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7 job interview mistakes that are ruining your chances

The worst job interview mistakes

When talking about job interview mistakes, most of us are familiar with common mistakes, like showing up late or dressing inappropriately. But other, less-talked-about ones can seriously hurt your chances of landing the job.

Let’s dive into a few lesser-known mistakes and what you can do to steer clear of them.

Not doing company research

You might think skimming the ‘About Us’ section on the company website is enough, but employers can tell when you’ve done your homework. Not doing enough research shows a lack of interest and preparation, which could put you at a serious disadvantage if the interviewer were to ask you a question about the company. 

An example of such a question could be “Are you familiar with what we do?” In most cases, a company’s About Us section will only cover the superficial details. Some companies and brands prefer a vague description of their work. 

Take this example: “Were in the business of making dreams come true. Our platform can help take your business to the next level, regardless of location or budget.” This example doesn’t mention anything in particular but it gives us an idea of the promise they want to deliver on.

Here are four steps that will help you research the company and utilise the information strategically during an interview.

  1. Dive into other parts of the company website. Usually, you’ll find pages named “What we do”, “Resources” or “News”. These help you gain a better understanding of the company culture, future goals and operations. When responding Show them you’re invested in their success, not just any job.
  2. Look up news articles, interviews, podcasts and other content the company is mentioned in. Spend time researching the company’s history, values, and recent projects. You’ll have a deeper knowledge of what matters most to the company based on the talking points you come across most frequently.
  3. Scan their LinkedIn page. Usually, companies take to LinkedIn to announce their achievements, obstacles, and more. Higher-level employees may even post thought leadership content which may reflect more about their values and priorities.
  4. Read through the company’s job listing/s for your role. Look out for buzzwords and note them down. Make sure to use these buzzwords during the interview as it will help align you with the company’s culture in the interviewer’s mind. Additionally, list the ‘job requirements’ and note your proficiency/mastery of these requirements. What can you do well, which skills can you learn and what are you a complete novice in? Use this to navigate any questions regarding your abilities during the interview.

Being too structured with your answers

You may feel over-preparing your answers would help you, but being too structured can undermine your ability to connect with interviewers. The interview process is an opportunity to showcase your personality and suitability, but being robotic and structured with your answers takes that away. 

Sometimes, the interviewer may suddenly throw you a curveball question to probe deeper into certain topics and understand your thought processes. These could be quite hard to navigate if you’ve already structured the narrative from A to Z.

Interviewers value authenticity and genuine engagement. To answer interview questions more organically, don’t overprepare. Just write down a few bullet points, useful numbers and key statistics. During the interview, actively listen to the interviewer and reflect on your experiences. 

Feel free to share (relevant) personal insights and anecdotes, and be vulnerable about challenges you’ve faced in your work. Engage in conversation with the interviewer, and reflect enthusiasm through your body language and words

Being overly guarded when responding 

Usually, applicants who struggle with building a narrative through their responses fall into two camps:

  1. The Blank Slates – Candidates who respond to every question with the briefest answer and no supporting information. 
  2. The Oversharers – People who share far too much information about their work or personal lives that isn’t required.

While it’s easy to fix the oversharing issue with the STAR method, guarded responders may need more guidance. Sometimes, the reason is because they’ve categorised the information as ‘irrelevant’ or didn’t prepare the precise details to share. More often, it’s because the interviewee is introverted. 

If you’re struggling with opening up during an interview, try practising with somebody you trust—preferably a loved one with some patience. This will help you familiarise yourself with the rhythm of the average job interview.

Engage in small talk at the start of your interview. You may feel less guarded as the interview progresses if you ease into the conversation with pleasantries. Try asking them some questions, too. Interviewers appreciate candidates who show genuine interest in them and the company.

Don’t try to extend your answers by filling every silence with words. Instead, try focusing on concise but thoughtful responses that highlight your skills and experiences. Use pauses to gather your thoughts and reflect on the details briefly before speaking.

This is where preparing in advance will help you most.

Getting overconfident

To put it simply, no one wants to hire someone who thinks they’re infallible. Confidence is great, but too much can come across as arrogance–and that could push a wedge between you and the other party. 

Striking a balance between confidence and humility and showing that you’re confident in your abilities but open to learning from others are incredibly important. This is what we call a ‘professional humble brag’.

  • Stay mindful of your confidence by recognising moments of excessive self-assurance. 
  • Seek feedback from trusted people to gain perspective on your behaviour and areas for growth. 
  • Cultivate a mindset where you’re aware of how much you need to learn in a role. This will help ground you a lot. 
  • Keep an ‘ear’ on your tone of voice as you might accidentally come off as rude and dismissive towards the interviewer. 

Not allowing the interviewer to speak

An interview is a two-way conversation—and while it’s true that the interviewee should do most of the talking, too often this can turn into disrespect. Far too often, interviewees get overenthusiastic and cut off the interviewer mid-sentence. It’s great to see such enthusiasm from candidates but it sets off red flags from the other person’s point of view.

If you interrupt frequently, the interviewer may think you

  • Lack communication skills:  Constantly talking over the interviewer shows that you struggle with engaging in meaningful dialogue. It may raise concerns about your ability to communicate professionally in the workplace.
  • Are not a team player: Speaking over someone is the same as being dismissive of their thoughts. It may also be perceived as a sign of dominance or aggressiveness.
  • Have low emotional intelligence: Candidates with high emotional intelligence are good listeners. Interrupting the interviewer without regard for their perspective or feelings may signal a lack of this vital soft skill. To understand and empathise with others, it’s essential to listen and allow them to convey their ideas.

Speaking negatively about former employers

Speaking negatively about former employers during an interview can make you appear hard to work with. It may be true and your experience is valid but your new employer doesn’t need to know the specifics. 

Regardless, the question on their mind would be, “How would this person talk about our company after they leave us?”

There are situations where the interviewer may ask you, “Why did you leave your past job?” If you’re tempted to explain in great detail just how toxic a workplace it was, let me stop you.

It’s important to focus on the positive aspects and what you’ve learned from challenges, rather than dwelling on the negative points. Focus on framing your experiences in a positive or at least neutral light. 

Highlight what you learned from challenges and how you grew as a result. Avoid dwelling on negativity and instead emphasise your resilience, problem-solving skills, and ability to maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity.

Not having any plans for the future

You may have heard, “Where do you see yourself doing in five years?” Questions like this one help the interviewer gauge your long-term career goals, ambition, and alignment with the company’s vision.

It also helps them assess your potential for growth within the organisation and whether you have a clear sense of direction in your career. With this single answer, they’re able to evaluate your motivation for the role and whether you’re likely to stay committed and engaged over the long term.

Not having a good answer may suggest you don’t have clear career goals or haven’t thought about how this role fits into your future plans. It could also show a lack of confidence or preparation for the interview.

If you genuinely don’t have any plans, it’s better to be honest than to fabricate a fake response. You don’t need a five-year plan to answer this right. 

Try this:

  1. Start by reflecting on your career goals and aspirations. Consider where you’d like to be professionally in the future.
  2. Think about your career trajectory, interests, and areas of growth. What qualifications and/or skills do you need to work on?
  3. Research the industry/industries you’re interested in and see what options are open to you.
  4. Go back to the role you’re interviewing for and compare to see which of your goals it may help realise.  
  5. Use this reflection to jot down a few points that highlight your ambition, alignment with the role, and openness to opportunities for growth and development within the company.

Avoid these interview mistakes and you’re golden

Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes but the worst thing we can do is not learn from them. Take time to analyse how you handle interviews and the areas you need to work on. You’ll see a marked improvement in no time!

It’s also important to remember that you’re being assessed for your communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and cultural fit. Your technical skills aren’t the only ones under the microscope—your soft skills matter too, so don’t forget to work on them.

Be sure to boldly articulate your future goals and aspirations, followed by your achievements, facts, and numbers—but don’t forget to listen!

If you’re looking to kick off your career the right way in 2024, book a call with us. Let’s talk about it! You can also subscribe to our newsletter for the latest career information, tips, and updates. (They’re both completely free!)




Kahless is a writer with a special interest in sociology. He spends much of his free time travelling, reading, writing, and stopping his cats from ripping apart everything he owns. It’s advised to bring along a strong cup of coffee (3 espresso shots minimum) when approaching him.

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