Graduate Interview
Kitty Harris
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
4 min read

Common interview traps to avoid

Let’s set the scene. The smart trousers that you bought for the occasion are sticking to the hard, plastic chair beneath you. In one hand is a copy of your CV and in the other is your phone with a page of notes loaded to go over. You are trying to appear relaxed, but your eyes keep flickering uncontrollably to that office door, to see if you can get a glimpse of the competition as they walk out. Does this all sound familiar? The build-up to an interview can turn even the best candidates into a firework of nervous energy, ready to go off at any moment. This can become a catalyst for mistakes that will leave you burned from the experience.


The main thing is to keep your head and stay confident. Don’t let the butterflies in your stomach get the better of you and don’t, under any circumstances, fall into any of these interview traps:



Don't be late. You won't get the job. If you thought you were nervous when everything goes to plan, then imagine how you would feel if you were running from the tube station and turned up sweating, gasping and utterly flustered. It’s not a great first impression. Here’s the ideal scenario: you turn up early, scout out where the office is and find a coffee shop nearby. You sip a cappuccino and go over your notes before turning up to the front desk 8 minutes early, all breezy smiles and calm handshakes. Aced it.


Travelling plans

Do not give any indication that you want to go travelling in the next 3 years. Even if you are fully committed to having a real job and only have vague romantic aspirations to backpack around South America, just don’t mention it. Travelling plans are a huge red flag to employers, who aren’t keen on having a candidate that just wants to work for a bit to save up enough money to run off. Keep yourself in the clear and don’t mention ‘travelling’, ‘backpacking’ or ‘finding yourself’ at any point.


Long term career goal

Where do you see yourself in 3 years? 5 years? Any ideas? Probably a very vague one. The best thing you can do is have a good, long think about where you see yourself and turn that vague idea into a stellar paragraph that puts you in the best light possible. The key to this one is this: if you are interviewing at an advertising agency, don’t mention your long-term goal is to become a zoo keeper. It won’t go down well because it tags you as a risky hire. Make sure your answer aligns to the role that you are applying for – you don’t have to gush about how much you want to rise within the ranks at that specific company, but you should be clear that you are ambitious and looking to build on existing skills and experience to rapidly move forwards with your chosen career.


Other interviews

There’s a good chance you will asked whether you are interviewing anywhere else. This always seems to throw graduates off – is it a trick question? Will they think you were lying when you said that this job is your dream job if you admit that you are? Or will it make you seem like a more desirable candidate? It’s up to you whether you would like to be honest or keep your cards close to your chest, but there is nothing wrong with telling the interviewer that you are applying to other roles in a similar field. Do not tell them if you have been applying to everything left, right and centre because you are desperate to land a job just to pay the rent on your cramped flat in Putney. Somehow, that won’t make you seem serious about the role.  



Most candidates have a good grasp on what constitutes being ‘over-familiar’ in an interview setting. But even those with the best intentions can forget themselves at an interview with a startup CEO at a local coffee shop. Heed our warning: meeting over coffee doesn’t make you friends; if the CEO is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt that doesn’t make you friends; and if they call you mate, they still are not your friend. Interview etiquette is the same everywhere and the best advice is to abide by it regardless of the circumstances – when in doubt, stick to formality and if you are offered an alcoholic drink just say no, thank you.


Aside from these points you need to simply remember to breathe. Interviewers are human too and they understand what interviews are like. So, don’t worry – there’s nothing to be nervous about!

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