5 Common Interview Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Written by Samantha Oates-Miller, Careers Insights and Graduate Support Assistant at the Careers Service

Lots of people get nervous doing interviews and it can be easy to make mistakes. Here are five of the most common mistakes students and graduates make in interviews, and how you can avoid them.

  1. Getting the wrong details

Turning up late or to the wrong location will give your interviewer a bad first impression. But when you’re nervous, it can be easy to overlook the basics. Make sure you prepare before your interview. This includes planning your route to the interview location, and ensuring you bring everything you need. If it’s a virtual interview, organise your space and equipment.

Save and double-check all of your interview details, such as:

  • The name(s) of the interviewer(s),
  • The time and date,
  • The exact interview location,
  • How to get there.

This will help you avoid arriving late, going to the wrong place, or not knowing whom to ask for. Write down the key details, or save them on your phone, and make sure you bring them with you.

  1. Not researching the company and job

If you haven’t researched the company, it will be very obvious to your interviewer. Not knowing key facts, and recent company news can suggest disinterest or laziness.

Instead, research the company and re-read the job description before your interview. Look at the company website and social media for upcoming projects or recent awards, and research the market, including key competitors and customers.

It can be difficult to keep track of the elements of different roles if you are applying to a lot of jobs, so print off or save each job description, and study it before the interview. Make sure you know the main duties of the role and the essential skills, and research the role to understand what the job title means. Look at our researching employers and jobs pages for advice.

  1. Dressing inappropriately

For many graduate job interviews, this will mean wearing business clothing: a suit or dress, or a shirt or blouse, with a skirt or smart trousers. Even if the position you are applying for is more casual, you will need to look professional and tidy.

This also includes virtual interviews. Being at home does not mean that you can do the interview in your pyjamas! Dress professionally like you would in person. This will also help you to get into the right headspace for your interview.

If you can’t afford an interview outfit, there are couple of schemes available in Manchester that can help you. As well as giving you an appointment where you can be fitted with a professional outfit for interviews, they will also give you one-to-one advice in preparation for the interview itself.  

  1. Poor communication

There are three main elements of communication in a job interview: body language, the amount you speak, and your listening skills. If you slouch, scowl or look at your feet, give one-word answers or talk for too long, or fail to answer the questions properly, you may not do as well in your interviews.

Instead, shake hands at the start of the interview, sit up straight, remember to smile, and look at the interview (or the person speaking if it is a panel). Look at our during your interview page for more guidance on communication and body language.  If you are nervous, read our guide to interview and presentation nerves for strategies to manage your feelings and overcome the nerves.

When answering the questions, ensure you are answering fully, with examples (try the STAR model – Situation, Task, Action and Result). However, you should avoid talking for too much or too long.

Finally, make sure to listen carefully to each question, and don’t be afraid to repeat it back to them or ask a question to clarify if you are uncertain. It is better to check than answer a question incorrectly or with too little relevant detail. Use Shortlist.Me or book an interview simulation on CareerConnect to practice your communication – time your answers, or ask your practice interviewer for feedback about the length of your responses and their relevance.

Watch our interviews playlist on YouTube for more advice, and prepare for common interview questions. Knowing what to expect and practicing your answers will help you speak more confidently in the actual interview.

  1. Having no questions

When the interviewer asks if you have any questions for the panel at the end of the interview, one of the worst answers is ‘No’. This can demonstrate a lack of enthusiasm or interest in the role. Prepare around three questions so that, even if one or two are covered during the interview, you have something to ask. You could ask more about the role, team or opportunities for career progression, about anything current that you found during your research, or ask the interviewers about their experiences of working within the organisation. Avoid asking about pay or holiday at the interview stage.

CV and Interview Secrets on the Careers Service YouTube channel has some good advice about asking questions (around 1:03:00), and there are some example questions you could ask at the bottom of the types of interview questions page on the website.  Don’t forget, you can use the Careers Service for up to two years after you graduate! That includes events, appointments and opportunities on CareerConnect, and all of the resources on our website. So whether you need help with an interview now, or in the future, the Careers Service can help. Have a look at our graduate careers pages for more information

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