5 Ways You Could Accidentally Ruin An Otherwise Perfect Interview

by Alan Carniol

Think you can nail those interview questions by winging it?

Think again.

Each minute of your interview is precious. And, within the first five minutes, about half of employers will determine whether or not you’d be a good fit for the job, according to a CareerBuilder survey conducted in December 2013.

Here are some issues that result from not rehearsing answers to questions before your job interview:

1. Verbal Fillers

Inevitably, an “um,” “uh,” or “like” will slip out during your interview, but if you don’t practice cutting out those verbal fillers, they could flood your answers.

Excessive verbal fillers cloud your message and can distract from what you’re actually saying. Practice using less of them in your everyday vocabulary, and especially in your answers to common interview questions.

If you find this is a tough habit to break, try using more hand gestures when speaking.

A 2013 study from Tilburg University found people who gestured spoke with fewer disfluencies than those who didn’t. Gesturers also had longer utterances and used more words than non-gesturers.

Think of how much more you could say without disfluencies taking up so much of your air time.

2. Too Much Hesitation

A short pause isn't bad.

Silence is much better than using verbal fillers when you need a moment to gather your thoughts. But watch out for too many long pauses.

When you hesitate too much before you answer, it can convey uncertainty.

With plenty of online resources and tools to help you prepare for your interview, there’s no reason to be uncertain.

The interviewer expects you to know yourself, your professional ability, and what you’d like to contribute to the company.

Do your research and practice answering with confidence.

3. Nervous Repetition

Almost everyone gets nervous during an interview, there’s no avoiding that.

But the less prepared you are, the more likely those nerves will take over and you’ll forget the majority of what you planned to say.

In this case, you’ll probably repeat yourself, unable to think of anything but one or two ways to answer any question. You’ll seem unprepared and the interviewer won’t get to learn the full scope of information they want to know about you.

4. Off-topic Answers

In your interview, pay careful attention to keeping your answers focused.

It’s easy to become sidetracked when telling a story to illustrate your leadership capabilities, and before you know it, you’re talking about your move out of state.

Make sure what you’re saying actually answers the question.

If you notice yourself trailing off, reframe the rest of your answer by using keywords in the question and wrapping it up with a quick summary.

5. Saying Or Asking Something You’ll Regret

CareerBuilder’s survey reveals some of the most memorable -- and embarrassing -- interview mistakes employers have ever seen. These blunders range from a candidate asking for a hug to a candidate warning the interviewer she “took too much Valium.”

While it’s not likely you’ll make a mistake this extreme, if you don’t rehearse your answers you could say something you’ll regret or something will be prone to misinterpretation.

If you’re not careful, any one of these mistakes could completely tank an interview that would have otherwise landed you the job.

You worked hard to get your interview; don’t ruin it by not preparing.