5 Mistakes Job Candidates Make

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A few days ago I published an article titled 5 Mistakes Job Interviewers Make where I discussed how interviewers can get it wrong and potentially miss a great candidate. Interviewers aren’t the only people who make mistakes during the interview process and often the candidate does or doesn’t do something that pushes the decision of the interviewer in the wrong direction.

In this article I’ll cover 5 mistakes that you, as the candidate of a job interview, should avoid in order to leave a good impression and give yourself the best chance of success.

1. Don’t Be Late

First thing first: don’t be late for the interview. I know this advice may sound trivial and something that you already know, but it still happens. You can never predict what might make you late. It could be public transport problems or flash flooding. But most of the time if you arrive late is because you didn’t plan properly.

Running late not only suggests poor time management skills, but shows a lack of respect for the company. Arriving late is an excellent way to give your interviewer a bad first impression and we all know how important first impressions are.

So, plan your journey as well as possible, even by checking the public transport website the night before if you have to. Jump on Google and figure out exactly where your interview is and make note of a couple of reference points so that you don’t get flustered if you get lost. Budget your time so that you make it to the interview at least 10-15 minutes early.

While it’s good to arrive early, don’t get there 3 hours early or you’ll come across as nervous and well, a bit weird.

2. Programming Isn’t Just About Language X

You took your computer science degree a while ago now and you’re working only in a very specific field using language X, framework Y, and tools A and B. The job description was all about X, Y, A, and B, so you’re sure that everything will pivot around them. Wrong!


Any good interviewer that works for a decent company will (and should) test your knowledge on a wide range of topics. Even if you work with HTML and CSS only nowadays, you should always be expanding your knowledge, trying new things and going back to the foundations that got you to where you are. In preparation for the interview it’s a great idea to dust off your books on algorithms, math, logic, probability, and statistics.

3. Ask Questions

A lot of candidates tend to think that an interview is the process of being asked questions. This is far from the truth. Interviews should be a discussion, so you should be ready with your own questions too.

A good interviewer will usually allow for enough time to let you ask as many questions as you want at the end of the discussion. Therefore, prepare questions on the topics you’re interested in. For example you might ask questions about the possibility to work remotely from time to time, if the working hours are flexible, or the budget available for conferences. Ask questions about the company and their products. You don’t want to show a complete lack of knowledge of what the company does, you want to show an interest.

Hiring managers will assume that you have investigated their organization’s website, so expand the scope of your research efforts. Ask questions about what you’ll do and the projects you’ll work on if you’ll be hired. Try to understand what the organization’s goals are in the short, medium and long term and how the projects you’ll work on will contribute to these goals.

4. Don’t Bad-Mouth Previous Employers

Some people apply for a new job because they’re searching for a new challenge, or because they want a higher salary, and others because their employer sucks. Regardless of what your reason is (but in particular if it’s the latter) don’t, ever, say bad things about your current or previous employers in an interview.

The interviewer will be listening to your answers and thinking about what it would be like to work with you. You may come across as a complainer or someone who often criticizes others. The interviewer may even wonder what will happen once you’ll leave their company.

Don’t bad-mouth your current or previous employer. It’ll make you look bad, not them.

5. Be Enthusiastic

The tech and web field is highly competitive and for every position there are usually a large number of candidates. If you’ve done well enough to make it to the interview, don’t give the impression that you’re bored with the interview, or the company. If you waltz in to the interview without a smile you’ll be throwing away your chances of being hired.

Employers want to hire people that are passionate about their job and interested in their company and products. Be focused and show your enthusiasm for both the job and the opportunity to interview for it. Smile when it makes sense (perhaps not for the entire interview) and give the impression of being excited about the things you’re discussing. You shouldn’t even have to pretend, you should be excited!

Wrapping Up

In this article we’ve looked at 5 common mistakes that you, as the candidate for a job, should avoid to increase your chances of being hired. Be on time and excited about the opportunity that the interviewer has given to you. Remember to ask smart and detailed questions. Be polite, focused, and as calm as possible.

If you still think you’ll struggle, here’s some more reading for you:

Aurelio De RosaAurelio De Rosa
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I'm a (full-stack) web and app developer with more than 5 years' experience programming for the web using HTML, CSS, Sass, JavaScript, and PHP. I'm an expert of JavaScript and HTML5 APIs but my interests include web security, accessibility, performance, and SEO. I'm also a regular writer for several networks, speaker, and author of the books jQuery in Action, third edition and Instant jQuery Selectors.

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