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The Top Interview Mistakes Candidates Make: Perspectives From A Hiring Manager


No one likes sitting in the interview hot-seat. Whether you’re a recent college graduate, a transitioning veteran, or an experienced professional, the interview can be a tense, high-pressure ordeal that’s easy to mess up and challenging to pull off. Yet, delivering a solid interview performance is necessary to get the job–or make it to the next round of interviews.

To help our veteran job seekers improve their interview skills, I spoke to interview expert Brian Niswander, founder of, about the interview process from his perspective as a hiring manager. He gave me exclusive insight on the most common mistakes candidates make, and how you can avoid them.

1. Late Arrival

Good interview etiquette indicates you should present yourself for the interview 10 minutes before it starts. However, many candidates show up late, which immediately rubs the interviewer the wrong way. According to Niswander, “If you can’t even make it to the interview on time, you’re sending a strategic message that you won’t make it to work on time, or meet your deadlines on time.”

Avoid This Mistake:

Avoiding this scenario is simple–show up early! Look up directions the day before and drive the route if you don’t know where to go. Even if you have a legitimate excuse for a late arrival, you’re still making an inconvenience for the interviewers, who will remember you showed up late. If it happens, all you can do to recover is apologize to the interviewers, explain why you were late, and then nail the interview, but you’ve already reduced your chances of moving forward in the application process.

2. Negativity

Be positive about your previous work experiences. If you say something negative about a boss, a co-worker, or a project, the interviewers will think you have trouble cooperating with others and will see you as a risk to the company. An ideal candidate is someone who can motivate a team and work well with others.

Avoid This Mistake:

Occasionally, a hiring manger may ask about working with a difficult boss or co-worker. If they do, be honest, but frame your answer so it sounds positive. Niswander gives an example of how to do it:

“I’ve worked for bosses where I’ve learned tremendous lessons, including what to do and what not to do.”

3. Candidates Don’t Know Their Resume

Sometimes people lie on their resumes and during the hiring process. When a candidate can’t answer a question about his or her resume, the interview can end on the spot. Even if you’re nervous and hesitate too long before answering, the interviewer may think you’re being dishonest, or will think you’re unprepared for the interview.

Avoid This Mistake:

Carve out a little time each night and look over your resume. Practice talking about your listed experiences and your skill sets. When you practice ahead of time, you’ll feel less nervous in the interview and will more likely deliver thoughtful, coherent answers. “You always want to arrive at the interview with an extra copy of your resume. Study it again for a few minutes before you go in for the interview,” advises Niswander.

4. Providing Poor Examples

One of the biggest interview mistakes candidates make is providing poor examples of their skills and work experiences. Or, they provide examples that don’t fit with what the interviewer asked. According to Niswander, candidates need to make a “crystal clear connection between their skills and abilities and the job description.”

Avoid This Mistake:

Once again, you can avoid this mistake if you prepare ahead of time. However, some hiring managers will only give a one day notice before the interview–some might call the same day. According to Niswander, the hiring manager will assume those who really want the job are ready to interview at a moment’s notice. To avoid being caught off guard, start preparing the day you submit your application. Spend time researching the company, writing out potential interview questions, and practice delivering answers that demonstrate your perfect fit for the job. You’ll certainly have a leg up on those who didn’t think to prepare in advance.

5. Lack of Motivation

Too often, hiring managers see candidates who are passive and lack energy during the interview. They slump their shoulders, speak in a monotone voice, avoid eye contact, or fail to demonstrate why they would love working for that company.

Avoid This Mistake:

This is one of the most common mistakes candidates make, but it’s also the easiest to avoid. Sit up straight, speak with enthusiasm, look the interviewer in the eye and engage your audience.  “When people are passionate–it’s contagious, and it gets passed on to others” says Niswander. Hiring managers are looking for someone who will motivate and inspire others.  They will not take on an employee who might bring down their team.

If you want to step up your interview game, be sure to brush up on these tips before your next interview! They could make the difference between staying stuck in the job search and landing your dream job.