Top 5 Interview Mistakes to Avoid

By Howarth Morris

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When Holmes and Rahe developed their scale of stress they charted some of the most stressful points in an adult’s life.

Death of a spouse, divorce, personal injury and dismissal from work are all part of their ten point scale of stress.

While their list was pretty comprehensive, in our opinion their scale should have gone to 11 and included the often dreaded job interview!

To help remove some of the stress from the interview process we thought we’d put together our list of the 5 interview mistakes to avoid.

Not doing your research on the company

With the advent of the internet and the availability of company information there is no excuse for not doing your research.

The absolute bare minimum should be a thorough scan of the company’s website.

Once you’re done learning about their history, company mission and updates through their website it’s worth taking it a step further.

Go onto their social accounts and see what they’re sharing. If they have a blog, reach through the most recent entries to see what they view as the most important things for the company to be discussing.

Search for any news articles on them. Have there been any critical pieces? Have any of their senior team been interviewed by trade magazines? Have they featured in the local papers for any charity activity?

The more information you can find the better as it will help to demonstrate your research skills as well as helping you to tailor your interview answers to their organisation and requirements.

Not having evidence to back up your claims

Behavioural interviews are incredibly common these days and to come out on top you’re going to need both examples to demonstrate your abilities and evidence to back up your claims.

To help you formulate your answers we suggest using the STAR technique which includes:

SITUATION – This helps you to set the scene. Include what the situation was, when it took place and for which employer.

TASK – Include information about what was expected of you. 

ACTION – This section should be a little meatier. Include detailed information about the steps that you took and why you chose that specific course of action.

RESULT –This is the all-important evidence part of the answer. Try to include some quantifiable results to show how the action you took had a positive effect. For example “by amending our employee benefits scheme we improved staff retention by 30% over a 3 year period.”

Not showing enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is often the X Factor of the interview process. Try not to let nerves get in the way, be positive and show that you have enthusiasm for the position that you are interviewing for.

An enthusiastic approach will show that you have energy and motivation as well as a genuine interest in the role. Small gestures like smiling, nodding when being spoken to, maintaining eye contact, speaking clearly and giving comprehensive answers all play into this.

When there are often multiple people going for a role you need to stand out and be memorable, would you want to hire someone that seemed uninterested and hard to engage?

Not having any questions

This point is important on two counts. Firstly an interview should be a two way process. It is your chance to check whether the job is right for you so you should ask questions that are important to you. For example, if there’s an area that you’d like to develop then you could ask about training opportunities, if you’re fairly early on in your career and want to know about progression then you could find out what their promotion strategy is like. If you’re miserable in your current company because the culture isn’t right for you then ask questions to find out what it’s like here – there’s no point making a move to another company where you’re not going to be happy. Just be sure to avoid asking for information that is already on their website.

The second reason to ask questions is to show that you have an enquiring mind and want to know more. Avoid asking about company benefits as this is an instant off-putter. It’s much better to focus on questions about the company’s future or to ask about what might be expected of you in the first month or six months. This shows that you take a committed approach to your own performance and that you are results oriented.

Not wearing the right clothing

When it comes to interview attire it’s easy to get it wrong.

If you find yourself struggling to work out what to wear, just remember the one golden rule, you won’t lose any points for overdressing.

Dress too casually at your peril; it’s an easy way to get your interview off to a bad start.

Whilst some industries differ, when it comes to finance and HR it’s always best to dress smartly and conservatively.

Final thoughts

It’s completely normal to be nervous before an interview, and most interviewers are sympathetic to this. However, the more preparation you do the less likely you are to let nerves affect you. Make sure you give yourself enough time to fully prepare (on the commute there isn’t ideal!) and practice the answers you’d give to key questions you think you’ll be asked. By looking at the job description you should be able to collate some good examples in advance that showcase you have the skills they’re looking for.

If you avoid the mistakes above, follow the STAR technique, prepare and practice, you’ll certainly be off to a good start.

Written by Howarth Morris, the North West’s leading independent Accountancy & HR recruiter, operating from offices in Manchester, Liverpool, Warrington and Bolton.


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