Apto: 7 interview mistakes to avoid and 5 things you absolutely must do to get the job

By Nell Gable

Studies have found that people decide whether or not they like you within seven seconds. That doesn’t give you much time to make a good first impression, especially when you’re in an interview situation.

Let’s face it, all you’re thinking about in that first seven seconds of a job interview is: Where do I sit? Should I have taken that glass of water? And what was the name of my interviewer again?

Interviews are high-stress situations. Even commercial real estate brokers or other salespeople, who are evaluated on their people skills, can stumble in their answers. Fortunately, like writing, delivering a killer sales pitch, or closing a deal—interviewing is a skill that can be learned with guidance and practice.

We polled seasoned HR representatives to determine what things you should definitely NOT say or do in an interview.

1. Talk trash about your current or previous companies/supervisors.

Honesty is an important quality to bring to a job interview, but there are some things best left unsaid… like how much you dislike your current boss/job/commute/salary.

When asked, “Why do you want to leave your current job?” there’s no need to lie, you just need to put a positive spin on your reasoning.

For example, if your boss micromanages you, say something to the effect of, “I’m grateful for all of the guidance given to me in my current role, but I’m ready for more autonomy.” Or if you’re looking to leave because the pay isn’t quite cutting it, say: “I’m ready to take on more responsibility and looking to work in an environment that rewards ambition and hard work.”

2. Ask about salary up-front.

You don’t want to waste anyone’s time by interviewing for a job with a salary or commission plan outside of your acceptable range, but still, there’s a right time and a wrong time to ask about pay.

Most recruiters and HR professionals will tell you it’s best to wait for the person you’re interviewing with to bring it up.

In the meantime, consider what you will say when they do.

What is the minimum you will accept and what are you striving for? It’s always a tough balance considering many hiring managers will use salary requirements as a hard line through which to weed out candidates.

3. Make it all about you.

Another major red flag hiring managers look out for is candidates who fail to realize work is a give and take.

Lee Kiser, founder of the Chicago based brokerage, Kiser Group, said that when interviewing candidates, “I’m weary of people who ask too many questions surrounding what [my company] can do for them. To me, that’s a red flag that their focus is on what they can get versus seeking a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Hiring managers are looking for the candidate who will most enrich the company, not just themselves. Talk about what you bring to the role, rather than what you plan to take from it.

4. Play the blame game.

Often, buried in common interview questions are tests of your character.

For example, have you ever been asked, “Can you tell me about a time you failed?” Chances are, the interviewer was looking to see if you chose an example where you truly messed up, or if you chose to blame others for a mistake.

This doesn’t mean you need to tell an embarrassing story that makes you look bad, it just means you need to demonstrate that you are capable of taking accountability and learning from mistakes.

5. Forget the details.

Hiring managers won’t just be looking to test your intellect and cultural fit, they’re going to be looking to determine how well you prepared. And an experienced hiring manager will be able to detect your BS from a mile away.

Take the time to study:

  • the history of the company
  • the founders
  • any relevant news pertaining to the business
  • recent deals and clients
  • backgrounds of people you’re interviewing with

Sites like LinkedIn, CoStar, Facebook, LoopNet make this easy these days.

6. Talk down to anyone, no matter their rank.

There’s no greater indicator of character than how someone treats those in a service position.

If your interviewers take you out to lunch, rest assured they’re not just interested in your work history, they want to see how you interact in a non-office setting and how you treat others. Be kind and respectful to everyone you encounter during your interview process, from the front desk receptionist to the intern that hands you a glass of water to the hostess who takes your coat.

7. Waste anyone’s time

It goes without saying that you need to be on time to any job interview to avoid wasting anyone’s time. But there’s more to being a respectful interviewee than getting there on time.

Take steps set the right tone early on, including:

  1. Arrive on time but not more than 5 minutes early.
  2. If possible, research the names and titles of all the people interviewing you and prepare questions relevant to their work.
  3. Stand up and shake the hand of the person you’re meeting. During the interview, demonstrate your interest by leaning forward slightly. Never cross your arms as this demonstrates you are closed off.
  4. After the interviews, send a thank you note to each and every person you met, expressing your gratitude for their time and jogging their memory of who you are by mentioning a key takeaway.
  5. If time goes by without hearing anything, follow up once, but don’t harass them.


By avoiding these pitfalls and taking the appropriate steps to make a killer first impression, you’ll increase your chances of landing your dream job tenfold.


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Kiser Group Staff