What Should You Avoid in Preparation for an Interview?
To help job seekers avoid common pitfalls during interview preparation, we reached out to CEOs, HR professionals, and career experts for their advice. From asking inappropriate questions to being too casual too fast, discover 16 crucial tips these industry leaders shared on what to avoid when preparing for an interview.
- Inappropriate Questions
- Too Much Stress
- Waiting Until the Last Minute
- Overly Rehearsed Responses
- Speaking Negatively About Past Jobs
- Skipping Employer Research
- Focusing on the Salary
- No Questions for the Interviewer
- Being Inauthentic
- De-prioritizing Physical Well-Being
- Memorizing Scripts
- Being Too Casual
Do not ask why the person that was in the position before you left the company. Have a decent answer prepared for when/if you are asked “Why do you want to work in _____ field?”
I am a hiring manager for a plastic surgery office, and I always ask “Why do you want to work in plastic surgery?” I ask because I am looking for the person who will give me something other than the generic “it looks like so much fun” answer. It shows that you have actually put some thought into why you want to be a part of my team. The ones who give an honest, genuine, or unique answer always get moved to the top of the list.
Make sure that you know something about the company and what they do. If you don’t know anything about the company that you want to work for, that’s an immediate red flag. Spell-check your resume and make sure all dates are current. You would think that goes without saying, but it would surprise you at how many outdated resumes with multiple misspelled words end up on my desk.
Kat Woods, Plastic Surgery Practice Manager and Operating Room Manager, Avante Plastic Surgery
Too Much Stress
Interviews are stressful; there is simply no way around it. Sadly, some people are more affected than others, to the point of manifesting physical symptoms such as sweating, stuttering, dizziness, nausea, or gastrointestinal distress.
If you’re one of those people, to help manage these unpleasant sensations, I recommend taking some time before the meeting to relax. Instead of reviewing your notes and practicing interview questions until the very last minute, try going on a walk, meditating, talking to a friend, or spending some time with your pet.
If you still can’t calm your nerves and you find yourself shaking or sweating visibly during the meeting, the key is not trying to fight it, as stress symptoms tend to get worse if you pay attention to them. Accept them as normal and focus on the interview instead; it may be helpful to realize that it’s nothing but a pleasant conversation with a fellow professional, rather than a life-or-death situation.
Maja Kowalska, Community Manager, Zety
There’s a fine line between playing hard-to-get and coming across as arrogant. When interviewing, you want to establish yourself not only as an ideal candidate but as a hot commodity.
However, it’s important not to be too confident in your candidacy that you end up souring the hiring manager’s perception of you. The trick is to emphasize your skills and qualifications while still maintaining a sense of modesty and humility.
John Berry, CEO and Managing Partner, Berry Law
A job seeker should avoid arriving unprepared for an interview. This means researching the company beforehand and printing out a copy of your resume to bring with you.
Other uncommon but important things to avoid include being overly knowledgeable about the job or business details in order to impress the interviewer; many employers prefer candidates that are realistic and know their own limitations.
Lastly, it’s also important not to be overconfident or arrogant during an interview; having too much self-assurance can give off a negative impression of your personality and work ethic.
Grace He, People and Culture Director, TeamBuilding
Being honest is key to acing an interview and impressing potential employers. Avoid the temptation of telling small, innocuous lies or exaggerating your qualifications, as they can easily be uncovered during a background check or reference check.
Honesty is an essential quality that employers seek in their employees, and if you’re caught lying, even if it’s a minor falsehood, it can damage your credibility and trustworthiness. Rather than resorting to deceitful tactics, focus on showcasing your strengths and skills, which will help you land the job you want. Remember that honesty is always the best policy.
Jefferson McCall, Co-founder and HR Head, TechBullish
Waiting Until the Last Minute
When preparing for an interview, it’s easy to leave everything to the last minute. While this may help you feel less stressed, it can actually work against you for your interview preparation.
Rather than putting everything off until the last minute, try scheduling time to prepare for your interview at least a day in advance. This will allow you to get your thoughts in order and be prepared to answer common questions. It will also allow you to do some research on the company and prepare examples of how you’ve demonstrated specific skills or qualities in your previous roles.
By allowing yourself plenty of time to prepare, you can feel more confident going into the interview and make a great first impression.
Luciano Colos, Founder and CEO, PitchGrade
One thing a job seeker should avoid when preparing for an interview is being under-prepared. This can manifest in several ways, including not researching the company, not preparing thoughtful responses to common interview questions, or needing a clear understanding of the job requirements and how their skills and experience align with them.
Not being prepared can give the impression that the job seeker is not truly interested in the position or is not taking the interview seriously, which can hurt their chances of being selected for the role.
To avoid this, job seekers should take the time to thoroughly research the company, review the job description and requirements, and prepare thoughtful responses to common interview questions. They should also practice their responses with a friend or family member, or in front of a mirror, to help them feel more confident and articulate during the actual interview.
Brittney Simpson, HR Operations Manager, Walker Miller Energy Services
Overly Rehearsed Responses
Try to avoid being overly rehearsed in your responses. Showing that you’re prepared is essential, but make your responses feel natural and genuine. Responses that feel robotic can come across as insincere or disingenuous and may make it more difficult for the interviewer to get a sense of your true personality and communication style.
Kelli Anderson, Career Coach, Resume Seed
Speaking Negatively About Past Jobs
I have interviewed many people in my 15 years of owning a company. You want to avoid talking too negatively about the previous companies you have worked for. Even if the company was a terrible place to work, you want to have an appropriate answer on why you left other than talking very negatively about the previous company.
The interviewer doesn’t know the situation and may think you don’t get along with management or are difficult to work with. Prep before the interview with a good answer on why you left each one of your previous roles, and spin every negative into a positive learning experience.
Evan McCarthy, President and CEO, SportingSmiles
Skipping Employer Research
One thing a job seeker should avoid when preparing for an interview is not researching the potential future employer enough. It is important to gather information beforehand so you can ask intelligent questions and show that you are interested and invested in the company.
Additionally, avoid over-rehearsing or memorizing responses, as this can come across as robotic and insincere. It is important to be prepared, but also to be natural and authentic in your responses.
Finally, it is important to avoid making negative comments about previous employers or colleagues, as this can reflect poorly on your professionalism and attitude.
Brenton Thomas, CEO, Twibi
Focusing on the Salary
When prepping for an interview, you never want to linger on the negatives. While you might feel firmly that you’ll only take the job if they can come up to a certain salary, the interview is not the time to begin these negotiations. Not only will it turn off the hiring manager, but thinking about the things you don’t love about the position is a surefire way to psych yourself out of a great performance.
I always advise my clients to go into every interview like it’s their dream position. That way, you’ll put your best foot forward.
I’ve seen compensation, hours, and location change at the last minute to accommodate a desired candidate, so nail the interview and it just might become the perfect job after all.
Rob Reeves, CEO and President, Redfish Technology
No Questions for the Interviewer
When preparing for an interview, many job seekers know to prepare for common questions.
After going through an interview, interviewers will at times give the candidate time to ask questions.
Job seekers should not forget to have some questions ready to ask the interviewer.
You can ask questions about the job, the company, and even about the interviewer.
Questions about the job:
How do you measure success in this role?
What opportunities for professional growth are there for the position?
What does the day-to-day look like for this role?
Questions about the company:
What are the current plans for further business growth?
How does the company help enhance individual performance?
What type of employees do well in your company?
Questions about the interviewer:
Are you happy with your work-life balance?
What do you like about working here?
How long have you been working here?
Liz Hogan, Career Expert, Find My Profession
Job seekers should avoid being too rehearsed or robotic in their responses. While it is important to prepare for common interview questions, it is essential to remain authentic and genuine during the interview.
Reciting memorized answers can come across as insincere and prevent the candidate from building a rapport with the interviewer. Instead, job seekers should aim to balance preparation and authenticity to increase their chances of impressing the interviewer and landing the job.
Kimberley Tyler-Smith, VP of Strategy and Growth, Resume Worded
De-prioritizing Physical Well-Being
You’ll have the best chance of nailing an interview if you’re at your top physical form when the day comes. This means being well-rested, hydrated, and having the right fuel for your brain.
Nerves can make it hard for some people to sleep, so go to bed early to improve your odds of getting a full eight hours. Avoid drinking alcohol the night before, too—you don’t want to show up hungover and disheveled, and you can easily lose track of time when you’re drinking, which can lead to you not getting enough sleep.
On the day of, make sure you drink plenty of water in the morning and get something in your stomach, even if it’s just a granola bar or a piece of fruit. Again, some people can lose their appetite from nerves, but your brain still needs fuel to operate at its peak, so you want to provide that. When you’re physically in your best form, you’ll be more likely to be mentally at your best, as well.
Archie Payne, CEO, Caltek Staffing
When preparing for a job interview, applicants might feel emboldened by writing themselves a script of commonly asked questions and memorizing their responses. However, they should be aware that this can backfire. The overly prepared candidate comes off as disinterested and robotic. They seem more focused on getting the words out than having a genuine conversation.
There is nothing wrong with rehearsing for an interview—I recommend it—but ditch the memorized script. Instead, sit down with a friend or family member and have a conversation about your career goals and how you hope this role will help you achieve them. Practice putting your passion on display, not a rote recitation of skill sets.
Being Too Casual
During an interview, it’s essential to balance building a rapport with the interviewer and keeping the conversation professional. Over-sharing personal information irrelevant to the job can create a negative impression, potentially making the candidate appear unprofessional or unprepared. The last thing you want to do is talk about personal problems or religious beliefs. These topics can make the interviewer feel uncomfortable, and the conversation may stray from the primary focus.
To avoid that, it’s important to stay focused on the job and the company. Take the time to research the company and understand its mission, values, and culture. Use this knowledge to guide your conversation and demonstrate your interest in the company. Focus on how your qualifications and experience fit with the company’s goals.
While exhibiting one’s personality is valuable, it is equally crucial to maintain a professional demeanor.
Nina Paczka, Community Manager, Resume Now