Job Interview Mistakes: The Seven Deadly Sins
March 2, 2016
What not to do during a job interview.

What not to do during a job interview.

Nobody’s perfect. Everyone flubs a job interview now and then. Maybe you stammer a bit getting some information out there. Maybe a question flusters you a bit. Most of that is small stuff. As long as you’re honest, genuinely qualified for the job, and you aren’t committing one of these seven job interview mistakes, you’re probably in pretty good shape!

The Seven Biggest Job Interview Mistakes

1.) Relying too much on the interview itself. Yes, sometimes you have to. If you’re job hunting by responding to postings rather than pursuing opportunities via your consistent networking efforts, then of course you have to ace the interview – because you’re likely competing against a whole bunch of other people. But consider this: Lots of jobs get filled without ever being advertised. Or if they are, they’re only advertised so the company has a record of having advertised it (to defend themselves against discrimination claims) when they’ve actually had someone in mind all along.

Your goal is to leverage your network and professional connections to ensure you have the job all but wrapped up before you (or anyone) even get to a formal interview.

2.) Failing to research the company. If there’s a cardinal sin in going on job interviews, it’s showing up not having bothered to research the company. With the Internet, there’s no excuse for it anymore. The day before the interview, take some time to go through the company’s web site. Not just the “careers” page. Go to the pages customers see.

Also, google the name of the company and the word “reviews.” You’ll see what the company does well, and you’ll also see some things the company is struggling with.

Look up the company on the Better Business Bureau, Yelp,, Facebook and Twitter. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be for those oddball interviews questions. Most of them don’t have a right or wrong answer. The real ‘wrong answer’ is not having bothered to prepare yourself for the interview.

3.) Being rude to the receptionist. Or being rude to anybody, really. In today’s economy, employers can usually get a number of people with appropriate skill sets to at least apply. Companies are increasingly hiring on the basis of a cultural fit – and people who are rude to the receptionist are not a good fit in any corporate culture. Jana Eggers, CEO of Nara Logics, told a New York Times interviewer that after an interview, she’ll ask the receptionist for feedback on the applicant.

One Schwab executive actually screens for politeness and courtesy: He invites the applicant out to breakfast at an area diner. Unbeknownst to the applicant, the interviewer has already arranged with the servers to make a mistake to the order. He then watches what happens – and applies the well-known ‘waiter rule:’ the theory that anybody who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.

4.) Claiming your greatest weakness is “perfectionism” or your “strong work ethic.”  They’ve heard that cheap ploy many times before. Here’s a better answer: “I realized a while back that my computer skill set wasn’t what it needed to be in this industry. So I enrolled in these courses, on my own time, which are still in progress.”

5.) Failing to shut off your cell phone. The interviewer probably told the receptionist to hold all calls while you were in the office. You should have the same courtesy. Regular churchgoers might have an advantage here: They’re used to shutting off their phones for an hour every Sunday (Saturday for our Jewish, Muslim, 7th Day Adventist and Jehovah’s Witness readers, of course!)

Even if the phone doesn’t go off during the interview, you’ll get some courtesy points for quickly shutting the phone off when you go into the interview.

6.) Failing to answer the most important question. This is the biggest job interview mistake of all: Whether they ask the question directly or not, every interviewer has it in the back of his or her mind: “Why should I hire you?” Everything you do or say during the job interview process has to work toward slam-dunking this single critical question. So work out this answer first, before the interview. Practice your 30-second ‘elevator speech’ on this one answer. Craft your resume and all correspondence to support it that answer. It will be time well spent.

7.) Failure to send a “thank you” note. Depending on the industry, it takes anywhere from 7 to 29 “touches,” or “brand impressions” to make a sale. Anyone in marketing is going to vouch for the importance of “top of mind awareness.” It’s why companies advertise on busses! The more the brand message can reach you, the more likely it is you will choose that brand over competitors. Advertisers know this, and that’s why they spend billions.

You don’t have to spend that much. You can get two terrific, overwhelmingly positive “touches,” at the perfect time, for the cost of a first class stamp.

All you have to do is send a quick “thank you” email to your interviewer, and to anyone who helped get you that interview. Do it that day, as soon as you get back to your laptop.

Then send a hand-written “thank you” card that night, in a hand-written envelope.

Don’t try to pitch yourself again. You don’t have to. This isn’t all about selling yourself. This is all about thanking the other individual for his or her time. Drop your business card in the envelope, include your contact information on the letter itself if they want more information, and you’re done.

That alone is going to set you head and shoulders above 90 percent of all other applicants.

You’re selling yourself by not selling yourself, at this point. Get it?