On average, 117 other candidates are applying for that job you are pining after. Only 20% of these applicants – at most – will get to an initial job interview. The odds are heavily against you, and that’s in the most enviable of scenarios.

Going through the interview process for a new job can be one of the most chaotic and stressful times of a person’s life. Preparing yourself to answer questions about the specific position can overshadow the way you convey your talents and capabilities alone, and the questions aren’t even the only thing you have to worry about. Below, we have identified some key behaviors to avoid for their ability to cast a shadow on your interview performance. 

1. Steer Clear of Limp Handshakes

First impressions are everything. In a post-COVID world, expectations on physical contact in an interview could be confusing. However, if you have communicated with the hiring manager in advance about their guidelines around in-person meetings, you will be on the same page about what is kosher when going into that fateful first interview.

A firm grip has been historically used to affirm a confident personality. When meeting someone new, it is the first indicator of mood, strength, and confidence. The way you maintain eye contact during a handshake can also drastically affect the result of your meeting, interview, or other pivotal introduction in your life. 

Maintaining a reputation with a firm handshake in a career that connects with many people can also help indicate your confidence in the company’s growth, networking, and direction. In an increasingly competitive job market, a good handshake could be the difference between getting the job and being passed over for someone else. 

2. Don’t Be Ignorant

Do you ever hear the term “Ignorance is bliss”? While it may be applicable to other areas of life, be sure to steer clear of this ideal when approaching a job interview. 47% of interviewers decline an applicant who comes to an interview with little to now knowledge about the company.

Don’t know much about the company? Check out their website and look up their social media accounts. Reach out to current and former employees to gauge their perceptions of the company as a whole. Invest time in researching what they do, how they present themselves to the world, and what their mission and goals are.

Even if the company has approached you for your expertise, it’s your job to do some reading up on them before the interview. Not only does this prove to the hiring manager that you are a self-starter who may be invested in the future of the company, but it also helps you to better understand if your skills would be a good fit. 

No, it is not necessary to find the CEO’s personal Instagram account and check in on their one year old’s birthday party. (If you have gone that far down the rabbit hole, it may not be advisable to admit it during the interview process.) At the very least, your internet stalking can help you to decide if the company operates at a pace you can get on board with, and if the company’s culture would be a good fit for the next step on your career path.

Keep in mind that hiring managers also have access to your digital footprint for their own research. With that in mind, it may be time to go through your profiles to see if there is anything you would like to adjust or update in the event that they do some digging on you.

3. Avoid Filler Words

During an interview, it can be difficult to find the words to explain a process, situation, or job experience you may have. While you are searching for the correct words to use, it can be especially difficult to avoid filler words like “um,” “‘uh,” and the overuse of words like “and.” While you may not notice that behavior while you are answering questions, it can be a pain point for an interviewer to experience that. 

Historically, filler words are seen as unprofessional. The people who interview you will be able to sensitive nerves, even through a computer screen. Good hiring managers are taking cues from your behavior to assess if your personality is right for the job listed and the team you will be a part of.

When used infrequently, filler words can actually indicate that you are taking your time to process through the question and come up with a thoughtful answer. But it can be difficult to limit the number of times you use them, especially when you are nervous. Often, practicing in front of the mirror – or even recording your elevator pitch or a practice interview with a friend or colleague – can help reduce these issues.

4. Shy Away From Inappropriate Language

It is important to mind the language you use with your interviewer and the hiring team. They are looking to this experience to see how you handle yourself in stressful situations, and how professional you are when representing yourself. This behavior will later be seen as an extension of the company, and they want to ensure you are able to navigate your workload under pressure. 

While your dialect is not directly representative of the work you are capable of doing, it is still very smart to enter your interview light-heartedly and try not to curse. This way, you can gauge their behavior and how comfortable they allow themselves to be around you. Most likely, your demeanor will change once you’ve gotten your footing at the company. If you are in a high-stress environment like marketing or entertainment management, you are bound to let out some cuss words now and again. (See also: cuss like a sailor.) 

5. Don’t Speak Poorly About Former Employers

You may have had a bad experience with a former employer, coworker, or company you worked for. Most of us have, and we can level with each other over that fact. These issues may be justified as well. After all, who wants to say anything good about a boss that bounced checks, a manager that was ageist, sexist, racist, or otherwise, or a colleague that drove you absolutely bonkers?

However, hiring managers are observing your behavior to see how you speak about the work you do when you aren’t on the clock. They want to see you admit to your pitfalls and achievements. No one is here to play a blame game. 

Take the time during your interview to focus on your career trajectory, history, and goals. Speaking ill of companies you have worked for – experiences that, ultimately, got you into this interview chair – could come off as abrasive, bitter, and ungrateful. That is not the foot you want to lead within a new position.

Plus, you never want to find yourself in a situation where your hiring manager or someone from your potential new team knows your former boss or someone from a previous organization. You never want to open up the dialogue to offend the people you are trying to win over.