How Not to Get the Job: 5 Common Interview Mistakes

Interview mistakes - photo from Shutterstock

Almost everyone has flubbed a job interview at some point – arriving late, stumbling over an answer, tripping over a rug, and so on. Candidates have little control over certain blunders, yet others are preventable.

A survey by The Creative Group found that the most common interview mistakes are not the result of circumstances or bad luck but stem from thoughtlessness and poor etiquette. Here are five faux pas to watch for and how to avoid making them.

1. Paying attention to your phone.

Nothing should take your attention away from the hiring manager. When you check messages or answer a call during the job interview, you’re sending a not-so-subtle signal that you aren’t serious about the position. This is the top deal breaker, according to 77 percent of creative managers surveyed.

What to do instead: Turn off the phone and put it away before the interview starts. Even silencing it may not be enough. If the phone vibrates and you respond to it, you could lose your train of thought or, worse, alienate the hiring manager.

2. Being late – and not apologizing.

Many interviewers realize that sometimes there’s not much you can do about running behind. However, there’s no excuse for being casual about it. Seven in 10 respondents said they would immediately discount interviewees who don’t at least acknowledge their late arrival.

What to do instead: Play it safe and build in extra travel time. If your interview is half an hour away, leave the house 45 minutes to an hour before it starts. Keep the hiring manager’s phone number handy so that if the train is delayed or you get stuck in traffic, you’ll be able to get in touch. If you don’t arrive on time, briefly explain the reason and sincerely apologize.

3. Not having your stuff together.

You’ve researched the potential employer, practiced responses to tough interview questions and googled the directions. But before you head out the door, double-check the interviewer’s instructions. Creative managers responding to the survey were equally annoyed by candidates who don’t have everything they were asked to bring as by those who aren’t concerned about arriving late.

What to do instead: In addition to the usual preparation, reread the email inviting you for an in-person meeting. If you’re asked to bring a physical portfolio or list of references, have them ready and by the door. You also should bring several hard copies of your current resume.

4. Looking unprofessional.

While some creative agencies have casual dress codes, a job interview is not the place to flaunt your laid-back look. On the other hand, there’s a risk of looking too stuffy and not fitting in with the company culture.

What to do instead: Aim for a balance of professional and personal style. Do a little research to see what most employees wear by exploring the company’s website or asking people in your network; then pick an outfit that’s a touch more formal. Above all, choose attire that makes you feel confident and comfortable.

5. Badmouthing ex-bosses.

You may have worked for some real jerks, but 62 percent of survey respondents said speaking poorly of a former employer or job is an immediate turnoff. During an interview, one of your goals is to demonstrate your soft skills, such as the ability to collaborate and get along with a wide range of personalities. Besides, in the close-knit creative world, the hiring manager may like and respect the person you just dissed.

What to do instead: Watch everything you say, especially when the interviewer asks why you left a previous position. It’s best to not go into ugly details, but rather to speak in general terms about how the company was going in a different direction or you were looking for a new challenge.

In today’s competitive environment for creative jobs, one wrong move can knock you out of the running. To increase your odds of advancing to the next step of the search process, know what interview mistakes are deal breakers for hiring managers – and do your best to avoid them.

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