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How to avoid common interview mistakes

Whether you are applying directly to a company or via a recruitment agency, you will be dealing with a recruiter.  This is the person you must impress first and foremost.

From a recruiter’s perspective, there are a number of mistakes that job seekers consistently make.  Here is your guide to avoiding them.

Getting the Basics Right

The number of emails that a company or recruitment agency receives each week from job seekers – either seeking employment or information – is significant.  So, too are the grammar and spelling mistakes.

Many emails are unclear in intent, and contain spelling and grammar mistakes.  Often, this can be enough for a recruiter to decline on first pass alone. Do not underestimate the importance of getting the basics right!

This advice extends to your resume, email approaches and cover letters.

Do not just re-use a cover letter, or even a resume, you have used for another job.  All too often, a cover letter used for another advertisement (and which often also includes the other company’s name) is re-submitted for a different job or company.  Instead, you must take time to specifically address the skills required for the particular job and company you are applying to – in all of your correspondence.


You must anticipate interview questions.  Ensure you know your resume in detail and that you have, most importantly, researched the company you are applying to.  All too often, candidates are rejected when they cannot answer this simple question, ‘What do you know about our organisation?’

When asked by the recruiter to talk through your previous positions, you must be able to detail your responsibilities, achievements, changes you implemented and any other important aspects.  All too often, recruiters hear, “I did everything”, which in fact, tells those interviewing….nothing.


Do not leave your mobile phone on during an interview.  According to a recent survey of recruitment professionals, the number of people in interviews who leave their phone on or on vibrate or even on the table in front of them is astounding.  This is unprofessional and rude.

So too, is being late for an interview.  This shows a lack of detail and care and reflects poorly on you and your organisational skills.

Contact Points

Think about contact points; when a recruiter is making contact, what impression will they form? Too many don’t consider their voicemail message (does it identify who you are?) or email addresses, both of which can be very unprofessional.  When you answer the phone, always identify who you are. There is nothing worse as a recruiter, having to ask, “is this….?” when they call. Also consider where you reside in the electronic world; do you have a Facebook page? If so, ensure that it is only available to those you want it to be available to. Recruiters have become much savvier at checking on candidates using other sources, like Facebook, Twitter and Pintrest. On such sites, do you have a personal email address or your work email address? If so, the latter is not appropriate! Be mindful what photos are on the site and what is being written if you have dozens or hundreds of friends linked to you.

Responding to Rejection

Be careful how you respond to rejection.  As much as it is frustrating and disappointing to receive a ‘sorry you have not been successful’ email, resist all temptation to respond negatively.  All it does is confirm for the recruiter that they were right to not select you in the first place and they will make a note on your applicant card. For those few who actually write something like, “Whilst I’m disappointed not to have been selected, I thank you for the opportunity to apply and will continue to do so”, you’ll have no idea how that stands out. When employers write about their company values on their web page, they typically mean it, so if you demonstrate behaviours that don’t align with those values, you won’t last long in the process.

Using Job Offers as Leverage

This point essentially comes down to honesty and integrity.  It is not uncommon for an active job seeker to have a number of positions under application at the same time.  If you are open and honest with the recruiter, the process can be better handled to keep the first position moving along positively and ideally, quickly.

You must also consider why you are leaving your current job and if you are absolutely sure of doing so.  If you are simply using a recruitment process to ‘fish around’, you need to be completely upfront about this.  It is not appropriate to have a recruiter get you to the point of offer, only so you can use it as leverage to get what you want from your existing employer.