9 things not to do at an interview

Being late, checking your phone, chewing gum and dressing in ripped track pants and jandals – there are some blatantly obvious things you should never do at a job interview. But what else should you avoid to make the best impression you can?

When you walk into the interview room, the people who may recruit you will be looking for the whole package of who you are as a person, which goes far beyond just your skills.

This is the time when personality, behaviour and the way you present yourself is greatly important. Here are some tips to make sure you put your best foot forward.

Don’t forget your manners – from the get-go

When you arrive at the interview, you’ll likely be met by a member of the company who is not part of the interview process, such as a receptionist. Yet this is the time to turn on your smile and your manners. If you are rude or brisk to the receptionist or even security at the door, it’ll most certainly get back to the very people who you’re trying to impress.

Don’t be late - or too early

Need we say more? Aside from a truly catastrophic event, there is no excuse for being late for a job interview. That includes traffic problems; all that says to your interviewers is that you should have planned your journey better, and that there’s little hope of you ever arriving at work on time.

On the other hand, if you’ve over-achieved by arriving three hours before the interview, then take yourself to a nearby cafe or park and wait it out with a well-deserved coffee. Sitting in reception for too long is kind of awkward for everyone. Aim for a perfectly-timed 5 minutes before the interview.

Don’t even think about reaching for your phone

There’s an incredibly easy way of avoiding that awkward moment when your bag or pocket starts ringing and vibrating right in the middle of your job interview: turn the cellphone off, or on silent at the very least. And never, ever check that text message until you’re well clear of the interview room.

Stopping to look at your phone will indicate to your interviewer that you’re not entirely engaged in the interview, and may not be engaged in any future job with them either.

Don’t forget to listen, and don’t panic

Letting your nerves get in the way of your listening skills can be difficult, and is not helpful when answering questions accurately. Take care to listen carefully to every word of what is being asked of you and then take your time in formulating an answer - a few seconds of sharp attention and a deep breath can make all the difference. 

Taking notes can help you remember and also look engaged, so that can be a win-win.

Don’t be unprepared

Preparation and research is key to a successful job interview. Spend as much time as you can before the big day soaking in everything you can about the company, the people who work there, the people who are likely to interview you, and the role itself.

Don’t forget to prepare a few answers in your head to common questions like “tell me about yourself” and “tell me about a challenging situation”. And a few questions to ask eg. “how would you describe the company culture?”

Don’t fidget

It’s very normal to feel nervous during a job interview, but try not to let it show. Body language is a huge part of the interview process, and it’s easy to reflect a drop in confidence at a tricky question just by the movement of your hands or a lapse in eye contact. Try to keep your hands on the table or in your lap - but don’t cross your arms, which is incredibly off-putting for interviewers.

Don’t leave anyone out

If you’re in a panel interview situation, remember to make eye contact with everyone, as equally as you can. While there may be one main person asking the questions or with a warm demeanor, remember that every one of the people in front of you will be making a decision about your career future together.

Don’t dress inappropriately

While there is no set dress code for a job interview, when choosing your outfit take your cues from the type of company you’re applying for. If you’re interviewing for a role that requires wearing overalls, gumboots and a beanie, and a full business suit would be just a bit too much, you should nevertheless make an effort to dress smartly for the interview to show you are taking it seriously.

On the flipside, if you’re applying for a law firm, then you should probably be busy ironing that business shirt right now.

Don’t make stuff up

Lying is never a great idea, particularly in a job interview. Being found out later will not only damage your chances of getting this job, but potentially any other positions you apply for.