6 of the Most Horrifying Job Interview Mistakes

Interviews can go poorly for a variety of reasons—you just don’t click with the hiring manager, you don’t have the right experience, or maybe the position just doesn’t match up with what you were expecting from the role. But other times, interviews go poorly due to mistakes that can easily be avoided. So what interview mistakes do we commonly see that often have us put candidates in the “no” pile? Check out the 6 most horrifying interview mistakes below.

1.   You show up late.

The situation: You’re driving to your first interview with the company of your dreams, but you’re already 10 minutes late because traffic was worse than you planned. When you finally find the correct building, it’s impossible to find a place to park. At 25 minutes late, you walk up to the offices and realize you’re at the wrong location because you didn’t look up the address in advance. Our analysis and advice: Sometimes things just happen; maybe there’s an accident on the freeway or you have a family emergency that’s keeping you from showing up on time. But often times, showing up late to an interview is the unfortunate result of poor planning. Don’t start off your interview on the wrong foot—showing up late to job interview often sets a low expectation at the very beginning. Try your best to avoid it by planning ahead. Map the route ahead of time and scope out the location in advance. No available parking? Consider taking a ride share, like Lyft or Uber. And if you’re still running late give the hiring manager a call. They might be okay with it, or want to reschedule, but the worst thing you can do is show up 15 minutes late with no notice at all.

2.   You don’t know the job description or the company.

The situation: You lined up your first face-to-face interview to meet with the hiring team in-person at their headquarters. After you arrive and get settled in, the first question the hiring team asks is “what do you know about the role?” You know you read the description before you applied… three weeks ago. Your memory is failing you, so you respond with “I don’t know much, can you tell me more about it?” Our analysis and advice: Nothing is more horrifying than showing up to the job interview unprepared. For lack of a better phrase, we’ve seen some of our top job candidates ‘play dumb’ in an interview when asked about the role. Don’t do this! Instead, read the position in detail, look up the company (and employees) on LinkedIn, and come to the table with specific questions for the hiring team that highlight your knowledge about the role. Your interviewer wants to see that you’ve done the research beforehand and are familiar with what kind of work they do, their organizational structure, and any current events associated with them.

3.   You fumble your way through unexpected questions.

The situation: You read the job description thoroughly and know you're a perfect fit for the role, but maybe you haven't worked with a required software program (let’s say Software XYZ) in quite some time. You want to catch the hiring manager's attention to get an interview, so you add Software XYZ to few other places in your resume to emphasize your experience. Once you land the face to face meeting with the hiring team, the first question they ask is, "Tell us about your experience using Software ABC..." Wait a minute, that’s not the software mentioned in the job description, but it was on your resume. Now what? Our analysis and advice: Always be ready to speak to ANYTHING listed on your resume regardless if it's included in the job description. There are many reasons people sometimes fumble through speaking to what is on their resume. Perhaps they can’t remember what version of their resume they sent, or they are hyper-focused on matching every keyword in the job description. Remember that everything you put on your resume is fair game for the hiring team so you can expect to be asked specific questions. Always come prepared to be open and honest about your career and skills your resume represents.

4.   You speak negatively about past managers, coworkers, or companies.

The situation: You’re mid-interview with your ideal employer. They ask, “why did you leave your previous role?” You know exactly why you left: you quit on a whim after you got in an altercation with your boss, so you decide to respond with what you believe to be an honest answer: “I didn’t get along with my boss. He was horrible and didn’t know what he was doing. The overall work culture was toxic so I had to get out of there.” The hiring manager falls silent. Our analysis and advice: When a hiring manager asks you why you’re leaving your current company, it’s not an opportunity for you to speak poorly about your experience there, about other co-workers or managers. Negative comments that point fingers at old colleagues and employers often backfire and can make you look unprofessional, which causes you to lose a lot of credibility in the eyes of a hiring manager. There are plenty of good reasons to leave a company—like feeling underutilized, looking for career growth, or because of big, chaotic organizational shifts (like the company was bought, big executives left, your original manager was replaced, etc) that transformed the company culture in a way that just doesn’t suit you anymore. Keep your response to questions like this professional and positive.

5.   You focus too much on your inexperience in a way that maximizes your weaknesses.

The situation: You’re finally starting to get into the flow of the interview and you’re feeling good about the conversation thus far. Then suddenly, the hiring manager hits you with a question you don’t know how to answer: “We’re really looking for someone who has experience with Scrum. What’s your current level of understanding of working in this type of agile practice?” You freeze—you have no experience working in the Scrum framework! Our analysis and advice: Your experience and skillset is not always going to be a perfect match to what’s listed in the job description. Hiring managers know that. Understand that their team is trying to run a successful company. Often times, hiring managers are looking to hire a person that can be nimble, adapt to the ebbs and flows of business, and has an interest in growing and learning—not just an employee who is only capable of working with one narrow focus. Instead of calling attention to what you can’t do, bring your enthusiasm and a willingness to learn to the table by being detailed about what areas you want to gain new experience in and why. Share specific examples in your work experience where you faced ambiguity or solved a problem by learning a new skill. Let them know you’re able to adapt and are interested in learning what it takes to be a top employee at their company.

6.   You don’t ask questions.

The situation: You’ve made it through the interview and nailed all of the tough questions. As your interview comes to a close, the hiring manager asks, “so, do you have any questions for me?” You haven’t prepped any questions in advance, so your mind goes blank. Our analysis and advice: Asking solid questions to the hiring team is a good indicator that you’ve researched their company and considered what a career on their team would look like. Don’t be afraid to ask in-depth questions about the role or dig for more information about detailed parts of the job description that are confusing, especially if it’s overly generic. Some great questions to ask your interviewer include:
    •    Why is this position open?
    •    What are the typical tasks on my first week of work? My first month? My first 90 days?
    •    How have previous employees exceled in this role? What does it take to be successful?
    •    How have previous employees failed? What are the pitfalls in this position?
When it comes to the job hunt, partnering with a recruiter (like VanderHouwen) can help you prepare for your interview to avoid these six unforgivable mishaps. Recruiters have expert knowledge about the position, from what to wear and where to park, to the specific, not-for-publication skills that move candidates to the top of the interview list.

Are these interview mistakes hitting too close to home? Get in touch with a VanderHouwen recruiter to help you knock your next interview out of the park.