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Interview Mistakes That Cost You The Job

Congratulations, you’ve been invited for an interview!!!

That’s one of the best news you could receive if you're job searching but let’s face it, you're probably a bit (or very) nervous, especially now that it’s most likely virtual. As if interviews weren’t hard enough as it is, now you have to figure out how to ‘wow’ an individual or panel over Zoom or some other platform.

As an HR Leader and Career Coach, over the past 10 years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates - virtually and in-person. I've noted that there are recurring mistakes that candidates make that set them back and prevent them from landing the job.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen and I'll provide you with tips on how to avoid them.

Essentially, the purpose of any job interview is to gauge a candidate’s ability to do the job and thrive. An interview sets out to establish the following:

  • Competencies - the candidate’s experience, knowledge, skills, abilities and motivation.

  • Alignment - the personal connection to the business’ mission, vision, values, people, customers and the employer connecting with the candidate.

  • Total Compensation - the monetary and non-monetary rewards that the position offers.

Now, let's jump right into it.

The number one mistake that causes candidates to fail an interview is:

1. Lack of Preparation

We’ve heard over and over again that preparation is key and yes, it’s true.

Your interview is like a test, if you don’t prepare, you will most likely fail.

Here are some of the ways lack of preparation manifests itself:

  • Not reviewing the job posting/description before the interview


Yes, I’ve interviewed many candidates who applied for a position because the title matches or is similar to what they’re looking for but they did not fully explore the job posting/description. Additionally, some candidates apply for so many jobs, they lose track of what each role entails. The dilemma is, by the time they are called for an interview, the job posting is no longer available online. How stressful and nerve-wracking it must be to try to prepare for and attend an interview with little to no information about the position such as:

  • Location

  • Salary

  • Key Responsibilities and Duties

  • Employment Terms and Conditions (contract, permanent, part-time, full-time)


Have a strategy for your overall job search!

A key component of that strategy is the organization of information. Create well labelled and easily accessible online folders, links (bookmarks) and documents. Save the job descriptions/postings for the roles you’ve applied for (copy and save each job posting to a word document if not available as a download). To help with organization, you may want to use an application tracker spreadsheet with a link to the job posting you’ve saved. You may also explore Trello or a project management tool like or Asana to organize your job search.

  • Inadequate research on the company

You’re probably thinking, this is interview basics, or interview prep 101. Well, the truth is, many candidates show up for interviews with little or no knowledge about the organization. This may indicate that you are just looking for a job and are not interested in the problem the Organization and the particular role exists to solve.


Knowing material information about the Company is important to demonstrate that you have organizational chemistry and helps to differentiate you from other candidates. This is particularly important if you are making a transition into a sector, industry or country, you’ve never worked in before. Key things to note about the Company are:

  • Industry and sector

  • Ownership (employee-owned, merger, acquisition, parent-company)

  • Organizational Structure (who will you report to, what is the team composition etc.)

  • Location(s)

  • Culture

  • Performance (financial, growth etc.)

  • Products and services

  • Clients

  • Competitors

  • Partners or Alliances

  • SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)

  • New Initiatives

  • Trends

  • Why this role you’re interviewing for exists

  • Not scoping the person(s) that will interview you

Last week, a candidate told me, she stalked me for a year on LinkedIn and was able to refer to key highlights from a few of my posts in the interview. Creepy, right? No, that’s strategy!

This is something many job seekers neglect, researching the people they will converse with. Don’t walk into an interview without knowing who you will be speaking with otherwise it will feel like an ambush.


If the Organization communicates who is on the panel or the interviewer, search for them on social media platforms to get some insight into what they do and who they are (LinkedIn is one of the best places to grab this information). This information is helpful in preparing for the conversation as it will inform how you structure your answers.


You're interviewing for a Sales or Marketing position and one of the panelists is the Head of Accounting and Finance. Numbers, statistics, graphs and analysis will most likely communicate value to that individual. In preparing, you should incorporate and highlight quantitative information and/or visuals (work samples) in your responses, namely, time to close sales, number of leads converted or total sales generated over a period of time.

What if you’re not provided with that information before the interview. Go to the Company’s social media pages and website to see who plays which role and how that role impacts the position you’re interviewing for. You may also conduct informational interviews with current or past employees to get even greater insight to help you prepare.

Making personal but professional connections in an interview is key to not only distinguishing yourself but also allows your future colleagues to view you as just that, a member of their team. Remember, your interview panel or interviewer is human!

  • Not making connections

In another article, I’ll do a deep dive on communication and tips to answer questions that most candidates fumble with but I must highlight that candidates fail to connect the dots in an interview. This ranges from not answering the questions correctly to not seeing how the role is linked to the Organization's mandate or strategic priorities. Each position exists to solve a problem, and the one you’re interviewing for is no exception.


  • Review the job posting/description to see the main themes that exist (this usually tells you why the role exists and what problems it needs to solve).

  • Become familiar with the Company/Department/Business Unit’s annual or multi-year strategic and operational plan (informational interviews will help with getting the scoop).

  • Show (with your career stories, qualifications etc) how you have solved or will solve those problems and connect it to the Organization’s overall strategy, department or business unit goals.

  • Put yourself in your boss's position; brainstorm what you would want the person in the role to work on immediately to start addressing the issues and be prepared to present solutions.

  • Create mind maps or use other strategies or techniques to get a clear picture of how the role supports or is supported by other departments/business units and speak about internal collaboration and service coordination.

  • Punctuality

Punctuality communicates professionalism but we know that things happen, flat tyre, power outage, kids get sick etc. Outside of things that are beyond your control, show up for your interviews before time (even virtually).

A few weeks ago, one candidate lost power just before the interview and she quickly masked up and went to a coffee shop to join the interview!

Yes, we had to compete with the background noise but that was understandable. What was clear was her demonstration of professionalism, respect for time and commitment to get the job done. Not only did she show up (virtually) on time, she rocked the interview, got the job and she’s crushing it!


If your interview is in person, especially during Covid-19, plan ahead and map out your route if taking public transit or driving with buffer time due to restrictions and safety protocols.

If your interview is virtual:

  • Become familiar with the interview platform (Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet etc) days before the interview. Learn key functionalities such as how to screenshare, change background, mute/unmute, use chatbox etc.

  • Test your technology (internet connection, special software, computer or another electronic device including camera, speaker, battery etc) at least 30 minutes prior to the interview and again at 15 minutes before showtime.

  • Organize and have handy any presentations, projects or assignments required. Have them cued up and ready to go upon request.

  • Enter the virtual waiting room or interview at least 10 minutes before the start of the interview.

In both instances (virtual or in-person) communicate any delay or technical difficulty as soon as possible and explore alternate solutions.

Always have a contingency plan and be prepared for ‘what if” scenarios… what if your computer crashes, what if your car breaks down on the way?

All the best in your next interview!

Remember, you are amazing and you absolutely got this!

I'm cheering for you!

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If you need expert advice, feedback and support to make your interview experience more rewarding and develop skills to step into interviews with confidence and showcase your extraordinary talent, contact us today!

For this week only, book a 1-hr interview strategy or mock interview session with me for only $75. Use code CM2020 at checkout to unlock this 50% off! Book now!

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