Biggest Interview Pitfalls (and How to Avoid Them)

Do you go on lots of job interviews but never get the job?

While it';s normal to be passed over for someone more experienced, qualified, or well connected, if you find yourself regularly getting past the resume; stage but never getting beyond the interview, it's time to consider whether your interview skills might be making the wrong impression. Most bad interviews (and interviewees) share a few characteristics. If you want to give a great interview that leaves potential bosses wanting to hire you, watch out for these common pitfalls.

Ignoring your internet presence

I don't just mean Facebook accounts and scandalous photos taken with phones. Make sure you aren't using your full name in internet forums either -- or using screen names that are tied to your full name -- unless you want everyone who searches for you online to have access to your political leanings, religious views, and potentially controversial personal opinions. While you have a right to your own views, if someone else disagrees with them, they can stand in the way of getting the job you want -- even before the interview happens.

Not realizing when the interview begins

Everything is part of the interview. Assume that everyone you meet will give their opinion on you, including the receptionist and even the building security guard. Be polite to them. Don't take private phone calls in front of them or divulge secrets to them. Treat them as you would any other interviewer.

Lacking enthusiasm

You should smile a lot at job interviews. You should smile more than tends to seem reasonable in day-to-day life -- it will make you appear friendly. Give a firm handshake, sit up straight, and be alert. If you work too hard at keeping down interview jitters, you might come off as bored and uninterested. Instead, tell yourself you're excited about this interview and this job, and instead of nervous you'll appear up-beat and energetic.

Talking too much

Keep all your answers short and sweet. Whether your interviewer has said, "Tell me about yourself," or asked why you left your last job, your answers should rarely be more than a couple of sentences long. Your interviewer will ask for more information when she wants it. The more you talk, the more opportunities you have to say something that will convince your interviewer you aren't the best fit for the job. When you speak less, most interviewers tend to fill in the blanks, lead you to the answers they want, and convince themselves of why you will be perfect. Let them.

Forgetting why you're there

Yes, you remember that it's a job interview. You are polite and remain professional. But do you remember exactly what job you're interviewing for? You should be tying all your answers about your past experience to this new job and explaining why you'd be great at THIS new job. Make sure to show enthusiasm for aspects of THIS NEW JOB and what it entails. Then take anything an interviewer tells you about the job and use it in your answers. You'll probably meet with multiple people, and the more you know about the job, the better prepared you'll appear to be.

Not being prepared

There is no excuse for seeming clueless at an interview. There are a few standard questions you'll hear almost every time.

Come up with answers to:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

and practice them in advance of your interview.

If you need ideas for how to answer these common questions, check out my blog. Always remember to hold a practice interview with a friend for at least a few minutes in the days leading up to each interview.

Carissa Doshi is a business writer and the president of Gen Y Media Group. She gives career advice and blogs about her experiences on You can also follow @CarissaDoshi on Twitter.

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