man waiting for an interview

Confused about why you didn’t get a job you recently applied to?

You think you’ve found your dream job and you’ve got an interview with the hiring manager. They love your resume, you’ve got just the skills they’re looking for to fill the role, and things seem to be on track for you to receive a job offer. But after what you thought was an excellent interview, you don’t hear back and find the job was offered to another candidate. Besides being disappointed you didn’t get the position, you might also be confused. What went wrong? Here’s how you can identify and avoid these common interview mistakes.

Being late.

Things happen and everyone runs a bit behind every now and then. It’s human! But employers want people who can be on time for their shift and arriving late to your interview is a bad first impression. If you can’t be on time for an interview for a job you want, will you actually show up on time if you’re hired?

  • How to avoid it. Again, things happen. You can’t predict a car accident on your way to your interview or a flat tire, but you can try to be as prepared as possible. Making a great first impression is essential to securing the job you want. A day or two ahead of the interview, take a drive (or, if you use public transportation, take the bus there) and time how long it takes you. Is there a lot of traffic? Is finding parking an issue? Consider the amount of time the trip took and add a bit of buffer time to that. An extra ten or fifteen minutes can make a difference if something comes up. You should always be at least 10 minutes early to your interview no matter what.

Bonus: If you’re early, you have a few extra minutes to gather your thoughts, take a deep breath, and get ready to crush it at the interview!

Being unprepared.

Generally, an interview isn’t last minute. You know a few days, if not a week, ahead of time when and where you should be, as well as with whom you’re meeting. The interviewer has probably also advised you to bring a copy of your resume, a list of references, or a portfolio of your work when they scheduled your appointment. Arriving without something they specifically mentioned sets a bad tone to the meeting and gives the impression that you’re not as interested in the job as you said you were.

Another part of being prepared is knowing what the company is about and what is expected of you should you get the position. Not being able to say what you like about the company, or even being able to say what they do, leads the person interviewing you to believe that you’re wasting their time.

  • How to avoid it. This one is pretty easy to avoid if you try. We all forget things sometimes, so everyone has forgotten to bring a copy of their resume or left an essential item on their kitchen counter before going to an interview. To make sure you’re prepared the day of, put anything you need in a spot you’ll always see before leaving the house. If you always leave your keys on the kitchen table, put your resume and paperwork under those keys so you don’t forget it.

You should also research the company, check out their website, and jot down any questions you have about the culture, the work, and the business in general. Having even a basic idea of what the company’s mission is can go a long way in an interview and asking thoughtful questions show you’re truly interested.

Not giving the interview your full attention.

The person interviewing you takes the meeting seriously. It’s part of their job, after all. They’ve taken the time to speak with you, so it’s important to give them your full attention. However, you could be having a bad day, gotten a last minute call from a family member, or just be in a distracted mood. It’s normal. But the second you’re in the interview, it’s important to put that aside and concentrate. When you’re not giving your full attention to what’s going on, you seem disrespectful and disinterested.

  • How to avoid it. Don’t bring your phone into the interview with you. Take the time before you head in the meeting to address any important calls or messages from family and friends so you have a clear head when you’re speaking with the interviewer. Remember that you want this job and think about the reasons why. Most interviews last for about 30 minutes to an hour, so setting aside everything else for that short period won’t hurt.

Being negative.

Sometimes, one of the toughest questions to answer in an interview is why you want to leave your current company for this new position. When your experiences have been good, and you’re just looking to explore a new career path, that’s pretty easy to answer. But when you’re hoping to leave a toxic culture, or bad management, the urge to vent about the issues you have with your current employer will have the interviewer second guessing whether or not you’ll be a good team player.

  • How to avoid it. Even if you’re trying to leave a very bad situation at your current workplace, focusing on the negative and putting down your boss, coworkers, or company is never good. You don’t have to lie or talk around the reason you want to leave, either. Instead of bringing up the negative reasons you want to leave, talk about the opportunities you see in the new company and position you’re applying for, the career growth you hope to see, and what you’ve learned through your current role.

Not following up with your interviewer.

While not every company and hiring manager will judge you based on whether or not you followed up with a note after the interview, some will. Get into the habit of sending a short, professional thank you note after each interview. Besides being polite, taking the time to send your interviewer a note shows that you take their time and work seriously.

Highlight your skills, education, and enthusiasm in an interview.

Even when you have an amazing interview and you know you avoided all the common mistakes that can trip job applicants up, you may not get the position. It happens! Not every person is a good fit for a role, no matter how great they are. And not every company or role is perfect for you, either. Instead of getting discouraged, consider how you can better highlight the skills you have for your next interview and how you can learn new skills that can give your resume a boost. You can refresh your knowledge in your field through a certificate program or, if you want to become a better leader, Penn Foster’s Career Readiness Bootcamp course can help you take the next steps toward building your skills and resume in just two weeks. Whether you have your next interview already lined up or you’re reconsidering your role at your current job, furthering your education never hurts!