The aim of a job application is to land an interview and the ultimate aim of the interview is to land a job offer. Thus, it is extremely important to be on your very best behaviour during your interview. Be conservative about what you share and keep the focus on proving your ability to do the job and fit into the company’s culture.
We have put together a list of faux pas some of which are obvious but still seen among candidates and others which are less obvious but still detrimental to a candidate’s chances.
- “Sorry I’m late”
Simple; don’t be late!
- “So, what exactly does the company do?”
So, you went for an interview at a company and you are not sure what they do? If you are hired, will you also go to client meetings without knowing what the transaction is about? It is not a good impression and most interviews tend to die from that point – everything that takes place afterwards is just to save face.
Also, stay away from any comment or response that suggests that you don’t fully understand the role you have applied for, the company’s business or the industry as a whole.
Attendance at an interview must be preceded by extensive research about the company and what it does. That is the first rule of interviewing.
- “As stated on my CV”
The interviewer, if he is any good at his job, has read your CV. So, if he asks a question that seems to already be answered on your CV, it means he is looking for information beyond the words on your CV.
While you prepare for your interview, become familiar with your CV and be prepared to thoroughly discuss and elaborate on any or all of the statements on it.
- “I know I do not have the skills/experience/grades but…”
If that is true, then your CV already highlights this shortcoming, but they have chosen to invite you for an interview regardless. Don’t make them question that decision by doubting yourself.
Do not mention or draw attention to any limitation in your CV except you are directly asked. Focus instead on the skills and experience you do have.
- “My boss was bad to me/My company is horrible”
When asked why you left or are looking to leave a job, never badmouth your (former) employer. You may have valid grievances but badmouthing them is unprofessional and makes you look bad.
Regardless of the circumstances in your current/previous place of work, focus on what you gained from the experience and what you hope to gain from or bring to the role you are applying for. Whatever reason you provide, make sure it is not personal or emotional.
- “My greatest weakness is [insert cliché here]”
The most common are “I’m a workaholic” or “I’m a perfectionist”.
Answering the question “what is your greatest weakness” is admittedly tricky. The point of an interview, after all, is to sell your strengths.
If asked this, you should tread carefully; your best bet is to be authentic and name a real weakness that won’t be a major handicap on the job. So, while you shouldn’t provide a cliché answer, saying math is your weakness when you are an accountant is detrimental for obvious reasons.
- Ambitions that don’t involve the company
The company does not need to know that you are taking the job just to pass time while you wait for the role you truly want, or as a stepping stone to something else.
That also does not mean you should lie about your ambitions. If asked why you have applied, focus on that really. What do you believe the company can offer you? That may be experience, a vast network, ability to work independently or a job description that aligns with your passion.
- Curse words
This may sound obvious, but we’ve seen situations where candidates become very comfortable and, in their element, let slip one or two colourful words. That is a big no-no!
In the same vein, stay away from slangs and informal language. This does not mean that you should sound like a robot. A good mix of professionalism and pleasantness is what you are after.
- Too Much Information
Do not disclose excessively personal information or information that might make your interviewer uncomfortable. While you should come across as personable, the primary aim of the interview is to assure the company of your professional fit.
- “How much will I earn?”
It is proper interviewing etiquette to let the interviewer bring up the topic of benefits.
- “I really need the money/this job”
Essentially, anything that screams desperation. The interviewer realizes that you are there because you are interested in the job. But, you also must realize that you are there because they are interested in you.
Remain confident and let the rest fall into place.
As far as possible, do not accept any offer or make any serious commitments at the interview. It is usually a bad sign if a company expects you to do so – always request time to go back and think about an offer. You’ll be glad you did!
- “I’m sorry, I’m really nervous”
It’s okay to be nervous in an interview, and the interviewer might expect that. However, telling them is unhelpful at best and makes them doubt your abilities at worst.
- “Um, so, like, essentially, I really, um…”
Following from the above, avoid filler words or anything that makes you sound unsure of yourself. It is better to stay silent while you gather your thoughts than to force yourself to give a nervous and probably subpar answer.
- “I don’t know”
There are some cases – and they will be very few if you are qualified and have done proper research – that you will have to give this answer. However, this should be the very last resort.
It is better to ask the interviewer to give you a few minutes to gather your thoughts or even come back to the question altogether.
Even where you don’t have the answer to something you have been asked, it’s better to briefly state that while drawing attention back to something you do know.
Related: Preparing for Your Law Interview
- “I don’t have any questions”
A good candidate as we have established is one that carries out research before applying for a role. A person who carries out thorough research will almost always have questions to ask or issues to clarify.
It may seem that saying you have no questions makes it look like you have it all figured out, but it could actually make you appear unprepared and unserious.
- “So, do you like working here”
…and other generic questions.
You cannot really expect your interviewer to say, “no, I hate it” s0 do not beat about the bush. If you have specific questions (and you should) you would like to ask your interviewer about the office culture, then ask those questions directly.
Being caught in a lie is easier than you might think, and very embarrassing. Don’t give in to the temptation to lie about, or even overexaggerate your skills and experience.
Yimika Adesola is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Legally Engaged. She is a corporate lawyer with a diploma in Human Resource Management, described by This Day Newspaper as “a young and clever lawyer who has been blessed with foresight”.
In her professional legal career, Yimika has advised an assortment of sophisticated Nigerian and international clients on various areas of law including mergers, acquisitions and capital raisings, restructurings, taxation, finance, employment, compliance, etc.
She seeks to provide direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers and make better career decisions. Follow Yimika on LinkedIn here.