5 Interview Mistakes Before You Ever Open Your Mouth

May 15, 2015

It’s a tight job market out there. Getting a face-to-face interview for a great job is not easy. So you don’t want to blow it, right? But did you know that before you even open your mouth, your prospective employer has already started his assessment of you? Here are the top five interview mistakes that could occur before one word is ever spoken.

#1 Interview Mistake is Not Showing Up On Time

Remember those excuses you gave when you were late to school? “My alarm didn’t go off.” “The dog hid my shoe.” “I missed the bus.” Forget it. Being on time for a job interview is critical. In fact, experts say you should be in the waiting room thirty minutes ahead of time.

What can you do to avoid this interview mistake?

  • The night before, lay out your clothes and other items you need to bring.

  • Get clear directions ahead of time and, if possible, visit the site of your interview beforehand so you know how to get there.

  • Check the bus or train schedule so you know when you need to be at the bus or train stop if you are using public transportation.

  • Ask ahead of time if there is a designated place to park. Getting to the building on time won’t help you if you wind up driving around for half an hour looking for a place to park your car.

  • Get a good night’s sleep, but set your alarm so you can have plenty of time to get ready in the morning and arrive early to your interview.

  • For interviews during the day, make sure you haven’t over-scheduled yourself.

2. Neglecting Your Appearance

I know everyone says you look great in that jogging suit and that you don’t have time to get your hair cut, but if you want the job, you better make the time. You have to act like you already work there. Look the part. I know it’s only an interview, but that’s the first step. I want to keep you walking in the right direction and not make this simple interview mistake. How you look (clothing, hair, and even your nails) creates a first impression, and first impressions can either make or break your chance of getting the job.

What can you do to avoid this interview mistake?

  • Research the company. Dress appropriately. If you are not sure, it is better to err on the side of conservative.

  • Your hair should be neat, your nails should be clean and trimmed, and your shoes should be polished. If you can afford it, get your hair done and your nails manicured. That goes for both men and women.

  • Don’t wear too much perfume or cologne – you don’t want to overwhelm your prospective employer or bring tears to his eyes.

3. Avoiding Eye Contact

Picture this – you are sitting in class. The teacher is scanning the room for someone to call on to go to the board to solve a math problem. Where are your eyes? I’ll bet they were looking down, looking around, looking anywhere except directly at the teacher. You hoped that by doing that, she would pass over you. So when it comes to that important job interview, you can think of it in the same way. Avoiding eye contact may cause your prospective employer to pass over you. You definitely don’t want to make that interview mistake.

The thing about eye contact is that you can err on both ends of the spectrum. If you never make eye contact, your prospective employer may think you are hiding something from her, or that you just lack confidence. But it’s not good to engage in an aggressive stare-down contest, either.

What can you do to avoid this interview mistake?

  • Make eye contact as soon as you enter the room and as you shake hands.

  • Make friendly eye contact when the interviewer is talking.

  • Make sincere eye contact when you are talking.

  • If looking directly into the interviewer’s eye is difficult, try focusing on the place between the bridge of the nose or look at the mouth when she speaks.

4. Giving a Hesitant Handshake

Back in the days of the Roman gladiators, people shook hands as a gesture of peace to show they were not holding a weapon. Images carved on stone of people shaking hands have been found dating back to 375 B.C. Shaking hands conveys trust, respect and agreement. But have you ever shaken someone’s hand and felt like you were holding a wet noodle? Employers are looking for confident people who can engage and interact with co-workers, supervisors, clients, and customers. A firm steady handshake tells them that you mean what you say. It’s an easy interview mistake to fix.

How can you avoid this interview mistake?

  • Practice. Enlist friends and family members. You can even try shaking your own hand. You want to strike a balance between limp and crushing.

  • You may be nervous, but make sure your hands are…
    warm (run them under hot water in the bathroom or sit on them while you are waiting)
    smooth (use moisturizer if necessary)
    dry (wipe them off before you go into the interview)
    minimalistic (don’t be a potential weapon by wearing rings on every finger)

  • As soon as you enter the room and greet the person, extend your hand, make eye contact, smile while shaking hands, and don’t wipe your hands after you shake, even if your interviewer had clammy ones.

5. Forgetting to Smile

Someone once said, “When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” Forgetting to smile is the final interview mistake you can fix before you ever answer your first question.

Did you know the act of smiling sends a message to your brain that you are happy? It causes the brain to release endorphins, which make you feel better. Did you know you look better when you smile? That’s why most professional photographers will tell you to smile. Did you know your smile makes others feel positive? Isn’t that exactly the attitude you want your interviewer to have?

A frowning face might cause your interviewer to think you are an angry negative person, definitely not someone who can work with others or be a leader.

How can you avoid this interview mistake?

  • Practice smiling in front of a mirror. See how your eyes reflect your smile.

  • Aim for a friendly smile. Show some teeth, but don’t make it a grimace like the Cheshire cat.

  • Try to find some time to exercise, stretch, meditate, or do yoga before your interview. A relaxed state of mind will translate into a relaxed and natural smile.

We can only make one first impression.

Acing the interview can be a life-changing opportunity to secure the job of your dreams. Avoiding a simple interview mistake like these can put you ahead of other applicants with similar qualifications. So the next time you are prepping for an interview, make this checklist and hang it on your bathroom mirror.

  • Be on time

  • Look professional

  • Direct eye contact

  • Firm handshake

  • Smile

You’ll be glad you did. So will your new employer. If you don’t make an interview mistake, you’ll have zero competition!

About the Author

Mark Jones

Mark started working with Kimmel & Associates in 2000. He spent the first 20 years of his post-collegiate career in the commercial insurance industry, performing auditing, underwriting, and sales management. He eventually worked on the brokerage side, where the vast majority of his clients were contractors and sub-contractors.

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