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Career Success, NSLS Blog

6 Things You Should Never Do in a Job Interview

By Jennifer Braddock

Interviewing can be a daunting task, especially if you're applying for your first job. A majority of interviewees report feeling anxious before an interview. Though you might not be able to shake pre-interview jitters, there are things you can do to be prepared. This includes knowing what not to do in an interview.

Below are six things to avoid during a job interview.

Don't Ask Obvious Interview Questions

Everyone knows it's important to ask questions at the end of an interview. Asking questions shows you're engaged and interested in the role. But, you'll want to avoid asking questions that are obviously derived from an Internet search. 

Instead, put some thought into it. After researching the organization and studying the job description, what questions do you really have? Think outside the box and show that you're genuinely curious. 

The flip side of this is to think of questions during the interview by being an active listener. Think of it as a conversation. You ask a friend questions when chatting so why not in a job interview?

Just avoid obvious questions you find from a quick search online and don't ask about salary in the first interview. Treat the first round as an intro chat where you're getting to know them as much as they're getting to know you.

Don't Be Someone You're Not

Embracing your authentic self often comes with leadership development. So many great leaders have succeeded by being true to themselves and using their unique voice. You also want to do this in your interview. 

Interviewers can tell when someone is being inauthentic, so let your personality shine. By being your authentic self, you will: 

  • Appear more confident to the interviewer.
  • Leave a more lasting impression.
  • Overcome imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome hampers many applicants. Oftentimes, job descriptions are unrealistic and list more wants than needs. This can be discouraging for those who take the job description at face value. By going in with confidence, you'll be able to say "I don't know" about something. 

This translates to the job itself. It's better to ask for help on something than to hide from it. Instead, embrace a growth mindset to always keep improving. 

On average, 118 people apply for a single job. You'll be more memorable to an interviewer by showing them who you really are instead of pretending to be the ideal candidate that you think they're looking for.

Don't Apply to Just Any Organization

As much as you want someone to hire you, you also want to apply to an organization that aligns with your values. Though this might seem like it's not linked to interviews directly, it will help you avoid interviews you wouldn’t take in the first place. 

As tempting as it might be, don't send your resume out into the world randomly. Instead, take a strategic approach and don't rush. 

By being thoughtful and limiting your applications, you'll put yourself in a position to work for your ideal organization. This will also allow you to spend more time on the application process for each job. 

Ask yourself before you apply: 

  • Does the company culture align with what I want? 
  • Does the product or service align with my values? 
  • Does the leadership team reflect who I am? 

Also, go to their website. Are they inclusive? Are their leaders representative of our diverse population? Look up employee reviews online. Get an idea of the organization before you apply and ask about the culture during the interview. You're interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you. 

Employees stay at an organization longer if they're surrounded by people they respect, so you want to ensure it's the right fit before you accept the first interview.

Don't Wing It

There are many ways to prepare for an interview. The more you prepare, the better you'll perform. Here are some things you can do to prepare for an interview: 

  • Review your resume often
  • Understand the job description clearly
  • Bring examples of past successes
  • Know your “why”

Your “why” is your story and how you tell it. It describes why you do the work you do and what drives you to succeed every day.

You'll want to prepare your “why” and have examples of times you've had success. With these talking points and a clear understanding of the organization and job description, you'll be well prepared. 

But don't study too much. You want to give yourself time to clear your head. Center yourself before an interview by going for a walk, meditating, or listening to calming music. The prep you've done will be better served by taking a break and allowing the information to absorb.

Practice Nonverbal Communication Cues

Most experts agree that 70-93 percent of all communication is nonverbal. As much as you'll want to prepare what you'll say, you'll also want to prepare for how you'll appear. 

Body language is important. By sitting upright and leaning slightly forward, you'll show that you're engaged in what the interviewer is saying. By smiling, you'll demonstrate an enthusiasm for the opportunity. By sustaining eye contact, you'll show that you're attentive, connected, and confident. 

You'll also want to get a good night's sleep to ensure you're capable of being truly attentive during the interview. If you're tired, effective nonverbal communication becomes more difficult.

Don't Bore the Interviewer

With hundreds of applicants for every job and multiple rounds of interviews, you’ll need to make a strong impression to stand out from the competition. 

As we've already covered, embracing your authentic self is a great way to accomplish this. But another way to stand out is to avoid using filler words. Fillers are hesitations in speech that signify a pause when you still have more to say. 

Though you don't want to eliminate them from your speech, you want to limit them. Too many uhms, ahs, and likes, and you risk losing your listener. 

Instead, try taking a pause with no sound at all. We assume this will cause an awkward break in the conversation but it's normal to take a second to catch your breath, especially during an interview. It might feel like a century has flown by but chances are, the interviewer won't even notice. 

To get a baseline for how often you use filler words, ask a friend to tell you when you use them. After a while, you'll become cognizant of them. Slowly start to replace them with a simple pause. 

By limiting filler words in interviews, you'll ensure clarity and keep the interviewer engaged.

Preparedness Is What Builds Confidence

There are many dos and don'ts of interviewing. In a competitive job market, recruiters will look for ways to cross applicants off the list.

To ace your next interview, ask thoughtful questions, embrace your authentic self, know your "why," pay attention to your body language, and keep your interviewer engaged. 

For tips to impress hiring managers and to leave a lasting impression during an interview, check out our Well-Rounded Student webinar on How to Stand Out to Hiring Managers.