5 Major Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid

WorkCoachCafeSome job seekers seem to think that an invitation to come in for an interview means the job offer is guaranteed, and the only things to discuss are what the starting salary and start date will be.  SO not true!

In baseball terms, think of a job interview as getting to first base.  You haven’t hit a home run, not even a two-base hit.  You’ve made it to first, but you won’t get further without effort. 

Job Interview Mistake #1.  Appearing disinterested.

I have heard this complaint from many recruiters and employers.  The job seeker knows nothing about the company.  If the job seeker isn’t interested in the job, the company isn’t interested in hiring them.  Pretty simple.

Instead: Take the time – as little as 20 or 30 minutes – to do some online research about the employer.  Explore the website.  Search on Google.  Check LinkedIn for a Company Profile and the names and titles of employees.  Read How to Knock Their Socks Off in an Interview for more ideas.

Job Interview Mistake # 2.  Dressing inappropriately.

Interviewers assume that how you dress for a job interview is a sign of how seriously you take the interview and the opportunity.  It is also an indication of your maturity and judgement. 

Instead: Dress just as well or, perhaps, just a bit better than you think people working in this job dress.  This one should be a no-brainer.  Read Why Job Interviews May NOT Turn into Offers for details.

Job Interview Mistake #3.  Being unprepared.

This is where many job seekers blow their opportunities.  They “wing it” at the interview.  They don’t review the job description to see what it requires and to mentally align their experience and accomplishments with the job requirements.  They don’t have answers ready for the common questions, nor can they satisfactorily explain any potential problems – like gaps in employment or being fired.

Instead: If you want the job, demonstrate that you want it by being prepared.  Read 10 Steps to Successful Job Interviewing and How to Answer Annoying Job Interview Questions for important tips.

Job Interview Mistake #4.  Not ensuring it’s the right job for you.

Look at job interviews as the proverbial “two-way street.”  This is where many job seekers let themselves down by being so focused on pleasing the interviewers that they don’t ask the questions important to their job satisfaction. 

Instead: Observe the environment and the people.  Ask questions that are important to your job satisfaction, like the duties, hours, location, and any other requirements.  Do you think you can be happy (or, at least, satisfied) working here for a year or more?

Skip the salary and benefits questions on the first round, not because they aren’t important, but because, for most jobs, asking too soon makes it appear that all you are interested in are the salary and benefits (back to Mistake # 1, above).

Read How to Ask the Right Questions for more ideas.

Job Interview Mistake #5.  Bad follow-up.

The interview process isn’t completed when you shake hands with the last interviewer and leave the employer’s premises.  Job seekers can make a big impression through their follow-up process.  Lack of follow up = lack of interest (again, something employers avoid).  Too much follow-up = hard to work with. 

Instead: Do these 4 things during the interview – 

1.  Collect a business card or write down the name and contact information of every person who interviews you. 

2.  Ask at the end of the interview who you should be in contact with for the “next steps.”  Be sure you have that person’s contact information before you leave.

3.  Ask when the contact person will get back to you for those “next steps.”

4.  Ask if “touching base” once every week or two is acceptable and which mode is preferred – telephone or email.

Then, after the interview –

1.  Immediately after the interview, send a separate, unique thank you to each person who interviewed you.  This is the single most effective thing you can do to help your candidacy for most jobs.

2.  If you don’t hear from them when you expect to, don’t assume that they aren’t interested.  Until you hear otherwise (or several months have lapsed), assume that something has happened that impacted the process.   For more tips, read How to Follow Up After the Interview (on Job-Hunt.org) and After the Interview, What Is Taking SO Long? 

NOW – Find that next opportunity!  Don’t wait until you are sure that this opportunity hasn’t worked out.

More on Avoiding Job Interview Mistakes

Waiting to Hear Back After a Job Interview

After the Interview: 4 (or 5) Useful Things to Do

How to Knock Their Socks Off in an Interview

Why Job Interviews May NOT Turn into Offers

10 Steps to Successful Job Interviewing

How to Answer Annoying Job Interview Questions

How to Ask the Right Questions

© Copyright, 2013, Susan P. Joyce. All rights reserved.


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been  observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, which Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org.  Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on .


  1. Susan, thank you for sharing this article. I would also add that a candidate aligning themselves with a recruiter who provides career consultation can be helpful. Not only should a candidate’s recruiter provide similar coaching to what you have delivered in this article, but a good recruiter will also help the candidate understand if the position is a good fit for them to begin with.


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