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Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

7 things you should avoid in a Graduate job interview

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

So you aced your application and possibly even a cognitive assessment or psychometric test. You’ve now been invited to attend a job interview – congratulations on getting to this stage of the process!

Even those with heaps of experience or confidence can panic during an interview. For most of us it’s a foreign or awkward environment, where you have to try to convince strangers about how great you are which you find uncomfortable at best, and outright panic-inducing at worst.

But if you get a few key things right, there’s no reason why you can’t be on your way to getting that job offer you want.

Here are the top 7 things you should avoid in a job interview. Stay away from these and you should be on your way to success.

  1. Unprofessional setting

    The last two years have shaken a lot of traditional recruitment activities and most interviews now are done via video conference (VC) rather than in person. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about where you are sitting your interview, if anything, it now becomes something you need to pay particular attention to. Let me paint a picture… La Nińa has created a daily downpour, you have loads of washing hanging up in the living room and on furniture; your flatmate is lying on the couch binge-watching Tiger King; your bed is un-made and you have take-away containers piled high in the kitchen. The interviewers don’t need to see this, and they don’t want to. An interview is a professional event and should be had in a professional setting. We don’t expect everyone to have a home office worthy of an IKEA catalogue but we do expect a neutral/non-offensive setting. The focus should be on you and what you are saying, not on what’s going on in the background, so think about where you’ll be sitting. Make sure you have somewhere steady to place your camera, whether it be a phone, tablet or notepad, so that you’re not holding it selfie style. And think about privacy, you don’t want someone accidentally walking in on your interview. If you can’t find anywhere at your place that’s presentable, sit in front of a tiny bit of blank or non-offensive wall in a quiet spot and focus the camera on you there. If you can’t find a tiny piece of blank or non-offensive wall at your place, it’s time to think about cleaning up.
  2. Not dressing the part

    Your interview is via VC (see above), but that doesn’t mean you treat it any differently. Dress as you would as if you were going into an office. Yes, smart casual is in, but interviews are always professional. Hoodies are never ok.
  3. Bad interview etiquette

    There are a lot of things here that we’re lumping under the term ‘etiquette’. This includes not answering your phone, not playing with your phone, not checking messages on your phone (just put the phone down), not chewing gum, not eating, not fidgeting, not squirming, not playing with your hair, not touching your face etc. 
    Let me elaborate:
    - The phone stuff is disrespectful and unprofessional. Your attention should be on the interview. If you can’t divert your attention from your phone during a one-hour discussion, then we’ll think this could become an issue in the workplace.
    - The chewing gum/eating stuff is also rude and unprofessional. The interviewer doesn’t want to see or hear you crunching and chewing away, especially while you’re talking.
    - The fidgeting, squirming or touching your face is usually a sign of nervousness or discomfort and is completely understandable. But as much as you can, you want to present as being confident and professional. If you have a genuine itch, scratch it. But otherwise, try to check in with yourself every couple of minutes – what are you doing, are you doing any of the aforementioned things? If so, try placing your hands on your lap or sit on them (if it’s a VC interview, no one can see that you’re sitting on your hands) and focus on keeping them there. Often it helps calm you down as it gives you something clear to focus on.
  4. Speaking badly of your current boss, ex-boss colleagues, peers etc.

    Sure, you might be unhappy where you currently work and you think your boss is a tosser. This is not the time to share those views. If you complain about your current boss, ex-boss, colleagues or peers you appear unprofessional. It may also speak to your inability to work with diverse people or work in a team more than to any shortcomings your boss etc has.
  5. Having a lousy answer to the question “why did you apply for the job?”

    This is a common interview question so you should be prepared. Your answer may be because you need a job, you need to pay your rent, you need to pay off your debts etc. And we don’t want you to lie. But there must be something that attracted you to this particular job in a sea of jobs. Maybe you know of the business, you know someone that works there, you know of some of the work that they do and you find it interesting? Focus on that. It shows that you’ve done some research about the place of work, you’re motivated and keen to contribute. This question gives you a good chance to sell your skills and show the interviewers how you might benefit the business.
  6. Relying too heavily on "assumed knowledge" or using unexplained acronyms

    Don’t assume that all selection panel members are experts and have the same level of technical expertise and understanding you may have on a certain topic.  In many cases, a selection panel will have a mix of people – often HR, the actual business area and sometimes an un-related third party to offer objectiveness. So while there will be at least one person who understands your in-depth replies to any technical questions, there may well be other panel members who require you to explain your answer in "layman's terms".  In fact, being able to explain complex matters to others (whether they be colleagues, clients or stakeholders) is an important capability and a sign of your communication skills, which is why panels often deliberately have a mix of interviewers.
  7. Not answering the question

    Seems obvious right? And yet it’s a place where many people fall. It’s actually quite easy to go off track.
    Interviewer: Tell me about a time when you worked in a team, your role and how you worked together to achieve a good result.
    Interviewee: My team and I worked on a project designed to improve the way businesses market themselves. It was a really successful project, we looked at stats to see how the business was attracting clients using its current methods, what the clients were looking for from the business, how prospective clients searched for such services, and we actually discovered that the main tool that clients used was social media. They checked social media multiple times daily to get their information. And so we created a social media strategy, aimed at increasing media presence, and were able to use analytics to measure the success of the project. After implementation and evaluation, we saw that our project increased client attraction by 150%. 
    In this made-up example, the answer sounds great, but the interviewee never actually answered the question. The interviewer does not have any information about the person’s role in the team, how they overcame any team obstacles or personality dynamics, how their role contributed to the success of the project. They will have no other option but to assess the candidate poorly against this skill.
    Always answer the specific question. Feel free to write it down in fact. And check what you’ve written down throughout your answer to make sure you’re staying on track and haven’t taken the scenic route.  


There you go - the top 7 things you should avoid in a Graduate job interview. Let’s wrap up with a few things you should do – be prepared, be yourself, try to relax. Remember – the panel want you to succeed in the interview, they have invested a lot of time in you already just getting to this stage, and they want to know that they’ve made the right decision. They don’t want to be intimidating, they want to bring out the best in you.