Even if a candidate has an engaging cover letter and relevant experience, there are some red flags that can pop up during an interview that can cause a potential employer to choose a different candidate. Interviews are stressful and can cause folks to freeze or (in my and my mother’s case case) talk too much, especially when it comes to small talk. Keep in mind these mistakes I’ve witnessed in interviews when your big day arrives!
Don’t Complain About the Commute/Parking/Other Aspect of the Job
It can be easy to slip into complaining about traffic and parking, especially if your commute to the interview is a common one that many others in the office of your potential employer loathe. A few casual comments to your interviewer are fine if they ask you how your drive was, but don’t be lured by the seemingly comfortable common denominator that is road rage. If you complain or whine too much about this aspect of getting to the office, your potential employer could think that you are going to have trouble getting to work on time or that you might even quit due to the difficult commute. Remember: during your interview, you want to minimize any doubts employers have about their investing time and energy into hiring and training you.
Complain/Gossip about Previous Employers
If you know your interviewer from a previous job or you have worked for a company with a reputation, this aspect of small talk might be particularly difficult for you to avoid. You might be asked casual questions that could lead you into sounding like a gossip or bitter ex-employee. You know how you wouldn’t want to date someone who said really terrible things about their exes because someday they might be talking trash about you? That’s exactly how employers might view your tirade regarding your last manager or the glee you take relishing in the details of a former’s co-worker’s messy divorce. You don’t want to get a reputation for having a big mouth, so answer any questions about your former employers as though they were in the room, and save the gossip for your real friends at Happy Hour.
Ask Questions/Make Jokes that Reveal Potential for Poor Cultural Fit
In the first season of Girls, Hannah makes a totally inappropriate joke to the man interviewing her for an internship once they establish that they had the same alma mater. Hannah misinterprets this commonality as a signal that she can talk as though she were having a beer with a college friend, which is a mistake that costs her the job. This can include too many questions about salary and benefits (there is definitely time for negotiating, and that time is after you receive an offer), or questions about working from home / flexibility in work schedule (if the company is very strict and traditional). Remember: you can always ask questions before you accept their offer!