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Top 12 interview mistakes to avoid: Insight from a recruiter

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes 

Interviews are intimidating, whether you're a seasoned professional or a recent college graduate. With so much riding on this one interaction, it's easy to let nerves get the best of you. 

As someone who interviews job candidates on a regular basis, here’s my advice on the top 12 interview mistakes to avoid so you can make a great first impression on the hiring manager. 

Mistakes to avoid in a phone interview

1. Missing your call.

Employers expect you to be reliable and punctual, and failing to answer their call can give the impression that you're disorganized or uninterested in the position

Ensure you are ready at least 10 minutes before your expected call. Have your:

  • Ringer on.
  • Resume handy.
  • Questions ready to go.

2. Being around loud noises.

Make sure you are in a place that is quiet and has a strong cellular connection. It is difficult for a recruiter to get the necessary information in the phone interview if there’s background noise or if you’re cutting in and out due to a poor connection.

3. Sounding bored.

When you think about what not to do in a job interview, sounding bored is toward the top of the list. Your interviewer wants to hear your excitement and energy about joining the company. If you sound unengaged in the conversation, they may move on to other candidates.

One way to convey your enthusiasm is by smiling while you’re speaking. Even though the recruiter cannot see you, your tone of voice and inflections project your positive demeanor.

4. Multitasking during the call.

Although you may be tempted to check emails, respond to text messages or browse the internet during a phone interview, it’s crucial that you focus only on the conversation at hand.

Multitasking can be distracting and may prevent you from focusing on the interviewer's questions, leading to poor responses that don't accurately represent your skills and qualifications.

Give the interviewer your full attention to show you are committed to the job.

Mistakes to avoid in an in-person interview

5. Arriving late.

Showing up late for an interview leaves a bad first impression on your interviewers. It may give them the sense that you’re not taking the opportunity seriously.

Plus, being late could disrupt your interviewer’s entire day, since they likely blocked their calendars to meet with you. I suggest arriving at your interview about 10 minutes early to avoid the risk of being late.

6. Dressing too casually.

The way you dress shows your professionalism and respect for the interviewer. If you dress sloppily or inappropriately, the interviewer will likely think you’re not a good fit for the role.

Dress to impress by ensuring your outfit reflects the role you are interviewing for. For example, if you are interviewing for a professional office role, you should wear:

  • A suit.
  • Dress shirt or blouse.
  • Slacks.
  • Dress shoes.

Don’t show up wearing:

  • Jeans.
  • A t-shirt.
  • Ill-fitting clothing.
  • Flip-flops or worn-out tennis shoes.
  • Wet or messy hair.

7. Acting bored.

Looking disinterested when you meet your interviewers is one of the top things you should not do during an interview. 

Give a firm handshake and look them in the eyes with a smile. You made it this far and should be proud! 

8. Using your cell phone.

Do not take your phone out to check messages or answer calls during the interview. This will almost certainly automatically disqualify you from getting the job, unless it’s an absolute emergency.

Turn your phone off or put yourself on ‘do not disturb.’

Mistakes to avoid in any interview.

9. Knowing little about the job or company.

Employers expect candidates to research the company and the position they applied for before the interview. While you don’t need to know everything, you need to show an understanding of:

  • What the organization does.
  • The requirements for the role you’re interviewing for.

Review the job posting you applied for to gather the information you’ll need during the interview. Research the business on social media and on their website to gain more insight into the company’s:

  • Goals.
  • Values.
  • Culture.

10. Coming unprepared with real-life examples.

Be ready to share real-life examples in your interview. Sharing real-life scenarios shows you have valuable experience that makes you a good candidate for the job you are applying for. 

The more you practice for your interview, the better you will be able to answer difficult questions. 

11. Being distracted during the interview.

Staying fully focused on the conversation during your interview is crucial. If you appear distracted, your interviewer will think you’re not interested in the position.

Engage in the conversation and show you’re interested in the role by:

  • Actively listening.
  • Taking notes.
  • Being positive.

12. Forgetting to ask questions.

It is important to remember that an interview is not just an employer's way of assessing you, but also your opportunity to assess the job and the company.

Asking thoughtful questions shows the interviewer you're genuinely interested in the role and eager to learn more about the company. It also gives you a better understanding of the:

  • Role you applied for.
  • Company culture.
  • Expectations for the job.

Plus, not asking questions may make you miss out on vital information about the job that could impact your decision to accept the job offer if extended.

What should you do after an interview?

Your job isn’t done when you finish an interview. Check out our advice on how to follow up after an interview to make a lasting impression on the hiring manager. 

About the author
Author Picture

Ashley is a Senior Campus Recruiter who started her journey at Schneider in 2015. Over the years, she has been involved in many special projects and operating plans that have helped the company's recruiting efforts. Ashley also oversees Schneider's Summer Internship Program: She enjoys working with colleges and students all over the country! Outside of work, Ashley is very busy attending her four children's sporting events and activities. She also loves biking, gardening and going on supper club dates with her husband.

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