Job interview mistakes interviewees can learn from

So, you probably did well in school, speak a few languages, and have several soft skills under your belt. Those excellent qualifications, however, might not land you your dream job unless you ace the interview. As they say, the first impression is crucial.

You’ll need to be able to articulate your interests, discuss your accomplishments, and overall charm the pants off your would-be bosses. That said, many job hunters have missed that memo and committed grave job interview mistakes that might’ve cost them the gig. This is especially so for fresh grads without former experience. 

Below are 7 real stories shared by the hiring pros – learn and don’t make these rookie mistakes.

1. The one who lied on his resume

job interview mistakes

A candidate submitted an online application for a business manager role at a media agency and was shortlisted. On the day of the interview, the hiring manager asked him to run through his past experience. Despite his resume stating he was working for the last 2 years, he revealed he had been out of a job.

“We had a moment of silence,” said Thomas, Chief of Staff. “His resume detailed his achievements as a Product Manager at a tech company between 2018 and 2020. But then we found out he was actually unemployed during that period.”

“I asked him whether he sent us the wrong resume by accident, and he said he needed to lie on paper so he could get past the screening round,” Thomas recalled. Safe to say, the candidate didn’t land the job.

Tips to avoid: Be honest. While it’s tempting to embellish your work experience, your potential employers might lose faith in you real quick, the second they find out the truth. Instead of inflating your achievements, hone in on a few things in the job description that you’d excel at, and play that up.

2. The one who used ChatGPT on her assessment

job interview mistakes

A recent uni graduate applied for a full-time writer role at a publication and was given a 2-part assignment to complete. During the interview, she told the panel that she spent less than an hour finishing the writing tests. 

Seated in the room were editors who’d spent years making a living out of the words they wrote, and it didn’t take long for them to smell something fishy. “We were curious. Usually, it’d take us a few hours to produce something with such level of detail and structure,” Engracia, a sub-editor at a media platform shared.

“So we asked her to walk us through her research process. She said she consulted ChatGPT,” Engracia shared.

Tips to avoid: Refrain from using AI tools on your job application assessments. Companies want to see how your abilities line up with the role’s requirements. Although you may get the job by handing in bot-generated responses, you might struggle down the line because you lack certain skills that are required.

3. The one who gave 1-word answers

job interview mistakes

Rambling during an interview can cause annoyance, but not saying enough is also a red flag. The latter was the case of an applicant interviewing for a video producer position at a media company.

“The candidate gave 1-word answers throughout the entire interview,” Selina, an HR executive shared with us. “I’d ask simple questions like how are you? to break the ice, and he’d reply with just good. I get that job interviews can be stressful and applicants tend to get very nervous, but the lack of responses makes it seem like you aren’t interested in the job.”

Tips to avoid: Keep calm, iron out the details of your answer, and carry the conversation. Interviewers want you to showcase your strength and humble-brag about things like how you can solve problems and work well under pressure. Put in some pauses, transition to the next topic, and keep the dialogue going. 

Come prepared with at least 3 questions and remember to ask spontaneous questions as well. It’ll show that you did your research about the company, pay attention to the interviewers, and are excited about the position.

4. The one who demanded $120,000 per year

job interview mistakes

“3 minutes into the interview and the eager software engineer demanded a $120k salary to start or there would be no deal,” said Mrs Koh. Talk about striking while the iron is hot.

The former HR consultant was cracking up as she recalled one of the shortest and most puzzling interviews she held. “I was speechless. Granted, the candidate had flying qualifications that’d make him desirable, especially during the booming bubble. But he didn’t give me a chance to verify his accomplishments or get to know him before firing salary expectations.”

Tips to avoid: Wait until the company brings up the topic of salary before stating your expected pay. This likely signals that they’re interested in hiring you, which gives you the upper hand to negotiate. 

You’d like to get paid what you’re worth and also make enough money to cover bills – recruiters and hiring managers get that. But talking numbers right off the bat might seem like you’re more interested in the money than the job and the company. It’s unlikely that you’ll ask your first date how much they make. The same goes for your job interview.

5. The one who was hungover or sick


“This guy showed up to his interview reeking of alcohol. His eyes were bloodshot and sunken, clearly from the raging hangover and dehydration he was going through. I knew he must have had one too many drinks last night. The black coffee he was chugging didn’t help mask the scent either,” said Natasha, an HR executive.

Clearly, this is one of the worst case scenarios, but we have also heard of candidates showing up for face-to-face interviews despite feeling unwell and coughing in the interviewer’s face.

Tips to avoid: No matter how confident and competent you think you are, it might be a good idea to stay sober the night before a job interview. Showing up smelling like the bar is a big no-no – it signals that you might not take the job seriously enough. And if you’re sick, please reschedule the appointment or request for an online interview to avoid spreading germs.

6. The one who refused to show her face


When Renae, a sub-editor for an online magazine was waiting to interview a candidate, she didn’t think the applicant would refuse to show her face.

 “We were on the hunt for a talent to appear in photoshoots and short-form videos for events, brand activations, and product launches. However, the candidate whom I was interviewing had a mask on the whole time. Mind you, the interview was held online and she was calling in from her bedroom. When I asked if she could remove her mask, she declined,” Renae said.

Tips to avoid: Don’t underestimate the power of facial expression and eye contact. Body language is important, especially when you’re having a conversation with a stranger. It helps establish rapport, relatability, and credibility. That’s why, whenever possible, your face should be visible and posture should scream confident and interested. 

Also, be aware of the requirements of the job you’re applying for. If it’s a client-facing role or, as in this case, a job that requires the interviewee to assess your suitability as a talent, it’s not unreasonable for them to request you to show your face.

7. The one who showed up in rubber slippers

rubber slippers

“A candidate showed up to his interview in a pair of rubber slippers with a bunch of charms attached to them. His polo shirt and chino shorts were already questionable, but the shoe choice was alarming. He was also a few minutes late because security needed to verify his identity before letting him, probably due to his ensemble,” said Jonathan, a marketing manager.

Tips to avoid: We understand the temptation to show off your personality during an interview but don’t stand out for the wrong reasons. Even if the company has a casual take on office attire, leave your rubber slippers at home until you’ve gotten the job. You want to dress for success and to impress. 

Go for a polished pair of shoes and a smart outfit no matter how lax the company’s dress code is. Help the hiring managers envision how professional you’ll look in the role you’re applying for.

Tips to avoid making job interview mistakes

Imagine this: you’ve breezed through the resume round, killed the self-assessment, and received an invitation for an interview. This means the company likes what they’ve seen so far. You’re so close to landing your dream job that you can practically smell it. All that’s left to do is ace the meeting with your future bosses.

In order to do that, try your best to avoid making the above 7 job interview mistakes. Be honest, articulate your awesomeness concisely, ask questions, and show how your knowledge and skills are the right fit for the role. The night before the big day, make sure you have an outfit planned, pressed, and ready to go.

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If you’ve landed an interview in what seems like one of the most competitive markets in history, congratulations. Now, be sure to steam your outfit, bring your A-game, and don’t mess it up. 

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This post was brought to you by Philips.
Photography by: Gavin Chua

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