7 Job Interview Mistakes to Never, Ever Make

Where do job seekers make their greatest blunders? When they get to the interview. A Robert Half survey shows that job interview mistakes are what trip up accounting and finance candidates most — more than their resumes, cover letters and reference checks. 

No doubt about it, meetings with hiring managers can rattle the nerves of even the most polished professionals and lead to bloopers, but one way you can avoid the most egregious interview mistakes is to mind your P’s and Q’s. Avoid the following seven etiquette breaches to make a positive impression with employers.

1. Failing to research the company

Senior managers have reported not knowing enough about the company is one of the most common job interview mistakes candidates can make. While this can seem like a case of people failing to prepare properly and not an etiquette issue, keep in mind it can be interpreted as a lack of interest in the opportunity and disrespectful to the employer’s time.

In addition to doing company research by checking out its website, review the firm’s financial history, thought leadership and media coverage. Also check with your networks and recruiter for additional insights on the organization, including what it’s like to work there, and to prepare for accounting and finance interview questions the employer may ask.

Find out how you can talk to a Robert Half recruiter about reaching your professional goals.

2. Wearing the wrong interview attire

The wrong outfit can send the wrong message creating more interview mistakes. While suits in the office may no longer be as commonplace, they are still expected in most interview settings. If you’re not sure what to wear, ask the hiring manager or your recruiter.

Read about how to Look the Part and Land the Job With Proper Interview Attire.

3. Arriving late – or too early

It seems like a no-brainer, but it is worth repeating: Don’t be late. Showing up after the meeting was supposed to begin is a sure-fire way to show a lack of care for the interviewer’s time and get on his or her bad side.

Try to arrive five or 10 minutes early, but not more. If you get to the office earlier than that, you can always wait in the car or a local coffee shop. Showing up too far in advance could signal you’re overanxious or place greater importance on your time than the hiring manager’s. (We all need to avoid Michael Scott’s mistake of purposefully showing up the day before the job interview is scheduled.)

4. Disrespecting others (even if you over-flatter the boss)

It’s not enough to mind your manners around only a potential boss. In another Robert Half survey, three out of five senior executives surveyed said their assistant’s opinion is important when assessing job candidates.

“As soon as they enter the parking lot, job seekers should be on their best behavior,” explains Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. "Everyone they encounter, from the person in the elevator to the receptionist, is someone who could potentially weigh in on the hiring decision.”

5. Taking mirroring too far

Psychology Today’s Jeff Thompson noted that mimicking, or mirroring, others’ gestures and vocal characteristics can be beneficial. Thompson noted much of this happens at subconscious levels but warned going overboard can quickly turn into more interview mistakes.

“Keep in mind if you are purposely mimicking others during interactions, it can create a cognitive strain and thus contribute to stress leaking out nonverbally,” he wrote. “This means your intentional attempts at rapport building, charisma, and being persuasive can actually backfire.”


6. Disguising your strengths as weaknesses

“What are your greatest weaknesses?” is not a fun question to answer and can put interviewees in an uncomfortable position. The best approach is to talk about areas that do need improvement and then highlight how you are working to shore them up. For example, if you are honing your data mining expertise, mention a course you’re taking or your work with a mentor helping you in this area.

Just skip talking about working too hard or staying at the office too late. Hiring managers will see right through it.

7. Letting your 'helicopter parents' sit in on the interview

Last but not least, it's really not a good idea for your mom or dad to join your job hunt. Yes, it happens. In another Robert Half survey, a third of the senior managers interviewed said they find it annoying when helicopter parents get involved. One said a candidate opened his laptop and had his mother on Skype during the interview. Another mom knocked on the door of her grown child's interview and asked if she could sit in. One job seeker texted his parent the questions during the interview and waited for their response.

Now you know why we said, "never, ever" make these job interview mistakes.

View an infographic of the survey findings about helicopter parents and their contributions to the interview mistakes.

Infographic of helicopter parents survey

Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2014 and was updated in 2016 to reflect more current information.

More job interview posts