Avoid these interview mistakes at all costs

We know that interviews can be pretty nerve-wracking even for the most well-prepared of candidates. Everyone can be forgiven for a few mistakes and showing that they’re really human, no matter how polished their performance is… but we’d caution against asking certain interview questions or avoiding these mistakes, that whilst not deal-breakers don’t necessarily reflect well on you as a potential candidate.


Asking: what’s the salary for this role?

We understand, money is often a prime motivator for moving to a new company for a new role – but if you’ve done your research before the interview and engaged with your recruitment consultant, you should know the salary expectations for the role. Asking this question at interview just demonstrates a lack of preparation or awareness about your market value. Obviously, if an interviewer asks you what salary you’re expecting, that’s a different thing altogether and you should be prepared to answer this with a considered response that’s relevant to your skills and experience.

Being unprepared

This is an unforgivable mistake really and shows a lack of planning and respect for the interviewer or the role you’re interviewing for. In most cases, unless you’re exceptionally talented and able to just wing it, being unprepared will almost result in failing at interview stage. But with a little time and forethought, it’s easily avoided.

Know your CV and be prepared to expand on examples from your work history. Think about where you added value, the projects you delivered, the obstacles you overcame, etc. And be ready to answer the standard job interview questions on anything in your CV. If you can condense these answers into short stories that help explain the context, identify the problem and then demonstrate the solution or result that you helped bring about, so much the better.

You should also know the employer company too. Company websites these days will typically explain basic information about a company, the management team, their mission and values, and often share some information about the type of work they’re involved in. Make sure you’re familiar with all of this.

Asking: what does the company do?

Part of being prepared for an interview also means researching the company you’re interviewing for and making sure you understand who they are, what they do, and where they sit in the competitive landscape. Also, think more broadly about the industry the company operates in so that you’ll be ready to contextualise any answers about the company and relate it back to the broader industry. No one should go into an interview without knowing what the company does.

Giving weak or poor examples

There are some standard interview questions that everyone should prepare for. And the best answers will usually involve giving examples from your work history. So think about the sort of questions you’re likely to be asked, such as:

  • Give me an example where you had to deal with an awkward or obstructive colleague.
  • Tell me about a project you delivered.
  • Explain how you overcame an obstacle in a previous role.
  • Tell me a little about yourself.
  • What are your greatest professional strengths / or most prominent weaknesses?

A good answer to any of these questions should be illustrated with examples of your previous work history. And by examples, we’re not talking about one-word answers. we’re talking about a more detailed response that helps an interviewer understand more about you. Remember that an interviewer isn’t typically trying to catch you out with their questions, but they do want to know more about you as an individual and demonstrating how you’ve worked before can be a good indicator of how you may work in their company.

Asking: how long will I have for lunch?

Questions like this can really detract from an interview. It’s the law that you get a minimum amount of time for lunch and other statutory breaks depending on the hours you work. You don’t need to ask this at interview stage, and really, we can’t see it making that much of a difference to whether anyone would accept or reject a job, so why raise question marks in your interviewer’s mind? If you really need to know, ask your recruitment consultant and they can find out either before or after the interview for you.

Saying ‘we’ too much

Being a team player is important, as is demonstrating how you can work collaboratively and where you collectively added value with your teams in previous roles. But remember, an interview is also about you as an individual. An employer isn’t hiring your team, they’re looking to hire you. So make sure you focus on what you did in your previous roles. Talk about the individual influence you had, the key milestones you delivered, the obstacles you overcame and what you personally did to add value.

Being angry

Not everyone leaves their previous job of their own volition. Sometimes there’s been a redundancy process, other times simply a lack of seeing eye to eye with colleagues or management. You may even have had a terrible journey to the interview, or a horrible argument with your spouse or partner. Whatever the circumstance that has caused you to be angry that day, it’s important you do your best to compartmentalise it and leave it on the street before entering the building where your interview is to be held. Employers typically don’t want to employ angry people. So take some deep breaths, make sure you smile, don’t bad-mouth previous employers and remain positive throughout the interview.

Not having prepared next-step questions

It may feel as though the interview is over at this stage, but having prepared next-step or end-of-interview questions can be a good opportunity to finish the interview strongly and demonstrate your knowledge of the company, the challenges they may be facing, or how you’re already thinking positively in terms of being a part of the company. Your recruiter may well have already told you what the next stages are, in which case you can just confirm that’s accurate and you can ask the interviewer if you’ve answered all their questions satisfactorily.

Failing to follow up

It’s ok, we understand. At the end of the interview, you feel like you’ve done the hard work and now you can sit back and wait to hear the outcome. But this is often the time to really stand out from the crowd. Assuming you know who you’ve interviewed with, you could connect with them on LinkedIn (if you’re not already connected) and thank them for their time. Or better yet, if you have their email address (from their business card) you could email them, again thanking them for their time and restating your interest in joining the company. And don’t forget, you should also go back to the recruitment consultant you’ve been dealing with and give them feedback.

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