job interview fails

A job interview is your best opportunity to impress your potential employer—and it’s when you’ll make or break your chances of being hired. While a lot of advice tells you what to do in an interview we’re asking what are some definite “dont’s” of the job interview process? While there are certainly a lot of obvious answers to these questions, others are sometimes overlooked. Even some of the most qualified professionals have fallen victim to these mistakes at some point in their careers.

1. Wrong outfit

There’s an old saying in the business world: “Dress for the job you want.”

Take this rule a step further during the interview. Dress for a job one or more steps above the one for which you are interviewing. Wearing a mini skirt or a t-shirt at a job interview shows a lack of professionalism.

Think about the dress code for the position. As noted in a recent article in Business Insider, there are generally five levels of business attire, here are the top 3 for interviews below:

interview dress code

If the job calls for business casual attire, dress in executive casual for the interview. This includes a blazer, slacks, and professional shoes such as closed-toe pumps or laceless leather loafers. If the job is business attire, go “Boardroom” and make it extra with nice cufflinks, a solid tie and super shined shoes.

2. Using your phone

Keep your smartphone in your purse, pocket, or briefcase, and don’t take it out for any reason. Don’t forget to turn it off, as sound or vibration can distract you and the hiring manager.

It’s rude and unprofessional to take it out and look at it during downtime between questions. Even having your phone in your hand or on the table is a sign that something on the phone is more important than the job you are interviewing for.

Consider a job interview a no-phone zone from the moment you walk through the front door of the business to the moment you leave. (Yeah, that includes the waiting period)

There is one single exception to this rule and it applies more to laptops and tablets than phones. Having your portfolio presented on a tablet or laptop is absolutely acceptable, especially in the tech space.

3. Not finding your balance

Sometimes, it isn’t what you say but how much you say that makes the biggest impression. Answers to questions should make a point right away, no BS.

Efficiency is a good quality, and a potential employee who spends five minutes answering a simple question is anything but efficient.

Stick to the three sentence rule: Unless the question involves explaining a detailed process, any answer longer than three sentences is probably too long.

This rule also applies to anyone prone to giving answers that are too short. If an interviewer asks someone to describe themselves, or to give an example of a time they went above and beyond, they don’t want to hear a short answer. Just be sure to answer the question.

4. Bad mouthing others

It doesn’t matter what happened to you at a previous job. Your hiring manager only cares about your experience and how you’ll fit with their team. Your story of terror involving your last boss has no place at a job interview, it makes you seem like a drama magnet.

Instead, focus on your career progression and desire to do something meaningful aka something you believe this employer is better suited to providing.

If you didn’t voluntarily leave your previous job, you still don’t need to bring up specifics. Taking ownership of your history, good or bad, shows character – so while you should never volunteer the fact you were fired, you should also never lie about it. Hiring managers know that people lose their jobs for any number of reasons.

5. Not asking questions

At the end of an interview, you have the opportunity to ask questions of the hiring manager. Having too many questions can be annoying and a waste of the interviewee’s time, but having no questions at all makes you come off as uninterested in the job.

Asking thoughtful questions is a great way to end the interview on a positive note and give you a better idea of whether or not you’d actually succeed in the position. Here are some sample questions:

  • What would be the biggest challenge facing the person who fills this role?
  • How is success measured for this role?
  • Why do you enjoy working here?
  • Can you describe the company culture?


Avoiding all of these job interview mistakes is a big part of a successful interview that will ultimately win you the job.


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