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Interview mistakes to avoid at all costs

You’ve landed a precious interview and want to nail it. You’re a bit nervous. After all, interviews are ‘make-it-or-break-it’ situations and can be tense.

The key is to avoid obvious blunders, which takes effort. Obviously, you need to be prepared with careful research on the organisation and position, as well as questions you may be asked.

But beyond that, what other ‘oops moments’ should you avoid?

This expert article explores interview mistakes. Following this checklist will help you shine in front of the interview panel.

Dressing inappropriately

Overdressing isn’t wise, but neither is underdressing. Make that first impression with attire that’s appropriate for the role. If you’re going for an executive position, look the part. If you’re going for a creative role, look professional but feel free to add some creative style. If you’re going for a blue-collar job, why not smart casual?

Personal hygiene

To make the best first impression, be well-groomed with well-ironed clothes, groomed hair and clean shoes. It likely wise to avoid heavy cologne or perfume in case an interviewer is sensitive to strong smells.

Arriving late

Being late isn’t going to sit well. Plan and give yourself plenty of leeway. Map your route in advance and calculate travel times. Know where to park if driving. If your interview is online, set up and test your technology beforehand so you’re ready to go.

Never be a no-show

If you change your mind or if something urgent and out of your control pops up—meaning you can’t attend the interview—let your recruiter or hiring manager know asap. Don’t waste any interviewer’s precious time. If you’ve faced a true emergency, your interviewers will understand.

Enthusiasm levels

If you’re not enthusiastic about yourself, why should interviewers be enthusiastic about you? If you look bored, you’ll be seen as boring. On the other hand, if you’re overly enthusiastic, you may be seen as a high-maintenance. Be alert, attentive and balanced.

Personal versus professional

Be friendly and show strong interpersonal skills during your interview but being too relaxed or funny can be seen as crossing a line. This is not a social event … it’s a formal interview.

Don’t be fooled when interviewers say the interview is ‘more of a casual chat’. Even though their approach may be casual you’re still being assessed.

Tone and language

Be positive. Avoid slang. Never swear. Be respectful with your language, no matter what role or level. Avoid all offensive language and gestures. Keep matters formal and professional as a sign of respect. Even if your interviewer uses inappropriate language, you should refrain.

Talking about yourself

Interviews are about sourcing more information from you, about you. But brag-factor language won’t impress. Be proud of your accomplishments and use facts and examples to demonstrate your skills and experience. Don’t, however, use language that makes you look ego-centric or arrogant.


Avoid bad-mouthing any employer, any team member, the government, or anything else for that matter. Interviews aren’t soap boxes. And they’re not invitations to complain or criticise, no matter how justified you think you are with your views.

Body language

Imagine what an interviewer must think when faced with an interviewee slumped in their chair, or leaning back on the back legs of their chair? Or an interviewee who is fidgeting, chewing gum, chewing nails or constantly tapping their fingers or feet? Sure, nerves are at play during interviews but be cautious. Take the lead from those interviewing you. Chances are they’re sitting upright and relatively still in their chairs with their hands folded neatly in front of them.

Mobile phone

Ensure your phone is on silent, not even on vibrate. Place it out of sight so you’re not distracted and send the message that your connections outside the interview are more important than your connections inside the interview.

Show interest with questions

You will normally be asked at the end of the interview if you have questions. This strategy is designed to end the interview favourably. So prepare a few questions in advance and—when the opportunity arises—ask them in a considered way. This will show you’re genuinely interested in the role, the company and the team you might be working for.

Learn more

How to minimise interview nerves

22 top interview questions and sample answers

The thinking behind an important interview question

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