The 4 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing for an Interview

by Pranav Ramesh
November 02, 2020
Interview preparation: common mistakes to avoid

Is it always the interviewee’s fault if an interview goes bad? Of course not. The interviewer may be having a bad day, additional stress could be piling up, they may have just finished a bad interview and are expecting the same, and so on.

When it is the fault of the interviewee, though, it’s usually because the candidate made one of the 4 most common interview mistakes listed below. When you know the things not to do during an interview, you’re freed to focus on those that you must do to get the job of your dreams.

What not to do in an interview:

  • Don’t be unprepared
  • Don’t present yourself poorly
  • Don’t forget that the interview is a two-way street
  • Don’t forget to close strong

1. Don’t be unprepared

No one knows more about you than you. This can make it easy to think you don’t need to study or practice, but a failure to plan is nothing more than a plan to fail. Being prepared shows you’re not only eager for the job but confident in your abilities.

Know your work experience (not just your resume) from top to bottom. For each position listed, you should be able to specifically describe what you individually added to the team and what the results were.

Research the job and company beforehand. You should know exactly what they do and how your specific job would help them do it better. Look for any recent press releases or positive news stories about the company you can congratulate them on or bring up during the interview.

You never know how long an interview will take. Many employers will forewarn you if it’s going to be over an hour, but not always. Make yourself available for as long as the interviewer needs you. If need be, ask the interview scheduler how long they typically take so you can set aside all the time they need.

2. Don’t present yourself poorly

One of the most common interview mistakes candidates often make is forgetting to think about how they look in the eyes of the interviewer. 33% of bosses know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire someone. What kind of first impression are you making? Take a step back, think about how you would come across to a hiring manager, and ask yourself the question, “If my bank account were on the line… would I hire me?” If the answer isn’t a confident yes, it’s time to reassess.

Grooming and attire should be a no-brainer but it’s important to mention anyway. Treat your interview like a first date and prepare yourself accordingly. You are, after all, trying to build a relationship. Make sure you’ve dressed appropriately for the company culture you’re interviewing for. Dress at least as formally, if not a little bit more, than you expect they will be dressed. If you’re unsure about the dress code, ask the person who schedules your interview. When in doubt, more professional is always a safer bet than less.

Appearance is critically important, even in today’s Zoom interviewing environment, but there’s more to presentation than just aesthetics. Ensure your technical hardware and software is ready a few days before the interview. Arrive, in person or virtually, to the interview 10 minutes early. Make eye contact with the camera, not the screen. Remember to mind your body language by sitting up straight and smiling. Behind a screen, body language is even harder to read, so ignoring it is one of the biggest things not to do during the interview.

Looking for more ways to present yourself well?

Check out the 10 Tips for Cracking the Interview


3. Don’t forget that the interview is a two-way street

90% of employers say they would disqualify a candidate just for touching their phones. They expect a compelling conversation and the only way to accomplish that is with your undivided attention. Though most of the discussion will be one way, the interviewer asking you questions, failing to engage and actually hold a conversation is one of the most common interview mistakes.

Be sure to have some questions thought out long before the interview starts. Having no questions ready tells a possible employer that you’re not interested, or at least not eager. Don’t try to think of questions on the fly as that will take your focus off the main subject, yourself, and could sound disorganized and not well thought out.

Every question that you ask tells the interviewer a little bit about you as well. What you ask about shows what you’re interested in, so be curious about things other than just benefits, pay raises, promotions, and personal time off. Instead, opt for questions that show your interest in the job and the company.

  • What does an average day look like for someone in your position?
  • What does the company culture look for in a new team member?
  • What values does the company feel are most important?

These types of questions not only help you interview the company, but they show your focus and intent is aimed in the right direction.

4. Don’t forget to close strong

First impressions are important, but leaving a bad or forgettable last impression is one of the most common mistakes interviewers make. Failing to ask for the job, and leaving yourself forgettable, is the number one most common mistake. Plan a few different ways that you can leave the interviewer with a positive, memorable perception of what just occurred.

Most interviews end with the interviewer asking you if you have any questions. As described above, be sure that you do, and be sure that they’re designed to paint you in a positive light. Choose the question that you feel is most likely to leave them with a positive impression and save that one for last. For example…

“My last question is, if I were to be hired today, how would you know in six months that you made the best choice?” This forces the interviewer to talk about their ideal candidate while you’re the one sitting in front of them.

Another common way to end an interview is to ask, “Is there anything else we should know about you?”. This is a perfect opportunity for you to leave a lasting impression. Think about one of your greatest success, ideally in your career, and point out how what you did or learned would help the current company accomplish its goals.

You may have spoken about it earlier, but this is a great time to remind them not only how you succeeded before, but how you will do it again for them. Whatever you do, leave them with a strong, positive impression before you leave.


Knowing what not to do during the interview can be as important as doing all the right things. These common interview mistakes can prevent even the best-qualified candidate from being hired. Be prepared, present yourself well, treat it like a conversation, and close strong, and you’ll be on your way to your dream job in no time.


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