The (not so) little things that fail you in a job interview

The (not so) little things that fail you in a job interview

Truth be told, in a job interview there are no little things. You have to show your prospective employer that you are professionally competent, self-motivated, easy to get along with, responsible, intelligent, knowledgeable, self-assured and socially savvy – all in the first five minutes.


This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how many people botch it up. Your dress should be appropriate to the position, your grooming immaculate, your breath fresh, your jewellery, makeup and accessories minimal and tasteful. And while you should obviously wear deodorant, avoid pungent cologne or perfume. This is neither a fashion show nor a date – it’s a chance to show an employer how professional you are.


Most interview “fails” are due to a lack of good preparation. Make a list the night before.

  • Two copies of up-to-date resumes and references in a nice folder – tick.
  • A valid transport ticket and timetable (or sufficient fuel in the car and good directions) so you get there on time – tick.
  • Interview details: the address, interviewer’s name (if possible), contact details – tick.

Also, do your homework. Find out everything you can about your prospective employer, including their product range, last year’s annual report and who you’d be working with. Don’t be overzealous, but being able to casually mention an achievement of your interviewer or a mutual acquaintance can make a big impression. (LinkedIn can be a great help here.)

Get your head in the game, and the game in your head

Everyone is nervous going into an interview, but if you can’t handle the pressure of the interview, they will assume you can’t handle the job. If you are confident, go ahead and just be yourself. But if you’re not, you’ll need to be your ‘better’ self. People are deciding whether they should take a risk with you, so you need to be convincing that you’re worth it.

Start by making a list of all of your strengths, skills and experience. Add in a few recollections of the times you’ve done something brilliant, like solving a difficult problem for a previous employer. Read over your references for moral support and call a parent or close friend who will tell you how much you deserve this role. Finally, be prepared to talk about the learning curves you’re looking forward to tackling.

Enough about me. Let’s talk about you for a while

Surprisingly, interviewers aren’t there to find out everything about you, but rather to see whether you can work with them. Instead of pitching how great you are, interview yourself for the job by being interested in what they need. Take the approach that you are trying to figure out whether you fit their picture. They’ll be blown away by how easy it is to get along with you.

Want more interview-prep tips? Hear what Robert Half's consultants have to say about preparing for a job interview or read about what you should do before and after a job interview.

Now breathe, relax and trust your preparation. Your confidence is contagious.

Discover more job interview tips

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