Make sure you steer clear of these common job interview mistakes.

Not many people walk into a job interview feeling totally confident. In fact, most of us just want to dodge any sort of major disaster and not completely embarrass ourselves. What could be worse than passing out? Or falling on your face? Or accidentally turning on your Spotify and hearing Taylor Swift blaring from your phone? 

But the truth is, the most common job interview mistakes aren't as dramatic as you might imagine. Many of them are actually fairly common — and absolutely avoidable. In fact, TopResume recently surveyed over 300 U.S. employers about common job interview deal-breakers. On a scale of one to five, employers ranked these mistakes from “not serious at all” to “extremely serious.”

“Our recent survey reveals that job seekers are sabotaging their own candidacy through rookie, deal-breaking interview mistakes, all of which can be easily avoided through thoughtful preparation,” says Amanda Augustine, TopResume career expert and certified professional career coach.

Below, you'll find some of these high-offense job interview mistakes, plus simple tips on how to avoid them.

1. Being unprepared

On a scale of one to five, employers ranked “being unprepared” a 4.3 offense. Thorough preparation is the foundation of any successful job interview. In fact, Augustine reminds candidates: “If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail.”

How to avoid this mistake: Give yourself ample time to prepare for the job interview. You'll want to spend time researching the company and its mission, executives, recent news releases, and even competitors. Use this pre-interview research checklist to guide your process. Then, spend plenty of time practicing answering common interview questions by yourself, with a friend, or even with an interview coach.

Working with an interview coach one on one will help make sure you're prepared. A good coach will ask you questions and give you feedback on your answers so you can walk into the real interview feeling totally prepared and confident.

2. Asking inappropriate questions

Using the scale, employers ranked “asking inappropriate questions” a 4.0 offense. It's extremely important to write down questions to ask during your job interview — and, of course, you'll want to make sure these questions are appropriate.

How to avoid this mistake: Prepare questions before you walk into the interview. You don't want to buckle under pressure and blurt out something totally irrelevant or inappropriate. Instead, you'll want to ask questions that:

  • Help you determine if the employer and position are a good fit for you

  • Showcase your interest in the job

  • Figure out if the interviewer has any reservations about you

Use this list of the five best questions to ask an interviewer as a starting point or work with an interview coach to craft a list of questions before you walk into your interview. 

3. Displaying negative body language or low energy

On the survey scale, employers also ranked “displaying negative body language or low energy” as a 4.0 offense. When it comes to interviewing, your nonverbal communication is often just as important as your verbal communication. You can come off as totally disinterested or insecure by slouching, crossing your arms, or fidgeting.

How to avoid this mistake: When practicing for your job interview, keep your body language top of mind. This includes monitoring your eye contact, head nods, facial expressions, posture, and hand movement by watching yourself in the mirror or recording yourself. 

Sometimes this can be difficult to do by yourself; instead, seek advice from an interview coach. They can give you feedback on your body language and might even call out some nervous habits you do subconsciously.

4. Coming across as arrogant or overconfident

On the scale of one to five, employers ranked “coming off as arrogant or overconfident” as a 3.9 offense. Yes, you want to walk into your job interview feeling confident — but being overly confident can come off as cocky. It's important to strike the right balance.

How to avoid this mistake: This might sound surprising, but sometimes your interview nerves can cause you to overcompensate and project arrogance. To overcome this, channel your nervous energy into a pre-interview morning routine — working out, meditating, or belting out your favorite hype songs. 

Then, during the interview, focus on “showing” instead of “telling.” Rather than rattle off your strengths, use evidence and examples during your interview to showcase your skills.

5. Appearing desperate or overeager

Employers ranked “appearing desperate or overeager” as a 3.3 offense. Showing interest is important, but you don't want to come off as too eager to please or desperate; this could set off alarm bells for interviewers.

How to avoid this mistake: To avoid looking like you're trying too hard in an interview, don't arrive too early (more than 30 minutes), don't compliment the interviewer's physical appearance or clothes (that's inappropriate anyway), don't oversell yourself, and don't excessively follow up after your interview.

6. Failing to follow up after the interview

On the flip side of excessively following up, employers ranked “failing to follow up after the interview” a 2.9 offense. Although this was considered one of the least offensive interview mistakes, 51 percent of those surveyed said receiving a thank-you email or note after an interview does impact their decision. That said, only six percent said they'd totally dismiss a candidate for not sending one.

How to avoid this mistake: Sending a thank-you note will never hurt your chances of securing a job. You don't have to write anything extravagant, but sending a sincere thank-you note that emphasizes your interest and enthusiasm in the position can only help. If you're experiencing a writer's block, this is also something you can discuss with an interview coach.

Want to make sure you avoid these common interview mistakes? Put all these skills to the test in a mock interview. A professional interview coach can help you identify any mistakes you're making so you can ace your next job interview.

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