3 Interview Mistakes That Can Cost You a Job Offer

by Jobbatical March 22, 2017

So you’ve nailed your job application and bagged yourself an interview. Aw, crap. Now what?

We’ve previously gone over and over some of the most common (and a few of the most baffling) mistakes people make in their job applications. As a result, I will assume you’re now a champion of competitive cover letter writing and have charmed and capitalized your way into a job interview.

If there were a Pulitzer Prize for job applications, that baby would be yours. (Image by alphaspirit via Shutterstock)

Now let’s get you through that interview stage! Like pretty much everything in life, it’s a horrifying minefield and you’re probably doing things you don’t even know you’re doing that could be costing you dearly.

Just kidding. No pressure. You got this.

Here’s a breakdown of three kinds of no-nos that can cost you a second interview or a job offer—regardless of how qualified you are.

Being underprepared

Whether it’s an in-person interview or a video call (since Jobbatical is in the global hiring business, we’re used to talking about video interviews), every interview starts a few minutes before it actually starts. Before the call, take a moment to check if your technology is working. Things can still go wrong — god knows stuff just stops working out of the blue sometimes — but a quick mic check will certainly reduce your odds of looking silly.

Ideally, you’ve already done the bulk of your homework (preparing answers and questions and all that) way before this, but don’t rush through this last bit of prep. Think of this time as your little moment of zen. Get in the zone. Stop to smell the flowers. Make sure your tech is functioning, have all your materials handy, and don’t jump into the call without reminding yourself who you’re talking to and why. And for the sake of all that is holy, don’t be late! Recruiters can smell your flimsy last-minute excuses from a mile away and they are not impressed.

You’re not the White Rabbit. Your lateness is not endearing. (Image by Arrietty eye via Shutterstock)

Displaying no human emotion

If you’ve read any job ads at all recently (and let’s assume you have, seeing as you’ve made it this far in the recruitment process!), you might have heard about this cool new thing the kids are doing these days. It’s called passion, and it’s kind of a big deal. Everyone’s going crazy about it. Seriously, there’s not one startup out there today that doesn’t want you to get super excited about stuff. But before you run off getting your dream employer’s core values tattooed on your face, there are some less drastic steps you can take to show your interviewer you’re at least human, if not necessarily bursting at the seams with enthusiasm.

Start with a smile, even if you’re on a call with audio only. It might feel silly to smile to yourself, but remember that your smile will actually come through in your voice, making for a much better impression.

Show your interviewer you’re genuinely interested in the role. Ask questions. Look alive. You might not realize how easy it is to look bored and/or in pain when you’re nervous and trying to put on your Serious Professional face.

Serious professionals are people too [citation needed]. (Image by carballo via Shutterstock)

After the interview, set yourself a reminder to send the interviewer a thank you note by the end of the day. Yup, we’re still doing that—thank you notes are a thing people enjoy in the year 2017. It can and should be quite simple and will only take you a minute to write. You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot of respect to gain.

Displaying the wrong kind of human emotion

Basically, just don’t be a jerk, OK? Not underestimating the HR person is a good place to start. What’s that r-word from the last paragraph? Oh yes, respect. A beautiful thing, and — shockingly to those of us who, apparently, live in a dream world — something many recruiters don’t get nearly enough of.

Is the sentence “Well, you’re not a technical person, so I won’t ask you this” rising to your lips? Tempted to say “You probably don’t know this, but…”? You might want to rethink that. What the HR person is likely thinking at this point is…


Who’s got two thumbs and has just about had enough of your attitude? This gal. (Image by Dean Drobot via Shutterstock)

You’re doing yourself a grand total of zero favors by assuming the recruiter is less intelligent than you. For better or for worse, the way you treat your interviewer is an excellent indication of the kind of culture (or lack thereof) you’ll be bringing to the team.

If you feel like your interview didn’t go as well as it could have, don’t badmouth the company or the recruiting process — unless it was really, truly awful, of course. There’s always room in the world for constructive feedback, emphasis very strongly on constructive. If you feel you need to share your insights, remember that a nice feedback sandwich can go a long way.

Along the same lines, if you do end up getting that dreaded rejection email, don’t send an angry follow-up. That will just land you in Burned Bridge City, population: YOU. As it often happens, the company might have another opportunity for you down the line, but they’re not going to bother reaching out if you got all grumpy-special-snowflakey on them the last time.

Looking for someone to wow with your interview skills? Find your dream jobbatical and apply away!


Very special thanks to Alina Basina for her insights and saint-like patience.

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