8 Common Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Interview

8 Common Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Interview

Getting ready to enter the world of work requires a lot of effort. You need a high quality CV and a strong motivational letter. Thereafter, contact recruiters, sift through job posts, and ace the interview with the recruiter before eventually meeting with your potential employer.

Once you have secured an interview with the company, you no longer need to worry about whether you have the right qualifications. You would not have made it this far if you were not qualified. Now you need to ensure that you have done thorough research on the company, and are well prepared for the interview.

Inspired by Judith Humphrey’s article - 7 mistakes that can derail a promising job interview, we have compiled a list of common mistakes that candidates make during interviews, and how to avoid it.


1. Not dressing appropriately

While tattoos, long beards and dyed blue hair are no longer considered taboo in certain workplaces, you are still expected to be presentable and look professional. The best way to ensure that you are dressed appropriately for an interview is to ask your recruiter for guidance. Unless it is a creative environment where casual attire is the norm, they are most likely to recommend formal attire. Remember, you are not going to class, you are being formally introduced to a potential employer, so first impressions last.

READ: Dressing For An Interview


2. Showing up late

The worst thing you can do is to keep an employer waiting at an interview. So to avoid being late, make sure that you leave home well in advance. If you are making use of public transport it might be safer to give yourself at least an hour head start, to account for any delays and traffic jams. Make sure that you know the exact location of the company. Ask your recruiter to send you the location, enter it into Google maps, and get the exact directions. It’s better to arrive early and go over your notes, than have an employer wait on you. If, however, you have no control over the situation, call the employer or recruiter in advance to let them know that you will be running late. Get some more interview transport planning tips from the article below.

READ: 5 Things To Do Before An Interview


3. Straying off the topic

When answering questions, always try to link it back to why you are the right candidate for the job. Going off topic will make you seem distracted and unprepared. If the interviewer asks about previous student jobs and volunteer work you’ve done, explain what skills you gained and how the experience shaped your values, which you will bring to the new job. If you are asked about a time you failed at something, connect it to lessons learned that will help you perform your new role. Emphasizing the same message will make you sound focused to the interviewer.


4. Revealing too much information about your personal life

At some point during the interview, you will be asked a personal question. A JDP study revealed that “59% of job candidates are asked about their personal life, and 37% of women are questioned about their family planning”. In South Africa, it is illegal for companies to ask questions about your religion, marital status and family planning. They might, however, make a statement alluding to these topics. For example: “most of our employees are single and childless, would you be happy to work in this environment?” As the question is off topic, it might throw you off and you could end up answering the question by giving away too much information. If a personal topic is raised you can mention how your main focus right now is starting your career.


5. Being caught off guard by a question

It is quite normal to be nervous during an interview. Take time to collect your thoughts before answering every question, it will make you seem more sincere. Prepare a list of possible interview questions and your answers before attending the interview.  It will allow you to formulate more eloquent answers to the standard questions, affording you more time to answer the tough questions during the interview. In a recent article, RecruitMyMom shares six possible questions employers might be asking.

READ: Top 6 Interview Questions You Should Be Asking


6. Becoming too familiar with the interviewer

Your interviewer might crack a joke to break the ice, she/he might even compliment you on what you are wearing. That does not mean you should become overly familiar with them. It is important that you remain professional at all times, and remember that an interview is a formal meeting. If the interviewer mentions something informal, you still need to use formal language and keep your tone friendly, but never sarcastic or facetious. There are certain things you should never say during an interview, read more about this in the article below.

READ: 10 Things Not To Say In An Interview


7. Visibly losing your confidence

During the interview, you need to remain confident at all times. The interviewer could say something to unnerve you, but you need to remain gracious throughout the meeting. You are welcome to ask the interviewer to repeat the question. Remember to always be aware of your facial expressions and body language, as those are clear indications of whether you are feeling confident or not.


8. Not ending the interview properly

Many candidates walk away from the interview feeling confused about how it went. At the end of the interview, reiterate your interest in the job and thank the interviewer for their time. Don’t be afraid to ask them about the next steps as it further establishes your interest and commitment to the job, and you will walk away with a better sense of how the interview went.


When you are invited to an interview the recruiter knows that you are qualified, but they want to get a better sense of who you are. The importance of preparation cannot be stressed enough. If you are well prepared, you will feel more confident and fewer mistakes will be made. Truth be told, the easiest way to avoid making these common mistakes, is to be honest and to be yourself.

Register for free on RecruitAGraduate. Once registered, complete your online CV to start searching for jobs and internships in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, and Cape Town. We operate nationally in South Africa.

Share On