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How to Prepare for a Job Interview: Don’t Make These Mistakes

Don't make these mistakes when preparing for your job interview. Increase your chances of landing the job.

Increase your odds of landing your dream position by being well prepared for a job interview. Whether your goal is career mobility or you’re out of a job, you don’t want to make these interview mistakes.

Sure you need to get the interview basics right first like dressing properly and grooming. But you can’t stop at the basics. You’ll increase your likelihood of getting a job offer if you’re well prepared and ready.

Here are nine common mistakes when preparing for a job interview.

1. Knowing absolutely nothing about the company is a bad way to prepare for a job interview

As you prepare for a job interview, it’s important to learn as much about the company as possible. You’ll have to sell your skills and explain why you’re the best person for the job, but the employer will also test your knowledge about the company. If she asks a question about the company, and you return a blank stare or struggle to get your thoughts together, she’ll know you didn’t prepare and will most likely choose a candidate who did.

To learn about an employer, you can visit the company’s website and check out their “about us” page for information on branches, profits, and history. Or conduct a quick online search and check for recent press releases or news articles about the company. The more recent the news, the better.

2. Not getting your outfit ready ahead of time

It’s also important to think about your outfit ahead of time. On the day of your interview, you might be rushing or unexpected events can pop up. You don’t want to be late. So the night before, make sure you lay out your most professional attire. If you don’t have business attire, borrow clothes from a friend or go shopping. You can use apps like Poshmark to buy used or new clothes from other people. And for Zoom interviews, make sure you’re presentable and camera-ready.

Even if you’re applying for a job with a casual dress code, always dress professionally for the interview. Better to be overdressed than underdressed. You can wear slacks, a dress, skirt or a business suit — whatever is most appropriate.

3. Failing to map out your route when preparing for your job interview

Even if you know how to get to the interview location, decide your route ahead of time and take a test run. Take into consideration the time of day for your interview. If your interview is scheduled for 9 a.m. you’ll probably hit rush-hour traffic and will need to leave the house earlier. Also, have an alternate route just in case you hit traffic delays like an accident or road construction.

For Zoom interviews, map out your time before the video call. Check your camera and microphone. Clean up your surroundings and any area that can appear on camera. Make sure you notify any one else living in the house that you’re in an important job interview.

4. Waiting to get interview instructions

If you’re interviewing for a large company, the building might have several entrances, and the person conducting your interview might be on a different floor than where you’ll work. When scheduling an interview, make sure you get instructions. Which entrance should you use? Should you allow time to go through security? Where should you park? Ask these questions while you are preparing for the job interview, not the day before or the day of the interview.

Don’t forget to email your interviewer, if necessary, about instructions for a video interview on Zoom.

5. Dropping the ball on references

When submitting an application or cover letter, it’s customary to put “references available upon request.” Just know that if the interview goes well and the interviewer feels you’re a good candidate, he will ask for references on the day of your interview. Not having your references ready is an awkward interview mistake.

Bring at least three references, and contact these individuals beforehand to make sure it’s okay to use their names. Since you don’t know the employer’s preferred method of communication, provide the interviewer with the full name, address, telephone number and email for each reference.

6. Forgetting to practice interview questions

Prepare for a job interview by practicing answering questions. You might have the right education, skills, and experience, but if you fumble through your interview, you might not get the job. Never assume your charm and personality will be enough to wow a prospective employer and don’t think you can wing a job interview. Interviewers are looking for clear, specific answers to their questions, and candidates who provide the best answers have a better chance.

Go online and research commonly asked interview questions for your position. With a friend’s assistance, have a mock interview session and practice your responses. A few questions the interviewer will likely ask include: What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your career goals for the next five or 10 years? Why do you feel you’re the best candidate for the job? How can you help my company? 

And have a really good answer for: Why should I choose you over other candidates?

7. Rambling answers for tough questions shows you didn’t prepare for your job interview

Not only will the interviewer ask common questions related to the position, but she might also ask a few tough questions, such as: why did you leave your last job? This might be an easy question if you were laid-off. But if you were fired for insubordination or other problems, make sure you prepare a response that doesn’t involve bashing your previous employer.

Again, prepare your answers and make them concise and thoughtful – rambling answers are an avoidable interview mistake.

8. Having no clue about your salary expectations

Some employers know what they’re going to pay for a position and they include the salary in their job ad. On the other hand, other employers don’t include salary information in a job listing, and this topic doesn’t come up until the interview.

While you are preparing for your job interview, think about your desired salary. If you’re not sure what to ask, go online and research average salaries for the position in your area based on your skills and experience. You can find this information on sites like or the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This way, if the interviewer asks about salary expectations, you’ll be prepared to give an answer and explain why you deserve this amount. Researching salaries can be the difference between being underpaid and getting paid your worth.

One thing to keep in mind: the salary negotiation happens after an offer has been extended.

9. Leaving all the questions to the interviewer

This is a big interview mistake. The interviewer will ask the majority of the questions to assess whether you’re the best candidate for the position. But you should bring your own questions as well.

Employers are impressed when applicants are engaging and participate. By asking questions, you show that you’ve done your research on a company, and you demonstrate a sincere interest in working for the company.

If an interviewer asks whether you have any questions and you say no, he might conclude that you’re not as excited as other applicants. As a result, he might offer the position to someone else.

Any question is better than none. You can ask the interviewer to clarify something he said during the meeting. Or you can ask other questions, such as: does the company offer a 401(k) plan or other benefits? Is there room for growth within the company? What is the company’s culture?

Remember, you can take notes but remain present during the interview. Make eye contact and be aware of your physical nonverbal cues.

The job market is tough and competitive. But if you thoroughly prepare for a job interview before walking in or turning on the camera, you’ll have a better chance of getting a job offer.

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