Never make these mistakes at a job interview

todayFebruary 28, 2020 15

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Job interview mistakes are, in some way, an age-old rite of passage, but can easily ruin one’s reputation and career prospects.

It is notable that it isn’t always the interviewee’s fault, as some interviewers don’t give interviewees feedback regarding the interview (content, presentation, appearance etc.).

This means that the next time you go for an interview and they ask you if you have any questions for them, you should not be afraid to ask them what they thought of the inteview and how you carried yourself. Constructive criticism, in this case, is imperative to your learning and growth.

With the help of Human Resources professional, Rorisang Makoe, we compiled a list of the mistakes to avoid making at a job interview:

1. Dressing inappropriately

A job interview is a formal “occasion” and needs to be treated as such. Wear formal clothing (E.g. Your Sunday best), or semi formal, depending on the industry. Just DO NOT wear clothes that are

1. Too revealing (unless the job calls for minimal dressing).

2. Too casual – i.e. your favourite picnic dress, torn jeans and/or sneakers.

“Although a simple black and white outfit still works for an interview, the corporate world has evolved and below are few ideas of what NOT to wear to interviews,” Makoe shares.

Overly bright colors

Revealing clothing

Casual/Sports wear

Uncomfortable clothes



Heavy perfume

“Your overall outfit will speak volumes for you and it’s best to keep it simple,” adds Makoe.

Here are a few suggestions on what you could wear to your job interview:


2. Arriving late

You would think this is an obvious one, but young adults all over the world are still arriving late at an interview and only share their “reasons” on arrival. Nah boo. They’ve already written you off.

“Yes, life happens, traffic, accidents, getting lost the list goes on. If you feel you will be late for your interview, notify the recruiter and keep them in the loop with how far you are. Communicate,” shares Makoe.


The day your job interview date and time is confirmed, use a GPS program to find out how much time it’ll take for you to get to the interview location ON TIME.

If something comes up and causes you to run off track, let your interviewer know (the SECOND you know). Call them, email them and text them for good measure.

3. Criticising your last company or boss

Speaking badly about your previous job or boss is a definite no-go. Sure, you may have some bitter reservations about your former superior. Maybe you were mistreated… or abused. That unfortunately does not mean your interviewer will receive that information well, considering they do not know you.

“Our parents/elders always tell us to never speak ill of the dead, same should apply with your previous employer. Rather focus on the positive lessons learnt from your previous job,” reiterates Makoe.

If you’re asked why you left your previous employment sitch, don’t lie, but rather phrase it in a professional way:

  • I am looking for growth in (a specific area), which they unfortunately, could not provide.
  • I had hit the ceiling in my position (the company did not have a higher position to offer me).

4. Not researching the company prior to the interview

It’s important to know as much as you possibly can about the company you’re applying to work at. Mostly because you can deduce whether or not you’re a good fit, but also so that you can map your journey within the company. Aside from showing your interviewers that you are truly interested in and invested in working for their company, researching the company could also give you an upper-hand when answering company specific cquestions such as “why do you want to work for us?”

Rorisang shares that when going for an interview, you gotta Research! Research! Research!

“One cannot emphasize this enough,” she adds.

“Company research is a critical part of interview preparation. It will help you prepare to answer interview questions about the company and to ask the interviewer questions about the company. You will also be able to find out whether the company and the company culture are a good fit for you,” Makoe shares.

Makoe says not only should you research the company but the job description as well. It’s important to read the job description carefully and make sure that you understand all the requirements and responsibilities that go along with it and how it ties back to the company

Interviewers often ask open-ended questions to find out if you researched the company. For example, an interviewer for a Web Content Editor position could ask what the interviewee’s thoughts on the current website layout are. If you’ve done your research, you would have the answer to that question prepared.

5. Asking about salary and benefits right away

When being interviewed, you should never be the first person to bring up the salary and benefits. Especially not too early in the interview. If the interviewer brings up the salary and beenefits structure at the end of the interview, it often means that they are interested in you and want to gauge whether or not you will accept their package. If they do not bring it up, you may wait until the end to ask about “the next level,” which will include the salary discussion.

Asking “Will there be another stage in this interview process?” If they say yes, then do not ask aboout the salary. If they say no, then you may ask when you may expect communication from them.

To ask? Or not ask? – that is the million-dollar question. According to Makoe, some interviewers may ask you what your salary expectations are, but if they don’t, you must not jump the gun and ask them about salary off the bat. She adds that if you really have to ask, a creative way of phrasing it is by asking the interviewer the salary bracket for the position so that you know if you’ll be paid fairly for the value you will be adding to the company.

6. Being unprepared

When asked questions such as “tell us about yourself,” DO NOT start sharing your biography and telling them where you come from, how you were raised etc. This question asks for your sumarised job history. Jot down your journey from school to your first internship, job or something related (practicals). Study your points and ensure you deliver them confidently without leaving any gaps.

When asked why you want to work for the company in question, providing answers that are focused on you instead of how you will benefit the company is a no-go. Also, ensure you do not praise the company too much. Show that you have an analytical mind and valuaale opinions by giving them useful and constructive crisiticism when they ask you for it.

Makoe shares how some interview panels have more than two people seated, thus, it is imperative that you practise how you would answer the questions and keep eye contact with all of them. “It is also very important to know your cv/resume, this helps when asked questions relating to the job description,” she adds.

7. Using your phone during the interview

This should be self-explanatory. Having your phone ring during an interview is perceived as rude and disrespectful. Always put your phone on silent when going into a job interview.

“Your phone must be on silent or off. This is non-negotiable.” – reiterates Makoe

8. Overusing filler words

Using filler words such as “umm” or “you know” or “like” too often shows that you are not prepared. Try to take deep breaths in between your sentences so as to give yourself time to think, but do not keep going if you know that you’re not making any sense.

9. Speaking over your interviewer to get your point across

Sometimes people go into interviews with too much confidence and lack the patience to let the interviewer finish asking their question/s. No matter how good your response is, you may be written off almost immediately.

“An interview is a conversation between one or more people. Allow the interviewer to finish/complete their question or statement and then you may answer or respond thereafter,” shares Makoe.

There are a lot more mistakes an interviewee can make at a job interview. Some bonus mistakes are

  • Bringing a beverage to your interview.
  • Getting too personal. Saying things like “I really need this job, my family is counting on me.”

Parting words from Rorisang Makoe:

  • Always be yourself, all the other roles are taken.
  • Be honest, the truth is easier to remember.
  • Be patient and kind to yourself
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try and try and try again
  • Always trust the process, things have a way of working out in the end

If you’re going for an interview; good luck and we hope the above points help.

Written by: Y

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