These are the worst mistakes we have seen young people make in job interviews
At Business Insider we have interviewed hundreds of job applicants.
We are usually impressed with the calibre of candidates. Most people we meet seem smart and accomplished, and applicants “get” our all-digital, fast-paced, anti-boring way of handling business news.
But … young people are human, too. They make mistakes. And the following mistakes have cost them the jobs their CVs and resumes otherwise said they were good for …
20. Typos in your cover letter, CV or resume.
Your command of written English — spelling, grammar, and punctuation — is a shorthand test of your intelligence. Or at least, of your ability to memorise the rules of the language. Typos make you look unintelligent, even though smart people make mistakes all the time.
Tip: Get someone else to edit your letter and CV before you send it.
19. Having bad breath.
Everyone suffers from drymouth at the office.
Tip: Chew a piece of gum and then remove it five minutes before the interview.
18. Not telling a good story about your life.
Who are you, what are you good at, and what do you want to do with your life? We want a quick, clear history of your life and career so far. At Business Insider storytelling is literally what we do, but at any company communications are key. If you cannot communicate who you are quickly, you’re not getting the job.
Tip: Write it down beforehand and rehearse with a friend.
17. Being overly sarcastic or negative.
We do not expect you to be a cheerleader. But if we hire you, we’re going to be spending a lot of time together, so we don’t want you killing the buzz.
Tip: Just be nice. Smile.
16. Being arrogant.
Sure, we’re interested in hiring you. But that doesn’t mean you’re a rock star, and our company won’t collapse without you.
Tip: Just because you got the interview doesn’t mean you got the job. You still have to sell us.
15. Not knowing anything about the field you’re interviewing for.
If you’re interviewing for a job that requires you to stay abreast of the technology industry, obviously we’re going to ask you what you think is so interesting about tech. So if your answer is …
‘Er … ‘
Then we’re going to be less than impressed.
Tip: Prepare! Literally write some speaking points on a notepad before you arrive at the interview. It will help you in case you freeze.
14. Sending email attachments.
We hate downloading email attachments because of the malware risk they pose. If you only use text and links in your application email, we can see your stuff on our phones as well as on our laptops.
Tip: Your CV or résumé is best displayed as a LinkedIn URL. Examples of your work are most easily seen if they come as links within the email.
13. Wearing a Ramones T-shirt to a job interview.
We get it. You’re young and cool. And we love The Ramones, too.
Tip: Make us feel as if you’re a safe bet by wearing a shirt and tie (men) or go conservative but stylish (women). One candidate impressed us by wearing a shirt and tie to a Google Hangout video interview.
12. Letting your cat escape out of a window during a live video chat.
We often use Skype and Google Hangout. A video interview may feel casual, but you need to prepare: In the background, we can see the dishes piled in your sink or the laundry hanging off your bedroom door.
One candidate interrupted her conversation with us when her cat jumped out of an open window. (We hired this person anyway.)
Tip: Take a screengrab of what your laptop can see so you can tidy your room before the interview starts.
11. Trying to negotiate your salary in the first meeting.
We get that you’re trying to make sure you aren’t wasting anyone’s time. But asking salary questions early marks you as a rookie.
Tip: Remember that this is a process: The further you get through the process, the more it shows we want to hire you, and the stronger your negotiating position eventually becomes.
10. Using a photo of your dog or kids — or a bad picture of yourself — on your Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ accounts.
If you’re using those personal email accounts to apply for jobs, then we also see Mr. Snuffaluffagus the adorable terrier when you send us your CV/resume.
Tip: Send test messages to a friend who will let you see how all your email/social accounts appear to others, and sanitize accordingly.
9. Forgetting to follow up via email.
When we reject a good candidate it’s usually because we never received an email follow-up. We want to recruit people who really want to work here, and a simple ‘thank you’ note ticks a big box for us.
Tip: This needn’t be a big production. Just a single sentence offering to answer any further questions is all it takes.
8. Putting career ‘objectives’ at the top of your resume.
Young candidates pad their CVs with fluffy, cliched career goal statements.
Do not do this!
Tip: We want to see only a simple list of your education and work experiences, and maybe a list of other useful skills at the bottom.
7. Trying to impress us with your off-the-wall creativity.
We’re looking for people who seem reliable and trustworthy. We’re not looking for weirdos who want to blow our minds. One job application began, ‘I am a chameleon …’ It went downhill from there.
Tip: We want to be able to trust you. So behave and communicate in a way that feels reliable and trustworthy.
6. Sending us a video resume.
We need resumes to be sent easily via email to other HR staff, and we may want to print them out so we can compare candidates side by side. Off-format CVs are useless for this.
Tip: Your best bet? LinkedIn.
5. Failing to provide a link to your LinkedIn profile.
We can’t emphasise this enough: When you have to compare hundreds of CVs, LinkedIn is really useful because it makes all candidates’ resumes look the same — and that makes it easier for us to figure out who is relevant and who isn’t.
Tip: A LinkedIn URL in an email is a lot easier for us to deal with than a Word or PDF attachment.
4. Eating a sandwich during our meeting.
If you’re discussing a potential job with an employer over ‘coffee,’ don’t break out one of Starbucks’ ‘Sure As Eggs Is Eggs’ sandwiches; it’s distracting.
Tip: Drink coffee or tea or water or nothing, if offered.
2. Men forgetting to shave.
Beards and mustaches are fashionable on men right now, and many guys brought them along on their job interviews. But what looks good at a 19th century bare-knuckle boxing match is sometimes not so great when you’re up close and personal with a prospective employer.
Tip: If you’re rocking facial hair, make sure it is impeccably groomed.
1. Making your CV three pages long when you have no experience.
Don’t worry about your CV not looking full enough — that’s OK. We don’t have a lot of time to figure out what your job history is.
Tip: Less is more with resumes — we skim them for only about 30 seconds anyway.