like. Some companies might ask about what they know about the company and you want to have a great response to this question when they ask it. Looking over the mission and vision statements of the company or department is key as well because you'll be able to tailor your answers to the interview questions through the lens of what's already important to the company. 
  • They don't prepare to tell their story - story telling has been coming up in career development conferences many times during the last few years and being able to articulate your story to the interviewer is key. I always tell my clients that they are the masters of their story, they know themselves better than anyone else and they can trust that they are able to share that with the employer to let them know how awesome and qualified they are. If a job candidate doesn't think of themselves as awesome, the interviewer isn't going to think so either and likely won't hire them. I create what I call an "Accomplishments Document" where I list everything that I do at my job, my greatest accomplishments. Then when I'm interviewing for new positions, I read over my accomplishments documents from the last few years to remember all of the amazing things that I've done so that telling my story is easier because my stories are at the forefront of my mind. 
  • They don't have questions for the interviewers - I think it's really important to have at least 3 - 5 questions for the interviewers because the last question they will ask you is, "Do you have any questions for us?" Saying "no" is not the right answer. You can ask anything from "why do you like working at this company?" to something more specific, "What do you see as the biggest challenge for someone coming into this position?" or anything in between. 
  • They don't send thank you notes - Sending at least a thank you email to at least one person who interviewed you is key to success. You can reiterate your interest in the position and you're seen as humble throughout the process. You can also add an anecdote that you have that you may have forgotten during your interview with them. 


There you go.

A list of the top job interview mistakes recruiters are seeing. By sharing their insights with us, we hope you do not make such mistake in your next job interview.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this expert roundup. It was quite insightful.


Staff Writer

This article was written and edited by a staff writer.

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