Common Interview Missteps

With 30 years’ experience performing post mortems on candidacies of well qualified applicants who should have prevailed in the interview process but failed instead, I have seen a full spectrum of mistakes.

Here are three of the most common.

Poor Preparation

Human Resource professionals and hiring managers are continually amazed by the lack of basic preparation many candidates bring to the interview. If you are not prepared to answer questions about your work history and experience or have not researched the company you are interviewing with, reschedule your meeting. You are not ready!

Instead, spend time:

  • Researching your prospective employer, their industry, their values and why you want to work for them.  You can start with their website, but can also go to your local library and access business related databases that can offer additional information.
  • Google up ‘sample behavioral interview questions’. This will provide you with a list of common questions asked in interviews. Understand the interviewer is looking for real life examples of experiences you bring, situations or tasks you’ve faced, actions you took and results you got. Ask yourself the questions and answer yourself, out loud. How do you sound? Don’t like the answer? Keep polishing.
  • Review the role description. Consider experiences you have had in the duties or experience areas listed. Be ready to discuss those experiences. If you lack background in a certain area, learn a little about it before the interview. Be ready to positively embrace the prospect of acquiring that skill or experience. In addition, be ready to share past successes you have had working in new areas.

interview mistakes

Suspension of Disbelief

Hollywood producers have counted on the ability of their audience to ‘suspend disbelief’ since the dawn of movies. Think of some of the more preposterous movie premises. I haven’t seen it, but Hot Tub Time Machine pops to mind. Must have been a lot of people willing to go along with that as they made two more of those flicks.

The same principle applies to good interviewing strategy.

The mistake candidates often make is to not suspend disbelief when interviewing. They arrive at the interview in the same circumspect mindset they have when buying a house or car. The problem is that by the time they have decided they really like what they are hearing, the interviewer has also made a decision.

A much better mindset is to arrive at the interview with one goal in mind: get the job.

The best way to accomplish this is to begin interviewing by already wanting the job. If something happens along the way to dissuade you of that belief, you remain empowered to seek additional information, clarification or to ultimately decline the job.  This little switch in attitude can make the difference between having an offer and having regrets about the plum opportunity that got away.

Poor Posture

Simplistic phrase to mean all things related to your personal presentation. Don’t just stand and sit straight, but dress for success. Personal grooming. Firm hand shake. Appropriate vocabulary. Eye contact. Easy smile. Well rested. Lightheartedness, leave any personal or professional bitterness at home.

The mistake candidates make is to not realize that first impressions are even more important when interviewing. You should be at your very best the day you meet your new boss for the first time.


It is going to be a long relationship…get it off to the best possible start!