Blog

7 Blunders To Avoid In A Job Interview

By Gerald Walsh ©

Employers want to hire people with well-developed skills and whom they feel will be a good fit for their organization. But sometimes even the most qualified candidates commit blunders in the interview that rule them out immediately from further consideration. Here are seven big ones you want to avoid.

1. Arriving late

Arriving late shows bad time management and lack of respect for the interviewer and the company. Your best strategy is to scout the location a few days before so you know exactly where it is and how long it will take you to get there. Plan to arrive outside the building about thirty minutes before your interview time to unwind, straighten your tie, or fix your hair. You can go into the building about ten to fifteen minutes before your actual interview time. If you go in any earlier, it conveys that you have nothing better to do.

2. Offering a feeble handshake

A feeble handshake will start you off on the wrong foot (pun intended). It will indicate you lack confidence and authority. Alternatively, a strong handshake coupled with a friendly greeting is the best way to make a good first impression. Remember the rules:

Stand up to greet the person;

Make sure your palm is dry and cool;

Make eye contact and maintain it throughout the greeting;

State an appropriate greeting, such as “Nice to meet you, _____”;

Smile comfortably;

Give a firm, confident squeeze (but not too tight);

Hold the handshake for two to three seconds; and

Don’t give a two-handed handshake EVER (it comes across as insincere).

3. Sprawling or slouching in the chair

Maintain good posture by sitting upright and leaning forward slightly. This will command respect and promotes open dialogue with the interviewer. If the interviewer offers you a choice of seating, always opt for the more upright chair if there is one. Big, soft, comfy chairs are great for watching TV, but they’re risky in an interview setting. That’s because they can be awkward to get out of, particularly if you’re wearing a dress or skirt.

4. Dressing inappropriately

If you overdress, you risk conveying that you are somehow superior, which will immediately disconnect you from the interviewer. Likewise, if you underdress by wearing jeans, t-shirt and sandals in a corporate setting, you give off a message of disrespect like, “I am going to dress anyway I want; I don’t care what you think.” Neither work. Simply match your dress to your audience as closely as you can. And, by the way, it’s okay to ask the person who calls you to book the interview, “How should I dress for the interview?” If nothing else, it shows you care.

5. Not pacing yourself

We speak faster when we’re nervous. So be conscious of your speed of speech and deliver what you have to say in a controlled and deliberate manner. The pace may seem sluggish to you but it will come across perfectly. And, if offered something to drink, like coffee, tea, juice or water, always accept water, even if you’re not thirsty. When we’re tense, our mouths tend to dry out so a good glass of water will keep the pipes lubricated. Avoid coffee, tea and juice because the consequences of spilling your drink are more severe than if you spilled water.         

6. Avoiding eye contact

You don’t want to make it seem like you have something to hide or that you lack confidence or interest. When the interviewer is speaking to you, maintain 100% eye contact to show you are actively listening. In doing so, you will convey confidence and strength. Also, nodding your head moderately to indicate agreement or saying, “uh huh” or “yes” periodically, will further impress the interviewer that you are listening and understand what they are saying.

7. Excessive fidgeting and exaggerated gestures

If you’re not sure what to do with your hands, rest them loosely in your lap or on the table. Most of us tend to gesture with our hands when we speak and you should feel comfortable doing this to emphasize your points, although these gestures should be controlled. Likewise, try to avoid folding your arms across your chest, which could be perceived as defensive or close-minded, and touching your face or your hair, which could be interpreted as nervousness or anxiety.

Question: How might you use body language and other non-verbal behaviour to strengthen your chances in an interview?

To share your thoughts on this blog post, please write me at walsh@geraldwalsh.com


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and writer. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn