5 Big Interview Mistakes to Avoid

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In an ideal job interview, a candidate’s technical skills and experience may shine through, but making an interview faux pas can quickly overshadow any positive moments.

Tiro Security CEO and co-founder Kris Rides, who’s been in the tech-recruitment industry for over 15 years, recently shared some pointers about things that will absolutely wreck your job interview every time. Here are the highlights:

Being Rude to the Front Desk

It’s not entirely uncommon for job candidates to put their best foot forward during an interview—only to show their true colors when interacting with everybody else. Rides makes a point of checking with the front desk staff to gauge their impressions of a candidate. “A lot of people think there’s just one decision maker in the interview process, but that’s rarely the case anymore,” he pointed out. In other words, treat everyone you interact with both in person (and on the phone) with courtesy.

Any Questions?

Asking questions solely about vacation time and PTO probably won’t give a potential new boss the impression that you’re excited about the job. Even if you’re dying to know how many sick days and holidays you get, it’s usually best to refrain. Instead, ask questions about the company—but not the basic ones anyone can get by looking at the website. “It’s always best to Google the company before you meet them, instead of asking questions you should know the answer to before you show up for the interview,” Rides added.

Answering Questions When You Don’t Know the Answers

If your interviewer asks a challenging question, you have a few options—and guessing the answers isn’t best. “You almost always get called out because there are usually follow-up questions, and it becomes very obvious and really awkward,” Rides explained.

Instead, he recommends being honest about not knowing the answer, while explaining how you’d find it: “You can even double-check the answer with the interviewer and then start a discussion that might enable you to explain some of the other skills and experiences you’ve got.”

An interviewer may ask if you’ve used a tool that you’re wholly unfamiliar with. Instead of simply stating you haven’t used it, you can always explain similar tools you’ve used and how long it took you to pick them up.

Money Talk

Pretending your salary is much higher than it actually is may help you with negotiation—but if you’re asked for a W-2 and last month’s pay slip, lying in your interview could cost you the job. Best to be honest about your pay and pay expectations, rather than being deceptive.

The Awkward Hug

Weak handshakes (or overtly aggressive ones) don’t usually give off the best first impression, but recruiter horror stories kick it up a notch. “I’ve had interviewees who felt that they really gelled with their interviewer go in for a hug after the interview. Probably one of my favorites was an interviewer who put his hand up when he said hello, and the interviewee thought he was high fiving and gave him a high five,” Rides recalled. No matter how much rapport you think you’ve built, avoid anything other than a firm (but not crushing) handshake.

9 Responses to “5 Big Interview Mistakes to Avoid”

  1. Rick G.

    I have been asked what other places and positions I was applying to. Made me rather uncomfortable since I had applied with one of their competitors. My answer was framed as applying within the industry in general with them being my first choice.

  2. Some good ideas; I like idea about not being rude to front desk staff.

    I would also add that you should find out how people dress for interviews with the company? Ask the recruiter or HR people. Once I attended in interview in business casual wear and a company person asked why I wasn’t in a suit?

    Never been asked for a W-2 or pay stub. Where did that idea come from? In decades of working never been asked. If you can bluff your way into another $40K per year then more power to you – nobody will ask for a W-2.

  3. I don’t think I’ve been asked for either of those, either. However, you may fill out an application that the hiring company then uses for a background check.
    This happened to me recently. I completed an application and was told after the interview that there would be a background check. It turns out that it was pretty thorough. I was so glad that I was honest about pay (and everything else)!

  4. Kathleen

    I have been asked for a W2 from my previous employer as well. It is fairly common in my industry. Also, in regards to showing up in a business casual outfit for an interview, I never show up in anything less than a suit. In my opinion, a suit is required at ANY interview, even if the environment is jeans casual. You can adjust your wardrobe once you are employed but not during the interview process.

  5. I completely agree with Shannon L. on being asked about my previous income. It really is none of their business, even though it’s been explained to me that they want to know where you think you stand on pay. Not a good reason to me. Can anyone else explain why they should ask what my former pay was?

  6. UncaAlby

    The only reason to know your previous income is to determine whether they can afford your services, or whether your services are worth paying for.

    Think of it like shopping for a car: if you’re looking for simple transportation, you’ll price Toyotas, Fords, Volkswagons, etc., and you’ll expect it to cost in that range. If it costs more, you know you’re looking at the wrong car. But if you’re looking for a luxury car: Mercedes, Lexus, Infiniti, etc.; then you’ll expect to pay *that* much. In either case, the price of the car tells you whether you’re at the “right” dealership.

    When they ask for your salary expectations and salary, history they’re trying to find out whether you’re a “Toyota” person or a “Lexus” person. You can try to tell them you’re whatever they want you to be, but that likely won’t work. Better to find out what they’re looking for in advance, if you can, and try to adjust accordingly.

  7. Bob Johnson

    The proper response to the W2 question should be, “Not a problem. I’m sure you will reciprocate by showing me the salary range for this position and what you’ve historically paid.” When they claim that information is confidential, then you can respond that yours is as well which is why you are there to evaluate the position and they are there to evaluate you. From there, both parties seek to find an agreeable amount for compensation.

    Long story short, it’s none of their business regardless of it being a “common practice”. Don’t ever be afraid to walk out on people and stick to your guns. I’ve known people who HR tried to intimidate in the interview process who walked, only to be contacted by the hiring manager because the hiring manager wanted to speak with them. HR comes up with BS to justify its existence.