What Not to Do in a Job Interview: Four Mistakes That Will Keep You from Getting Hired

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Job interview mistakes

What Not to Do in a Job Interview: Four Mistakes That Will Keep You from Getting Hired

Don’t let common mistakes sink your next interview.

We’ve given no small amount of advice for mastering the art of the job interview. We’ve talked through your wardrobe, explaining what you should be wearing to a healthcare job interview). We’ve talked through the complex etiquette of showing up early. We’ve explained some of the questions you can ask that will make you stand out. We’ve given tips for remote interviews.

However, even if you have an otherwise fantastic interview, sometimes it’s the small mistakes that ultimately get in your way. The good news is that if you’re aware of these mistakes, you can prevent yourself from making them, potentially saving your interview and leaving a good impression that gets you hired.

So let’s talk through four mistakes you should never make in a job interview.

Display a lack of interest

Even if you answer every question flawlessly, you could risk being passed over if you act like you are uninterested. While this seems like common sense, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to accidentally fall into one of these pitfalls.

So here are some of the unconscious ways you might signal a lack of interest:

  • Looking at your phone
  • Looking at the clock or checking a watch
  • Failing to make eye contact
  • Giving short answers that lack thought or detail
  • Yawning

This list is by no means exhaustive, but we think it’s enough to get you thinking about how your actions might be interpreted by an interviewer. Many of these things seem innocuous enough, but they can be seen as red flags in a job interview.

Be conscious of your actions, and don’t do anything that might be interpreted as boredom or disinterest.

Act too nervous

You will inevitably be nervous when you’re in a job interview. If this isn’t true, you’ve either become a true master of the job interview, or you’re not human. And we’re inclined to believe the latter long before we’d ever venture to believe the former.

However, nervousness is contagious. If you act nervous, the people around you will start to become more nervous as a result. Human beings run on instinct more often than we like to admit, and a person acting nervous triggers the warning response in others.

This becomes a bit of a tightrope walk, as it’s perfectly okay to be nervous, but it’s not okay to signal that nervousness in any way that could potentially become a red flag. You should be aware of your body language. Are you fidgeting? Is your posture overly defensive? Are your hands shaking? Is your mouth dry, and if so, are you swallowing or coughing a lot? Do you say “um” too much?

Many of the things we’ve mentioned in the previous paragraph are subconscious, so avoiding them is easier said than done. But this is where practice interviews come in. Try to sit down with someone you trust, like a friend or family member, and pretend you’re having a job interview. If you run through this activity, you can spot troubling habits in a safe environment and spend time working on those.

If you fidget when you get nervous, practice sitting still. Ask your mock interviewer about your posture. Check your hands to see if they’re shaking, and if so, see if you can find a comfortable, confident position where your hands appear stable (even if they feel like they’re shaking). Be conscious of your eye movement, and make an effort to not look away.

If you say “um” a lot, record yourself speaking and count the amount of times you say it. Then try to say the exact same thing without the “um” parts. Record it again and see if you’ve improved.

Acting confident is a huge part of having a great interview. It might take a lot of time to get good at it, but we hope the basic exercises we’ve laid out here can help you improve.

Become overly defensive or agitated

One of the best pieces of advice we could ever give for the entire job-hunting process is that you need to think of yourself as a product. You’re essentially selling yourself to the company you applied to; you can’t let your own ego get involved in that process.

A good interviewer is going to show genuine concern over any potential flaws they might see. So when they question something you said, or ask you to show proof to back something up, it can feel like a direct attack on you as a person. It’s not. This is just part of the process of making an informed decision. Think of it as someone kicking the tires of a car they are looking at buying.

If you separate your ego from the version of yourself that you’re selling, it becomes a lot easier to address these concerns without feeling overly defensive. If you interpret this as a personal attack, however, you can quickly become agitated. The conversation can quickly devolve into an argument. Don’t ever let this happen.

Just like the other advice we’ve given in this article, this requires a good deal of effort and preparation. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to slip up and to become overly emotional. Once you start down that road, however, it becomes very difficult to course correct and get back to solid ground.

The trick is to mentally separate yourself as a person from the version of yourself you are selling. We don’t mean that you should be dishonest, but you need to be able to understand that the interviewer will be “kicking the tires” to see how you react. And your reaction is one of the things that will determine whether or not you get hired.

Show up without preparing

We’ve given a lot of off-the-beaten-path advice in this article, but all the mistakes we’ve talked can be avoided if you put in some prep work. You can practice to make sure you don’t look bored or nervous. You can spend time thinking about the “product” that you are trying to sell. You can even do mock interviews so that you start to develop good habits, so you can approach the real interview with some prepared “muscle memory.”

But there are also some fundamental things that will prepare you for any interview. Do your research. Make sure you have a good feel of the company’s history and culture. While the interview might have a different role in mind for you than the one you think you’re applying for, you can get a general feel of how the company operates, or how it approaches problem-solving.

We’ve extended this advice to remote interviews by explaining the importance of testing your technology before the interview to make sure it all works properly. You’ll also want to “set the scene” to make sure there’s nothing troubling in view of the camera.

There are hundreds of ways you can prepare for a job interview, and the more prep work you do, the more likely it is you’ll land the job. Only you can decide how much prep work you need, or what steps you need to take before the interview starts. The bottom line, though, is: Never walk into an interview unprepared.


There are a lot of mistakes people make in interviews, but a vast majority of those simply come down to a lack of preparation. We hope the advice we’ve given here will help you be more confident and better prepared the next time you shake your interviewer’s hand and talk about what makes you a great candidate.

Good luck!