12 Incredibly Common Job Interview Mistakes You Should Avoid

Thankfully, many of these errors are easily prevented.
Updated April 3, 2023
Fact checked
young woman doing a job interview

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Jobs may be easy to find these days, but careless mistakes can still screw up your chances. In addition to experience and qualifications, your interview etiquette — or lack thereof — can be what ultimately decides your fate.

To better your odds of landing the job that moves you beyond living paycheck to paycheck, avoid these 12 interview missteps at all costs.

Not rehearsing your lines

Chaay_tee/Adobe student happily standing infront of the mirror

During job interviews, answering questions readily and confidently can show that you’re levelheaded and self-assured. Freezing, panicking, or taking ages to respond might paint a different picture.

To avoid seeming unprepared, practice for the interview ahead of time. Don’t worry about memorizing canned responses verbatim; there is no need to sound like a robot. Instead, rehearse how you’ll talk about your experience and aspirations.

Not focusing on your results

InsideCreativeHouse/Adobe businessman having videocall conference

Interviewers are well aware of the bare minimum required to be successful at work. You won’t wow them if you say you’re detail-oriented or empathetic without elaborating. To really stand out, pepper your claims with cold, hard data.

Did you catch an accounting mistake in a previous position that saved your company thousands? Did your people skills secure you a 62% win rate? 

Use the results you’ve achieved — not just a self-assessment of your personality — as irrefutable proof that you’re an asset.

Bragging about your wins

bnenin/Adobe colleagues discussing about the project in the office

While you’re sharing your accomplishments, it’s important not to overdo it. Yes, the point of the interview is for hiring managers to see how amazing you are. There’s a thin line, though, between owning your success and bragging about it.

To keep from crossing that line, don’t stretch the truth. Instead, look for ways to connect your past achievements to the company’s current needs.

Not researching the company

peopleimages.com/Adobe  secretary typing an email on a laptop

Out of all the jobs in the world, you applied to this one — and your interviewers want to know why. When you’re inevitably asked your motivation for applying, a vague or generic response just won’t cut it.

Instead, show your interviewers that you understand your potential employer’s successes and challenges. Be specific, and if it makes sense to do so, offer possible solutions. 

The goal here is to show recruiters that you didn’t just prepare for the interview, you prepared for the role itself.

Arriving late

Teodor Lazarev/Adobe young and attractive urban guy being late for his appointment

Interviews are often the first — and possibly only — face-to-face impression future employers will get of you. 

Strolling in 10 minutes after the interview was scheduled to start shows recruiters one of two things: either you struggle to manage your time or you simply couldn’t be bothered to respect theirs.

It’s hard to recover from a late arrival, so do everything in your power to avoid it. If worst comes to worst and you can’t make it on time, let your interviewers know as soon as you can.

Arriving too early

fizkes/Adobe job applicant sitting at company hall

While not as bad as showing up late, arriving way ahead of schedule also can send the wrong message. If you saunter into the hiring manager’s office at 11:15 a.m. for a noon interview, eyebrows will rise.

As a general rule, try to arrive five to seven minutes before your interview starts. That will give you enough time to check in and gather your thoughts.

Not asking any questions

khosrork/Adobe confused woman raising arms in questioning gesture

At the end of your interview, you’ll most likely be given an opportunity to ask questions. This Q&A portion might seem optional, but it isn’t. You need to ask your interviewers something, even if it’s just about the next steps in the hiring process.

Think about it this way: What message does it send if, after an entire interview, you don’t want to know anything else about the company or the position?

Now, imagine how that message changes if you pose insightful or forward-thinking questions instead.

Pro tip: If you land the job of your dreams, it will hopefully bring you more money. Put that extra cash to work so you can grow your wealth faster.

Not asking the right questions

Andrey Popov/Adobe asking questions in online video chat

Perhaps the only thing worse than not asking any questions is asking all the wrong questions. Even seemingly innocuous queries can come across as invasive or unprofessional if you’re not careful.

To prevent this, stick to questions that reveal more about your would-be role within the company.

It’s completely appropriate, for example, to ask how the company fosters a healthy work-life balance. However, your resume might mysteriously go missing if you ask the interviewers how often they take PTO.

Wearing the wrong clothes

Kannapat/Adobe asian businessman dressing up

It’s no secret that dressing professionally is a must for any job candidate. But what’s considered professional varies from industry to industry.

For many jobs, a comfortable, “business casual” look is just fine. For a swanky, corporate finance job, however, such attire might be considered informal.

A good rule of thumb? Think about what you would wear on your first day, and plan a slightly spruced-up version of that outfit for your interview.

Showing up unkempt

StockPhotoPro/Adobe Nervous businessman sweating

If the only primping you do for an interview is taking a shower and brushing your teeth, you’re setting the bar too low.

That doesn’t mean you need to do a full face of makeup, change your hair, or stray uncomfortably far from your normal routine. It just means you should take extra care to look polished and professional.

Your fingernails should be clean and manicured, your perfume or cologne subtle, and your suit free of wrinkles and pet hair.

Being inauthentic

Prostock-studio/Adobe human resources manager and successful vacancy applicant

You might be tempted to mask quirks or take on personality traits you think the interviewers want to see, but this strategy can actually backfire.

If your interviewers sense that you’re not being yourself, they may wonder if you’re hiding something or being dishonest. They want to get a feel for who you are — the real you, not a watered-down or exaggerated version.

Not bringing your resume

crizzystudio/Adobe hr congratulating applicant in a job interview

Even in the digital age, paper resumes still have their place. While you’re not technically required to bring copies of your resume to job interviews, it’s almost always a good idea.

Not only will your interviewers appreciate having a physical document they can reference, but you’ll also get brownie points for your forethought and consideration.

Bottom line

Drobot Dean/Adobe young asian woman smiling and holding resume

For better or for worse, your decorum during a job interview reflects how much you value both the position and your own expertise. How you conduct yourself after the interview also matters.

It’s wise to send a short thank-you email to your interviewers, but don’t hound them for a decision. When you do finally hear back, respond strategically.

Don’t be too hasty if you’re offered the job, and don’t be too curt if you get a rejection. Instead, use every interaction to build connections and solidify your professional reputation, regardless of the interview’s outcome.

Best of luck in finding a great job that will put more money in your pocket.

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Author Details

Sarah Sheehan Sarah Sheehan is a writer, educator, and analyst who focuses on the impact of health, gender, and geography on financial equity. Her ultimate goal? To live beyond the confines of chasing the next dollar — and to teach everyone else how to do the same.

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