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The 10 worst mistakes in a job interview

A job interview is a delicate stress situation in which one can easily put one’s foot in one’s mouth as an applicant. We don’t want you to drop a brick in your next job interview, which is why we have put together a list of the 10 worst mistakes that you can make in an interview.

1. Unpunctuality

It goes without saying that you have to appear on time for your job interview. Personnel managers generally equate unpunctuality with unreliability and this character trait will certainly disqualify you from just about any job.

So, please do plan your journey to the location of the job interview in advance and — just to be on the safe side — allow for a time buffer. It can always happen that you get stuck in a traffic jam or your train gets canceled. In the worst case, you may be delayed for an hour or longer. If that happens, you should give the company an immediate call and inform them about the delay, so that possibly your interview could be postponed.

2. Bad first impression

In English, there is the wonderful proverb: “You do not get a second chance to make a first impression.” It has been scientifically proved that people form a first idea of other people within a matter of milliseconds, and this first impression is not easily corrected afterwards.

Therefore, it is extremely important to leave an excellent first impression in a job interview situation. This means that you should arrive in a good mood at the company, giving your interlocutors a friendly greeting. Often, you will be received by an assistant. Needless to say, even if this person is not your dialog partner, you should politely introduce yourself.

3. Wrong dress code

Prior to the job interview, you should give some thought to the question of how to dress. It would be extremely awkward for you to face some men in suits with ties if you are dressed in a t-shirt and jeans. Particularly, more conservative industries (such as banking and insurance) do attach a lot of importance to a rather conservative dress code. In “younger” and “hipper” business sectors such as media or startups in general, feel free to dress more casually.

4. Poor preparation

This piece of advice is self-evident as well. In the days prior to your application, collect information about the company and the industry in which it operates. This is especially important for larger companies, which are quite often featured in the news. One little tip in particular: On the day of your interview, check the news once again. It would be rather unpleasant if you miss out on some breaking news that very day, leaving an impression that you are uninformed.

5. Lack of interest

This is perhaps the most fatal mistake you can make in a job interview. What company is going to hire somebody who is not interested in the firm? In practical terms, this means that you have to prepare some questions about the company and the job. A candidate who does not have any questions will not demonstrate any particular interest in the position.

6. Boredom

Given the number of job interviews a personnel manager conducts every week, the worst interviews are probably those with boring candidates. Quite frequently, at the beginning of an interview, you might be asked the question: “Can you tell me/us a little about yourself?” This question makes a lot of candidates break out in sweat, because it is so wonderfully vague. There is no perfect answer to that question — the backgrounds and personalities of applicants are too different.

However, we want you to consider the following tip: Do not recite your resume mechanically in such a situation. For sure, the personnel manager has read it beforehand. Much more interesting and entertaining is the information between the lines. Give your dialog partners a few highlights and anecdotes from your life, which ideally reveal some new or hidden information about you and your character. This will arouse the interest of your employer and create some further connection factors for your conversation.

7. Secrets and lies

Secrets and lies certainly have no place in a job interview. Your future employer wants to get an honest and real idea about you. Many job applicants believe that they have to gloss over specific facts in their resumes or cover up certain imperfections. In most cases, this is not a good strategy. Do address all issues openly. This always leaves a better impression on an employer.

A good example of such an issue is long durations of studies or gaps in a resume. If it took you a few extra semesters to graduate from college or university, explain the reasons for this in detail. There is certainly a reasonable explanation for it (part-time work, second degrees, travels, etc.). The same applies to gaps in your resume. You have certainly done something valuable in that period of time, which might be of interest to your employer.

Finally, we would like to point out that in a job interview, there are also some forbidden questions on the part of the employer. In general, questions regarding private affairs are not permitted. These include, for example, issues like family planning, pregnancy, your housing or financial situation, and diseases. The latter may only be inquired if your health is of relevance for the job position (e.g. for doctors, nurses, or in professions with exposure to toxic substances).

8. Arrogance

Naturally, a job interview is also an advertising event for yourself. Therefore, a certain degree of self-praise and self-marketing is, of course, allowed. However, the limit should be drawn where self-marketing changes into arrogance. Arrogant boasters are not received well in any company. Even if you have already accomplished a lot in your life, understatement always comes across as more likeable than pretending to be a big-shot.

9. Excessive demands

The end of a job interview usually gets down to the nitty-gritty, i.e. the compensation-related topics. Quite often, companies ask you to define your salary expectations prior to an interview. Of course, it is unfavorable if your expectation is way above your employer’s idea. This signals to the company that you have a different concept of the “value added” that you can bring to the company.

Caution is also advised on other issues related to your remuneration package. For example, you should not stridently demand a company car if it is not provided by the employer. So, listen carefully to what the company is willing to offer and respond appropriately.

10. Bad final impression

This is similar to what has already been said under Point 2. As has been proved, the first and the last impression of a conversation are embedded deepest in our memory. This makes it all the more important for you to bid a proper good-bye to your dialog partners. Even if the interview may not have gone so well, do not forget to thank the company’s representatives for the opportunity to meet them.


There are, of course, more than 10 mistakes that you can make in a job interview. By far, the biggest mistake, however, is being tied up in knots for fear of making any mistake. This will be noticed right away by any personnel manager, and for sure, you will not collect any bonus points for acting unnaturally.

Be aware that there is neither the perfect candidate for a job nor the perfect job interview. There are always some things that don’t go according to plan in an interview. This is no cause for concern. Your employer will make a comprehensive appraisal of you; there is always a chance to compensate negative points in one area with positive points from another.

Last but not least, we would like to recommend to you several websites that give you additional tips and information on being successful in a job interview.

Bernd Slaghuis



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