Career ‘Don’t Forget to Say Thank You’—and 5 Other Totally Avoidable Interview Mistakes Job Applicants Make

Here’s a look at 6 common job seeker gaffes and advice on how to sidestep them.

By Ellen Sheng
PUBLISHED 01/09/2024 | 5 MINUTES

To land your dream job, you need to impress the interviewer with your knowledge, business savvy and social skills—right from the start. That’s because employers will evaluate you from that first interaction through any subsequent meetings and email exchanges. 

“The more you can get right at the start is helpful,” says Will Capper, a former recruiter and co-founder of job search engine DirectlyApply.

Below, job search experts share the gaffes they see candidates make time and again. Avoid these mistakes, and you’re already one step ahead of the competition. 

Mistake #1: Tardiness  

Making a strong initial impression starts with “turning up on time,” says Capper.

Before you head to any in-person meetings, factor in time for going through building security or weaving your way through an enormous building or campus. If you’re interviewing online, make sure your video connection works and that you have the right platform downloaded. Capper recommends turning up five to 10 minutes early for an in-person interview. As for video interviews, be prompt but not too early. Depending on which meeting app is being used, you might just crash into a prior meeting (or even prior interview) your potential boss is hosting.

Mistake #2: Devices That Beep and Buzz 

If you’re meeting in person, make sure your phone is on silent, not on vibrate where it will still make noise, says Capper. For virtual meetings, silence your phone, turn off computer notifications and make sure you’re in a quiet environment.

“I’ve been in a number of interviews where the person’s phone is just buzzing. It can really throw off the whole conversation,” says Capper. 

Mistake #3: Slacking on Your Research 

Be sure to do thorough research on the organization and the person interviewing you. Get a good grasp on what the company does and a solid understanding of its competitors. Any lack of due diligence may come off as a lack of interest. 

Also important: Read the job description a few times to fully understand what the company is looking for in a candidate. Use that as your guide to determine which qualifications to play up during the meeting. 

In addition, use your research to craft questions for the interviewer. The answers will help you to decide if the company or job is a good fit for you. 

Mistake #4: Not Asking Clarifying Questions  

Interviewees often answer questions the way they think the interviewer wants to hear them. That’s a mistake, says Mark Horton, vice president of talent at weight management platform Noom. Instead, take a moment to think about the question and ask any clarifying questions that can help you answer better. 

“Jumping right into an answer without all the facts could make it appear as if you’re not considering the full problem set,” says Horton. 

Mistake #5: Exaggerating Your Experience and Qualifications 

If you overstate your involvement in a project, overplay your qualifications or put forth a false personality, the truth will eventually come out if you land the job. 

“Sooner or later, the real you is going to shine through,” says Horton. 

Answering truthfully gives the interviewer a realistic idea of how you might fit in as a team member. “Being honest is the best policy,” Horton says. “It always pays off in the long run.” 

Mistake #6: Not Thanking the Interviewer

Most hiring managers invest a significant amount of time and effort into the interviewing process. By thanking an interviewer for their time, you’re showing gratitude for the time they took to tell you about the company and the open role. Always offer a verbal “thank you for your time and consideration” at the end of any interview and follow up with an emailed note of thanks.  

Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.

Ellen Sheng is a New York City-based writer whose work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fast Company and more.


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