When you're in the hot seat during a job interview, it's easy to get nervous and make mistakes. The hiring team might overlook certain slip-ups, like momentarily forgetting someone's name. However, other flubs might be considered more substantive, and in addition to being embarrassing, they could also cost you the job.
Review this list of the top five face-reddeners that candidates at all levels can make in job interviews, and learn how to avoid them:
Showing up late. It may seem like a no-brainer to arrive on time to any and every interview, even if the company you're meeting with has a more casual work environment. But in a 2013 survey by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, nearly 30 percent of the of human resource professionals surveyed noted that having candidates show up late for an interview was the most common mistake they see during the hiring process.
"There may be times when a late arrival is out of your control, but the last thing an interviewer wants to start off hearing is a list of excuses," says Matthew Randall, executive director of the CPE. "Candidates should always do their best to expect the unexpected and allow enough time to accommodate travel delays that might occur."
Randall adds that if something comes up that is truly out of your control, it's better to contact your interviewer as soon as possible to explain the situation and explore the possibility of rescheduling, rather than to show up late and waste the employer's time.
Revealing a clock-puncher mentality. Are you applying for a job with this employer because you're really interested in the company and the role, or are you just desperate to be working again? No matter what your answer is to that question, you'd be wise to show a specific interest in the organization and responsibilities during your interview. Asking no questions of the interviewer can signal a red flag to employers about your general lack of interest. And asking the wrong questions can be even worse if you're trying to make a good impression.
"The questions a candidate asks are really a window into what is important to them for the employer," says Ed Nathanson, talent adviser at CloudLock. "As an example, if a candidate starts asking questions about standard working hours, that can be perceived as a red flag to some employers about a clock-puncher mentality."
Instead, Nathanson suggests keeping your queries focused in directions that show interest in learning more about the role, business or career path possible within the company. "These questions show interest, motivation, and smarts -- all things a prospective employer likes to see."
Being underprepared. The 30 to 60 minutes you spend across the table from your interviewers might be the most important time you spend this year. So going into this crucial meeting without knowing exactly what you want to communicate may leave you ineffectively grasping for words. It's not enough to anticipate tough questions -- that's a given. If you want to avoid interview embarrassment, you need to rehearse clear talking points and find ways to insert these into the conversation at appropriate opportunities.
"Most people enter into an interview prepared to answer questions," says Amy Morin, licensed clinical social worker and author of " 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do." "But interviewers often don't ask the questions that help an interviewee shine. It's important to have a clear list of talking points that highlight your achievements and qualifications. Highlight those talking points throughout the interview, and create opportunities to discuss your main talking points."
Letting your mind wander. There are few things that make you look worse during an interview than being called on to answer a question when your thoughts are clearly elsewhere. Staying focused and present throughout the grilling process is integral to appearing on your game.
Leave your personal life at the door when you enter the room, and channel all your energy into following and participating in the dialogue. While it's important to get your talking points in, avoid concentrating so hard on your own messages that you miss what you're being asked.
"In my experience, the majority of job seekers are so primed to sell themselves that they aren't actually present in the interview itself," says Amanda Mitchell, founder of Our Corporate Life LLC. "They're already listening for the cues that will allow them to deliver their two-minute pitch. Besides potentially missing important information, the interviewee can come across as self-serving and overly rehearsed."
Underestimating the power of the receptionist. Many job seekers assume they're off duty until they're behind closed doors with their actual interviewers. But Mario Almonte, managing partner at Herman & Almonte Public Relations, suggests that impression is false.
"Your interview begins the moment you walk in the door and sit down in the reception area," he says. "Assume everyone is your interviewer, including the receptionist. Everything about you needs to project professionalism. If you're slouching, texting and laughing at things you're seeing on your cell phone, it detracts from your image as a professional. If you do anything odd, it will get noticed -- and it could cost you the job."
Robin Madell has spent over two decades as a corporate writer, journalist, and communications consultant on business, leadership and career issues. She serves as a copywriter, speechwriter and ghostwriter for executives and entrepreneurs across diverse industries, including finance, technology, healthcare, law, real estate, advertising and marketing. Robin has interviewed over 1,000 thought leaders around the globe and has won 20 awards for editorial excellence. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association in both New York and San Francisco, and contributed to the book "Be Your Own Mentor: Strategies from Top Women on the Secrets of Success," published by Random House. Robin is also the author of "Surviving Your Thirties: Americans Talk About Life After 30" and co-author of "The Strong Principles: Career Success." Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter: @robinmadell.