Interview mistakes

Whether you’re a fresh grad or have several years of working experience under your belt, anyone would know that a job interview is huge. The things we say will either make or break our chances of landing the job. And even with prior research done, we still end up falling back on clichés or rambling about ourselves – which, unbeknownst to us, may turn our interviewers off.

To better prepare yourself for future interviews, we’ve sussed out 8 rookie interview mistakes to watch out for.

1. Using clichés for your “strengths and weaknesses”

Interview Mistakes - ClichesBe sure to back up claims like “I’m passionate” with concrete examples

Telling your interviewer that you’re hardworking or organised may seem like a bright idea at the time. Unfortunately, such responses fall under the many clichés interviewees cite when asked about their strengths. 

These clichés extend to questions about our weaknesses as well. Common answers include “caring too much” or being a “workaholic”, and while they may be true, it’s something that interviewers have heard thousands of times. Plus, it makes you seem like you’re trying to appear flawless – and like it or not, interviewers will be able to see right through this scheme. 

What you can do: While it’s great that you’re a team player or strive towards perfection, providing such answers won’t give you much credit. Instead, consider linking these traits with relevant skills or experiences, like describing past projects you were entrusted with to show how responsible you are, or talking about past volunteering efforts during an interview with an NGO. 

Examples don’t just give your answers some credibility. In fact, it also lets the employers have a sneak peek into who you are as a person beyond fancy adjectives, which may just put you on the right track of scoring the job.

2. Only looking at the company’s website and job posting

Interview Mistakes - ResearchCandidates should also explore the company’s past projects and organisational structure before the interview

Interviewers like to ask candidates about what they know of the company. So if you think smoking your way through this part or shrugging your shoulders is the way to go, think again.

Doing your primary school show-and-tell on the fly may have worked in the past, but doing that in a job interview will just paint you as someone who isn’t prepared and genuinely interested in the company. Recruiters and HR managers have sat through tens or even hundreds of interviews, so you can bet that they’ll know when an interviewee has done any research or not.

What you can do: Don’t just stop at the company website and job posting – look up everything from their organisational structure to annual reports to be in the loop. You can also check out Glassdoor for any potential questions you might face, or scroll through their social media pages to see their past and current projects.

In any case, make sure you’re well-versed in their content. Publishers, for example, love asking candidates about their favourite piece of content, while product or service-based companies tend to ask for your opinion on their strengths and areas of improvement. 

3. Answering questions with a simple “yes” or “no”

Occasionally, job interviewers may ask you to take a look at things like campaign decks or products – and then ask if there’s anything you’d like to change. And while it’s tempting to suck up to them by saying no and that everything is perfect, doing so won’t actually get you into their good books.

Simply put, these questions are meant to test your ability to think critically. Giving one-word answers like “yes” or “no” with no follow-up shows a lack of thought, and also dampens the camaraderie with your interviewer.

What you can do: Whether you’re critiquing something or simply answering a straightforward “tell me about yourself” question, frame your answer by following the C.A.R (Context, Action, Result) technique. 

How this method works is simple. Set the stage by describing a situation or context before delving into the actions you took and the results from doing so. Not only does it show that your responses are well thought out, it may also give your interviewers some food for thought, which they can then explore by getting you onboard.

4. Rambling on about yourself

Interview Mistakes - Rambling

No matter what the job is, you’ll be hard-pressed to sit through an interview that doesn’t start with “tell me about yourself”. It’s a simple enough question but, due to nerves, interviewees tend to fall into the TMI trap. 

Going into details about yourself on a date is fine, but doing so in a job interview can make you come across as self-absorbed and an over-sharer. More importantly, it’ll cause your interviewers to zone out before they even get to the deeper questions – which is the last thing you want. 

Generally, you should keep an eye out for behaviours that indicate boredom while you’re answering the question. If you see your interviewers heave tiny sighs, look around, or fidget with their pens and paper, it’s time to wrap your response up.  

What you can do: Highlight important points like career achievements right at the start, and think of attributes and skills you have which are able to add value to the company.

For instance, publishers value top-notch content creation skills, and any of your works that have gone viral would certainly net you some brownie points. Ultimately, they’re looking for someone who can help them, and it’ll be a tad difficult to prove your case when you’re rambling on about the cat you got last Thursday. 

If possible, try keeping your answer to 2-3 lines. This is the 1 question that you can truly prepare for because you have all the information you need, so practice it before the interview – you can even check your speaking pace and tone of voice while you’re at it. 

5. Complaining about your previous employer or company

Interview Mistakes - BadmouthingEven if you’ve had disagreements with your former employers, it’s best not to complain about it during your job interview.

Let’s face it – most, if not all of us, have had bad experiences in past workplaces. And while your negative emotions surrounding such experiences are totally valid, going on an all-out rant during your job interview is a gigantic no-no.

Complaining about past employers to your bestie is one thing, but remember, these people may be your future supervisors. Badmouthing your old boss will only serve to a) make you look like a petty and disagreeable person, and b) show potential underlying issues when it comes to working with authority figures.

What you can do: Instead of rambling on about the numerous times your former supervisor forced you to OT, think of a way to turn it into a positive experience. Repackage it by saying that it taught you how to better manage your time – that way, it shows your interviewers that you’re able to look past the negative aspects and find ways to learn from the experience.

6. Not asking enough questions about your employer or job role

Not asking enough questions

Interviews aren’t just about answering questions. It’s also a way for you to find out more about the company you’re applying for. And in the event that you simply don’t have any questions for your interviewers, well – you’ll end up looking unprepared and uninterested in the job.

What you can do: Prepare around 3 questions beforehand, or think of a few throughout the interview based on what you’ve heard from the interviewers or observed from the workspace. But at the same time, make sure to give your questions some thought, as those that can be answered with a simple 30-second search on Google allude to laziness and lack of initiative. 

Good questions to ask include:

  • Are there opportunities for career growth here? If so, what do they look like?
  • Could you describe your company’s culture?
  • Where do you think your company is headed in the next 5 years? 

These questions give you some insight into what you can learn throughout the job. It also shows that you’re serious about sticking with the company for the long haul, instead of seeing it as a short-term gig. Check out this list of job interview questions to get your brain juices flowing.

7. Asking immediately about the salary and benefits

Company benefits and salaryRefrain from asking about the salary or company benefits until your employer brings it up

Salaries and company benefits are part and parcel of a great working environment. However, employers can sniff out whether money and vacation days are the only thing you care about – especially when you eagerly bring it up without being prompted.

What you can do: Asking about the company’s paid sabbaticals or negotiating your salary right at the start won’t reflect too kindly on you. In fact, you might even come across as a little rude and entitled. Keep your questions related to the job scope and company missions, and wait for your interviewer to bring up your salary first before diving right into it. 

8. Exaggerating your abilities

CodingAvoid saying you’re proficient in coding if you’ve only taken 1 course on it

Wanting to look our best in front of our interviewers is pretty natural. But if you’re calling yourself a coding maestro after a single course, you might want to reconsider. 

Fresh grads, in particular, might fall prey to this trap of exaggerating one’s abilities. After all, we can barely count the number of job ads that require years of experience. That said, interviewers will most likely be able to see right through you – and in the event you do get hired, that lie will catch up to you when you’re struggling with a task you were expected to breeze through.

What you can do: Integrity is something everyone values, and that extends to your interviewers as well. Even if you’re a fresh grad, refrain from including skills you don’t have, or exaggerating the skills you do have. Avoid saying that you’re trained in things like SEO when you’ve only attended 1 class, or that you excel in coding when you aren’t able to teach a class in it.

Remember – the purpose of an interview is for your potential employers to know what you can bring to the table. Keep it honest, and if you do get hired, you can rest easy knowing that the role you’re given is something they think is suitable for your current skill set.

Common mistakes made during a job interview


Job interviews are tough, and even the most seasoned professionals can find themselves falling victim to these rookie interview mistakes. Hopefully, the 8 mistakes that we’ve highlighted in this article will give you a better idea of what to avoid during your next job interview.

In times like these, finding a job can be especially worrying. It’s even more so for fresh grads, as their desire to accumulate some work experience is impeded by the lack of opportunities to prove themselves.

Job opportunities at Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS)

Fortunately, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) has its doors open. For those of you with a degree in accountancy, business, economics, engineering, or computer engineering/science, it’s an ideal place for you to begin your careers.

And with ample opportunities for growth, training, and staff benefits, it’s an ideal place for all entry-level workers to begin their careers.

Volunteering at IRASVolunteering with IRAS
Image credit: IRAS

No one likes to slave away at the same desk for 5 years straight – and at IRAS, rest assured that this need not always be the case. Growth and career progression – be it in a lateral or vertical way – is almost a given for all willing to gun for it

Depending on personal inclinations and employer assessment, employees can choose between the Management or Specialist path, which involves managing a team and deepening technical competencies respectively. To add a dash of variety, you can even choose to cross over to the other track!

IRAS D&DOne of the company D&D events
Image credit: IRAS

As the cherry on top, IRAS also has tons of opportunities for recreation away from the work space. Expect volunteering opportunities, company get-togethers like D&Ds, as well as a whole range of recreational classes that include everything from leather-making workshops to spin classes.

With an enviable mixture of growth, benefits, and learning, a career at IRAS will do wonders for your professional growth while simultaneously giving you something to look forward to everyday.

Find out more about careers at IRAS here

This post was brought to you by IRAS.


Drop us your email so you won't miss the latest news.