Interviews: what not to do

Avoid common mistakes by learning from these real-life stories from recruiters and interviewees

Don't lie on your CV - you'll get caught out in interviews.

"I heard about someone who claimed to be proficient in financial modeling on their CV. But, when asked a couple of basic questions about their experience at the interview, it became clear that they had no idea how to build models in Excel.

The interview went downhill from there, as the candidate was always on the defensive. Needless to say, the candidate was unsuccessful." Former investment banker.

Do be honest about your experience - recruiters won't expect students and graduates to have advanced technical skills. Your interest and enthusiasm can be just as important as your knowledge.

Don't send off an application before proof-reading it - mistakes won't go unnoticed.

"I asked my housemate to proof-read my CV and, when he gave it the green light, I began applying for jobs. He then confessed that he'd thought it would be funny to delete the 'r' from my first name, leaving it as 'Gay', rather than 'Gary'.

I was invited to an interview and it was the first thing my interviewer brought up, as they thought I had misspelt my own name. I told them it was a mistake, but was really embarrassed. Fortunately I still got the job." Gary, technology industry.

Do double-check your application. Where attention to detail is an important part of the job, not all employers will be so forgiving of mistakes.

Don't forget to prepare - it'll cost you.

"A candidate once stood up halfway through his interview, apologised, and asked to leave. He said he didn't feel he had prepared enough to continue with the interview." Graduate recruiter, investment banking.

Do ask questions if you're uncertain about what your interview or assessment centre will involve, then make sure you prepare thoroughly. Even if you feel a little out of your depth in the interview, give it your best shot - you've got nothing to lose.

Don't be unrealistic - interviewers will see through you.

"An interviewee was asked how much it meant to them to have a social life. They launched into a speech about how little they cared about friends and family, and how they were prepared to commit 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to pursue a successful career in investment banking. The interviewer just said: "Don't be ridiculous." Former investment banker.

Do be genuine and remember that interviewers - your potential future colleagues - want to work with a real person, but one who has considered the challenges of balancing a demanding job with their personal life.

Don't forget you're being assessed - at all times.

"I was at an assessment day for a mid-sized City law firm. At lunchtime there was an old-school buffet of casserole, chicken legs, roast potatoes and green vegetables - not great to eat balanced on your lap while networking.

I was doing my best - until my knife slipped and a piece of sauce-covered meat sailed across the room to land on the shoulder of someone who looked very senior. I'm not sure if they saw it was me, but I didn't get a job offer." Former lawyer

Do remember how important it is to network and make a good impression. Try to chat to people first, then hit the buffet when the queue has gone down.

Don't have a heavy night before your interview - show your best side.

"During an assessment day, one of the candidates spent the case study preparation time holding his head in his hands and ignoring the materials provided. When he entered the interview, he spoke weakly about the task for five minutes before slumping in his seat. The candidate was sent home and blamed his behaviour on a bad meal the evening before."

Do get some rest the night before your interview and try to calm your nerves. If you are unwell, inform your interviewers as soon as possible.

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