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12 Mistakes That Make You Look Unprofessional at an Interview

12 Mistakes That Make You Look Unprofessional at an Interview

You made it! You applied for a job with an awesome resume that highlighted your experience in the military and showed you’re ready for the next step. You got the call you’ve been waiting for. The interview is scheduled soon, so you don’t have much time to prepare. Most people will try to calm you down with the same old advice: “Just be yourself.” Yes, that’s a nice starting point, but you need something more than that.

You need to look like a great professional that everyone would want in their company. The resume informed the employer about your training, skills, and knowledge. Now, it’s all about character. The impression you make at your interview is crucial.

The first thing you can do is search for tips on how to make the interviewer fall in love with you. You’ll easily figure out what you need to do: pick a professionally-looking outfit, give them a firm handshake, and stay calm and confident while answering the questions. Let’s take the instructions a bit further today. We’ll go through 12 common mistakes that make veterans look unprofessional at interviews. We’ll also tell you how to avoid those pitfalls.

Being Late

Come on; you were in the military! They expect you to be there right on time. Running late means you have poor management skills. However, being late also shows your disrespect for the organization that invited you for an interview.

Naturally, you don’t want to be late and you do your best to arrive on time. However, you should always consider potential obstacles, such as heavy traffic, an important phone call, or an emergency situation with your family members.

Be mentally prepared for the interview. Go to bed early, so you’ll get enough sleep. When you wake up on the day of the interview, repeat to yourself: “Nothing will make me late.” Whoever calls you and whatever happens, you shouldn’t be prevented from leaving early for the interview. If there’s an extreme emergency, call the company as soon as possible and ask them to reschedule the interview.

Not Being Ready

Do you figure you’ll just go with the flow? You already have what it takes, so you’ll just answer a few questions and get that job. You’re wrong.

The interviewer will want to see what you know about the company in question. They will ask you how you see yourself in that environment and how you’ll make it better. Make sure to do your research on the organization’s mission, values, and current projects. Just explore the about us page from the official website and you’ll be fine.   

Taking Coffee With You  

Do you need that coffee too bad? You don’t need it during the actual interview. If you need the energy, have coffee before you head off to the interview. Getting in there with a cup of coffee in your hand will make you look highly unprofessional.  

Too Much or No Makeup

This tip goes for women only: if you wear too much makeup on an interview, you won’t look like a professional. Try to find “behind the scenes” photos from that organization. Observe the style of the women who work there and try to fit in. It’s equally unprofessional to appear there with no makeup at all. That makes you look like you didn’t invest any effort.

Here is a safe bet: put minimal makeup on. Cover the dark circles under your eyes, so you won’t look tired. Use high-quality products that won’t melt under pressure. You might sweat and you don’t want the foundation to melt on you.


Don’t smoke before getting into that office. Whether you like it or not, smokers face professional discrimination. Employers prefer non-smokers because they don’t need frequent breaks to nurture a bad habit. Plus, they smell better.

No, we’re not saying you have to quit smoking before you start applying for jobs. We’re just saying you shouldn’t smell like cigarettes when you get there.  

Too Much Body Language 

You might get so nervous during an interview that you’ll be clicking a pen or scratching your head without even noticing it. You may also shake your legs or explain things with your hands a tad too much. That shows you’re stressed out and not entirely present in the moment.

You don’t want to be stiff, but you don’t need too much body language either. Breathe! Control yourself!

Saying Bad Things about Your Previous Employer 

Did you just quit a job that was not the right match for you? Did the boss treat you badly? Did you just come out of the military because of a bad experience? Don’t talk about it during the interview.

We all have horror stories from previous workplaces. The potential employer will be interested in them, but they won’t form a good impression of a person who complains too much. Chances are, you’ll probably get some of these questions:

  • Why did you quit the military?
  • Why weren’t you satisfied with your previous job?

Just say that you gave everything you had to give during those previous experiences. You felt like those positions no longer gave you space for progress, so now you are ready for something better.

Wearing Too Much Perfume 

Of course, you want to make a good impression with your favorite scent. The right dose of perfume sure makes you look professional. However, it has to be subtle. Do you want to leave the office smelling like you for hours after you leave? No.

Pick a subtle scent that doesn’t cause a headache to most people. Be very moderate with it; a single spritz should be enough.

Failing to Respect the Company’s Dress Code 

You have to dress for the job you want. That doesn’t mean picking the fanciest pieces from your closet and the most expensive shoes you own. It means dressing in a way that works for that particular organization.

If, for example, you’re applying for a position in a non-governmental organization that does a lot of fieldwork, the casual style will be okay. You don’t want to wear a suit to such an interview. If, on the other hand, you’re applying for a traditional office job, ditch the baggy clothes, and wear something sleek.

Try to find out how the people who work there dress. Pick clothes that will fit in that environment, but will still make you feel like yourself.

Interrupting the Interviewer 

Maybe they will make wrong conclusions about you and you’ll want to set things straight. Maybe you’ll predict the question before they finish it and you’ll want to cut through the chaise. Don’t do it!

Allow the interviewer to finish the sentence before you speak up. Be patient!

Too Much or No Eye Contact 

If you don’t make eye contact, you’ll seem like an unconfident person that no one wants in their organization. No eye contact may also convey a lack of interest in this particular position.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your eyes off the interviewer. You’re not trying to intimidate them by looking in their eyes without blinking. Keep eye contact casual and relaxed.   

Wrong Posture 

Curving your back forward makes you look unconfident. Crossing your arms shows you’re setting limits and you’re not very interested in the discussion. Sitting in a stiff position means you’re not relaxed.

You want to sit with your back straight, but your shoulders relaxed. A slight lean forward when you talk shows you’re interested in the conversation. Hiring managers pay a lot of attention to these body signs, so you want to leave a good impression through your posture.   

Are you ready? You’re ready! If you avoid the mistakes listed above, you’ll do just fine during the interview.   

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