Remember the feeling of walking out of a pop quiz, knowing full well you blew it? You donʼt want to relive that in your next interview.
The bad news? Stakes in a job interview are undoubtedly higher than they were in high school.
The good news? You can easily avoid the “oops” moments. All you need to do is spend the next 5 minutes reading this guide.
In this article, you’ll get:
- A list of the most common mistakes candidates make before, during, and after job interviews.
- Actionable tips on how to avoid job interview pitfalls and outperform your competitors.
- Advice on what to do to make sure your next interview lands you an offer.
Letʼs dodge some mines, shall we?
And if you just came here for the quick summary, here it comes —
A List of the Most Common Job Interview Mistakes
Mistakes candidates make before the interview:
- Failing to research the company.
- Ignoring the job description.
- Not preparing answers to the most standard interview questions.
- Forgetting to make a list of questions to ask the interviewer.
- Failing to provide real-life examples of your past success.
- Not getting enough rest.
Mistakes candidate make during the interview:
- Arriving late.
- Displaying negative body language.
- Dressing inappropriately.
- Badmouthing previous employers.
- Not answering the actual questions.
- Talking too much.
- Failing to engage with the interviewer.
Mistakes candidates make after the interview:
- Not sending a thank-you email or a note.
- Following up desperately or inappropriately.
- Not self-reflecting on your performance.
- Posting about the interview on social media.
To learn about each type of a job-interview mistake and, more importantly, find out how to avoid it, keep scrolling.
Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid Before the Interview
Failing to research the company
You scored that interview because your resume and cover letter made you look like a good match. Chances are, you applied because you genuinely wanted that particular job… But maybe you just sprayed your applications around and got lucky.
If you havenʼt already, now is the time to do your homework. Learn more about the company before your interview, find out what values they hold dear, what their go-to-market strategy is, and how your skills and experience align with all that.
Your next steps:
- Dig deep into the companyʼs website and social media profiles.
- Understand their mission, goals, and workflow.
- Try to familiarize yourself with their recent accomplishments or projects.
Ignoring the job description
Jobs are like puzzles and a thorough understanding of the job description ensures that you look like the missing piece (or, at least, that the hiring decision-makers will think so).
Before your interview:
- Examine the job description for specific skill sets and requirements.
- Ensure you understand the employerʼs expectations.
- Tailor your interview answers and how you talk about your skills to match whatʼs needed.
Itʼs that simple. They posted that job for a reason. It was in their best interest to describe the requirements accurately. If you meet their particular needs, this is what you should highlight.
Not preparing answers to the most standard interview questions
This is, perhaps, the most costly job interview sin you might commit.
Much like snowflakes, no two interviews are exactly the same. Then again, much like snowflakes, they share an almost identical structure. That structure is built around tried-and-tested interview questions.
Yes, there are questions you’ll be asked 90% of the time. Be ready.
Luckily, we’ve created a few handy guides that walk you through how to answer all of those job interview classics. Check them out:
- Tell me about yourself
- Why should we hire you?
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What do you consider your greatest failure?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Describe your recent position and responsibilities
- How do you handle conflict?
- What are you most proud of?
Thatʼs quite a bit of reading, true. If you want the condensed version, just give this one a go: The Most Common Job Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
- Practice your responses to get your point across succinctly.
- Donʼt just memorize responses like a robot — understand what youʼre saying and personalize each answer to the job (and company) youʼre interviewing for.
Forgetting to make a list of questions to ask the interviewer.
Asking questions at the end of the interview isnʼt optional. Itʼs a must. Skipping that part will make you look like a “generic job-grabber” who just doesnʼt care. No one wants to hire people like that. After all, you wouldnʼt go on a date and talk only about yourself, would you?
- Plan a list of thoughtful questions relevant to the role or company.
- Show that youʼre interested and have done your homework.
- Questions will help you evaluate if this job also fits your career goals.
Need a hand? Check out this beast of a guide written by Pam, our Head Career Coach: 40+ Killer Questions to Ask an Interviewer
Failing to provide real-life examples of your past success
Anecdotes and examples add personality to your answers and make you more memorable. No one enjoys a faceless folk tale!
Plus, you know how it goes – pics or didnʼt happen. In job interviews, itʼs more like, examples or it didnʼt happen.
Examples are the tangible proof behind your competencies and accomplishments. Almost no candidates get their examples right. If you do, youʼre already in that top 5% pile.
- Frame your experiences as stories to engage your interviewer.
- Prepare examples that substantiate your skills and accomplishments.
- Use these accomplishments to sell yourself in questions like “Tell me about yourself”, “Why should we hire you” and “What are your strengths”.
- Always make your examples relatable and relevant to the job youʼre applying for (so that theyʼll be more likely to believe that this job is truly special for you, and not just another opportunity).
And what if it, well, is just another opportunity?
Iʼm not going to tell you to fake it. Iʼll just leave you with this:
According to a 2007 paper by the American Psychological Association, over 90% of undergraduate job candidates fake their actual motivation during employment interviews.
Faking, though, isnʼt the same as plain lying. According to that same study, only 25% of candidates lie during job interviews — and my educated guess is that those arenʼt the most likely to score the gig.
And sure, you need a job just like everyone else does. But it will be so much easier to convey your enthusiasm and refer to real-like examples when talking about your skills if you focus on the opportunities you’re genuinely excited about.
Here’s how to “niche down” and apply for jobs with sniper precision rather than spraying resumes around like an uzi:
Not getting enough rest
Interviews are stressful and there isnʼt much you can do about it. Just try to get a good nightʼs sleep the night before the Big Interview (yes, thatʼs a link to our homepage) and donʼt wash your stress away with booze.
I didnʼt even need to write that last line, did I? I did? Okay, so now you know.
If you come fatigued, hungover, or sleep deprived, youʼll have a hard time conveying enthusiasm and that ready-to-go mindset.
- Show enthusiasm in your communications — both verbal and non-verbal.
- Carry an enthusiastic tone while speaking.
- Smile where appropriate; a genuine smile goes a long way (there are dozens of studies to prove it like this one or this one). That said, donʼt overdo it — this study, in turn, proved that candidates smiling too much during interviews for “serious” positions had their performance rated worse against those who kept a natural facial expression.
For a more detailed rundown of how to prepare for an interview step by step, see: How to Prepare for a Job Interview and Ace It
Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid During the Interview
Youʼve aced your homework, read all that us, at Big Interview, threw at you, and woke up refreshed and confident.
Sorry to break this to you —
It doesnʼt mean you made it yet. So what can spoil your chances?
Arriving late to a job interview raises a big red flag. Itʼs the equivalent of non-verbally saying, “Hey, my time is more valuable than yours.”
- Plan your route in advance, allowing extra time to deal with any unforeseen circumstances.
- Arrive 30 minutes early, but enter the building 10–15 minutes before your interview time to avoid awkwardness.
- Find a nice cafe nearby to spend that last quarter or so before entering the office. This will help you relax, gather your thoughts, and allow for that last-minute mental prep over a favorite cup.
If youʼre running late or expect to be late for whatever reason — let the interviewer know as soon as possible.
Be aware that canceling or rescheduling an interview last-minute might still hurt your chances. But showing up late with no prior notice will obliterate them.
Displaying negative body language
The signals you send without even saying a word can drown out whatever smart phrases you whip out. Donʼt let your body sabotage your brain!
- Maintain good posture.
- Use hand gestures, but donʼt overdo it. Donʼt know how much is too much? Record yourself on video or have a friend conduct a mock interview with you. They (the recording or the friend that is) will tell you if youʼre acting naturally.
- Maintain eye contact to show confidence and interest.
Our Mock Interview tool will help you perfect your answer. Having recorded your answer, you’ll get detailed feedback on its quality and delivery, after which you can reiterate and practice again.
Just like special events, every company has a dress code. Dress wisely and:
- Learn about the company culture (more casual or formal).
- Dress slightly above the everyday dress code of the company.
- When in doubt, err on the side of being slightly overdressed but still comfortable.
Iʼll tell you a story. Years ago, we were interviewing around 30 people for the same opening. At least 10 candidates stood out. They had solid relevant experience, gave thoughtful answers, and had great academic backgrounds.
And most came dressed in hoodies and sneakers. Apart from one girl who showed up in nice slacks and a collared shirt.
It instantly made us think she genuinely cared about the position, perhaps more than all the others. Was that the only reason we ended up hiring her? Of course not. But it was a major factor.
Badmouthing previous employers
Bashing an ex on a date doesnʼt exactly earn you brownie points, does it? Nor does speaking ill of your previous employer on a job interview. Sure, they might have done you wrong. But focusing solely on how you got screwed over might make you come across as difficult to work with.
- Frame your experiences in a positive or neutral light.
- Focus on the lessons you learned.
- Communicate that youʼre ready for the next opportunity.
Interviewer: Why did you leave your last job?
You: Honestly, I just couldnʼt stand it there anymore. My boss was really difficult to work with and my colleagues werenʼt too competent either. The technology we were using was outdated, and it felt like the company was falling behind. I just had to get out of that stifling environment.
Interviewer: Why did you leave your last job?
You: I have great respect for my former workplace and gained valuable experience there. But, as you can imagine, there were some challenges that made me decide to move on. There were differences in working styles and several strategic decisions that I wasnʼt in complete agreement with. I also found that the technology we were using was not in line with modern industry standards. I realized that I am seeking an opportunity where I can fully utilize my skills and work with the latest technologies.
Not answering the actual questions
Think about a spinning top. Fun to watch, but doesnʼt really go anywhere, right?
Same goes for not answering a question during an interview. No matter how elaborate your answer, if itʼs not addressing the question, itʼs going in circles.
- Listen to the question attentively.
- If unsure, ask for clarification rather than assuming you know what they mean.
- If you don’t have an example for the question they asked, think about a similar situation or an example outside of work.
- Keep answers concise and on point.
Talking too much
Iʼd take a glass of water over a flood any day! Keep the interviewer hydrated, but donʼt drown them.
- Stick to answering the question without venturing off into tangents.
- Cultivate the art of being brief yet precise.
- Read your interviewers; if theyʼre looking at their watch or giving each other subtle nudges, youʼve probably been talking too long.
Thereʼs a fine line between adding some personality to the conversation and wild oversharing. Iʼd draw this line for you but I canʼt. You need to do it yourself. And you need to do it during every single interview.
Hereʼs what science has to say about that:
A 2009 study by Posthuma and Campion found that certain personality traits, such as extraversion and conscientiousness, helped score better during interviews. However, another study by Roulin and Bangerter found that excessive self-disclosure during job interviews led to negative perceptions of the intervieweeʼs competence and professionalism.
Failing to engage with the interviewer
Job Interviews arenʼt an interrogation session. Making the interview a conversation rather than just a Q&A can make a world of difference.
To achieve this:
- Be friendly and professional.
- Encourage the interviewer to share information by asking thoughtful and well-researched questions.
- Show enthusiasm about the role and the company.
Always remember, interviews are not just about proving youʼre the best fit for the job, but also about showing youʼre someone theyʼd enjoy working with.
Job Interview Mistakes to Avoid After the Interview
Maybe you smashed that interview. Congratulations! But you know what? Somebody else probably did, too.
If you donʼt follow the post-interview etiquette, it might just tip the scales in their favor. And youʼll miss the opportunity of a lifetime because you got complacent right before the finish line.
The worst post-interview mistakes are:
Not sending a thank-you email or a note
Remember the satisfaction or warmth you felt when someone thanked you sincerely for your time or effort? It was a small act, but I bet it mattered to you a lot.
Not sending a thank you note after an interview is like leaving a party without bidding goodbye to the host. A missed chance to endear.
- Send a personalized thank you note or email within 24 hours of the interview.
- Acknowledge the time and effort the interviewer spent with you.
- If you interviewed with multiple people, send separate, personalized notes. Donʼt copy and paste the same message — theyʼll find out and youʼll come across as lazy.
Following up desperately or inappropriately
You want to be polite and kind. You donʼt want to be desperate. You definitely donʼt want to be creepy.
Persistent follow-ups are like opening a bag of chips in a quiet auditorium — they grab attention, but for all the wrong reasons. Therefore:
- Wait for the hiring team to get back to you within their stated time frame.
- If you havenʼt heard back within that period, itʼs okay to follow up with a polite and professional inquiry.
- Itʼs best to be proactive. Ask them if thereʼs anything else you might share or clarify to aid their decision-making process.
Not self-reflecting on your performance
Surprise, surprise —this wasnʼt your last-ever job interview. Even if you end up getting the job (fingers crossed!).
Interviewing is a skill, not a talent. By reflecting on what you did well and where you messed up, youʼll ensure you do even better next time.
- Take some time post-interview to evaluate your performance.
- Consider what went well and what could be improved for your future interviews.
Posting about the interview on social media
Posting about your interview on social media can be perceived as unprofessional and even a breach of the interviewerʼs trust. So:
- Keep your interview experiences off social media until you have secured the position and itʼs appropriate to share.
- Always ask for permission before sharing your working experience online, respecting the firmʼs policy on privacy and social media.
All that said, if you feel you were violated during the interview in any capacity — be that by being forced to answer illegal questions, harassed, or mistreated in any manner — contact your local U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and also report the issue directly to the companyʼs HR.
As for social media —
If you want to spread awareness and warn other candidates, no one will stop you. Yes, it means youʼre extremely unlikely to get the job. But you wouldnʼt want it anyways, right?
Job interviews can feel like tightrope walking without a safety net. But being aware of the common pitfalls and knowing how to avoid them can transform this seemingly precarious walk into a casual strut — one where youʼre not the juggling, jittery job-seeker but the confident, charismatic candidate employers would fly across the country to hire.
And remember, everyone makes mistakes. If you mess up your interview, donʼt feel like you failed. As Thomas Edison aptly put it, “I have not failed. Iʼve just found 10,000 ways that wonʼt work.”
Take these common interview mistakes, learn from them, then stride into your next interview with the confidence of a seasoned pro.
All the best with your career quest, you soon-to-be interview acer! Youʼve got this.
What if I made a bad mistake during the interview and realized it immediately? Can I correct myself?
Yes, you can and should correct yourself in case of a mistake during the interview. A graceful correction shows the interviewer your ability to acknowledge errors and communicate effectively. Donʼt dwell on the mistake, correct it succinctly and get on with the interview.
Can you mess up an interview and still get the job?
Yes, it’s possible to make a mistake during an interview and still land the job. Remember, interviewers understand that candidates are human and mistakes can happen. Whatʼs more important is how you handle the situation. Showing resilience, composure, and the ability to learn from mistakes can often impress interviewers.
What to do after a bad interview?
After a bad interview, analyze what went wrong and learn from your mistakes. Send a thank-you note to the interviewer acknowledging your shortcomings and showcasing your commitment to performing better. Use this experience as a learning opportunity to improve your future interviews.
Which job interview mistake is the worst of them all?
The worst job interview mistake is lying or exaggerating your qualifications or experience. Honesty is crucial in an interview setting. Lies can easily be uncovered during background checks, which can lead to immediate disqualification.
What are the signs that my interview went badly?
Signs your interview didnʼt go well may include: the interview was shorter than planned, there was limited conversation about your role or the companyʼs future, the interviewer seemed disinterested or distracted, there were no discussions about next steps, or you were unable to answer questions effectively.
Should I apologize for a bad interview?
Yes, acknowledging your performance by sending a polite, professional follow-up email can demonstrate humility and resilience. However, donʼt dwell on it. Simply acknowledge the issue, express your commitment to improve, and showcase your continued interest in the role.
How long after an interview should I assume I’m not getting the job?
Generally, if you havenʼt heard anything within two weeks, you may assume you didnʼt get the job. However, itʼs acceptable to send a follow-up email after one week to inquire about the process.
Is it rude to ask how the interview went?
Itʼs not considered rude to ask for feedback at the end of an interview. However, ensure you ask politely and show willingness to learn and improve, without demanding an immediate evaluation.