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Earlier this month, I went through the painful process of moving my office. In the mountains of paper, I discovered some old articles from more than 15 years ago. One of the more entertaining articles from 2005 listed actual comments from hiring managers about both common and comical mistakes made by job seekers, compiled by Top Echelon https://www.topechelon.com/blog/. While some of these are definitely dated, it’s surprising to see how many are still relevant.

Following are the top interview mistakes broken down into simple categories, along with some more information on whether it is relevant or just plain amusing…

Ambition and Dedication

Most employers want to see that you are interested in and dedicated to their company and their job – even if you aren’t. This hasn’t changed over the years, even though multiple studies show that the average job seeker will change their position within three years. While you might be tempted to give fully honest answers to the “Where do you see yourself in five years” and similar ilk, hiring managers just want to see long-term commitment.

2005 Examples:

  • When asked what the candidate saw himself doing in 3 years, he said, “running my own business.”
  • She said she was going to retire in five years.
  • She said she was available because a headhunter called her.

Dress Code Violations

This is the area that has seen the biggest shift in the last 15 years. Of course, one of the biggest changes is the influence of virtual interviews. Obviously, if you are meeting on Zoom, no one cares if you are wearing shoes or not – but please wear pants!

Overall, most workplaces are more casual. Yet, there are still different standards for particular industries or even areas of the country. For example, the East Coast tri-state area is much more formal than the Denver metro. Jobs in finance, high-level operations, and management roles usually require full business attire or suits for the first interview. Opportunities in construction management will run into more business casual standards.

No matter what the field, do dress your best for the interview – especially online. Far too many people have gone overly casual while working at home, and you want the company to get a good first impression.

2005 Examples:

  • Her shirt was all wrinkled.
  • His shoes weren’t polished.
  • He was wearing a sweater instead of a jacket.
  • He wasn’t wearing a tie.
  • She was wearing sneakers.

Quality of Their Answers

Let’s explore what people are actually saying in these old interviews. In any interview, you want to be positive, engaging, and interested in the job at hand.

2005 Examples:

  • He wasn’t articulate.
  • She said, “If I never see another help desk again, that would be fine with me.” Fine, except she was applying for a Tech Support position.
  • He said negative things about his former boss and employer.
  • She said she left her previous job for more money.

Body Language and Non-Verbal Communication

Body language, tone, inflection, facial expressions: All this plays heavily in the interview. In fact, your body language will say more than your words. Even on Zoom people are judging your presence, vocal qualities, and eye contact.

2005 Examples:

  • Candidate kept giggling through a serious interview.
  • He was very nervous in the interview, more than the normal amount.
  • He wasn’t sitting straight; he slouched.
  • She frowned when I talked about working overtime.
  • He looked away when giving me his answers. I thought he might be lying.

Procedure Points

Thanks to technology, some of these aren’t going to trip you up. Chances are, you won’t have to fill out a paper application when you walk into an interview. However, any balking on the candidates’ part about procedure points makes them look like they will be a difficult employee.

2005 Examples:

  • She was 10 minutes late for the interview.
  • He refused to fill out an application.
  • She had experience on her resume that she couldn’t back up.
  • Candidate stretched out on the floor to fill out the job application.

Well, THAT Seems Harsh

In reading over this old list, there were times when even I, as a former recruiter, felt that the hiring managers were being too harsh. In many ways, candidates can help avoid giving these impressions by practicing their body language, engagement, and active listening skills with a buddy or coach long before the interviews take place.

2005 Examples:

  • They had an attitude from the moment they walked in.
  • He was more interested in what he wanted to do, rather than what I needed done.
  • She went from an “A+” candidate after looking at her resume to a “B+” after the interview, due to her low energy levels and lack of enthusiasm.
  • He kept saying he ONLY did this and ONLY did that, which sounds negative. I HAVE done this and HAVE done that sounds positive.

Just Plain Weird

OK, sometimes applicants act strange. What might have sounded like a good idea at the time turns into a cringe-worthy episode that spirals out of control. No matter what the decade, none of these are a good idea…

2005 Examples:

  • He asked how long the interview would take after we were about 15 minutes into it, stating that his wife and child were circling the block, so they didn’t have to pay for parking.
  • Said if he were hired, he would demonstrate his loyalty by having the company logo tattooed on his arm.
  • Asked to see the interviewer’s resume to see if the HR manager was qualified to judge him as a candidate.
  • When I asked him about his hobbies, he stood up and started tap dancing around my office.
  • Balding candidate abruptly excused himself and returned to the office a few minutes later wearing a hairpiece.
  • Candidate wouldn’t get out of the chair until I would hire him. I had to call the police.
  • Applicant challenged interviewer to arm wrestle.
  • Candidate chewed bubble gum and constantly blew bubbles.
  • Without saying a word, the candidate stood up and walked out in the middle of the interview.

Want to avoid the modern and classic interview mistakes?

At the Personal Touch Career Services, we offer individual interview coaching to make sure you put your best foot forward and turn those interviews into job offers. Sign up for one of our free consultations to see how we can help you!

About the Author

Donna is the author of “Get a Job Without Going Crazy” and has presented at national conferences in Denver, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Orlando. The Personal Touch Career Services is Denver’s top-rated resume and career coaching service on Yelp and Google+. 

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