What Not to Do During a Job Interview

What Not to Do During a Job Interview

Job interviews aren’t just about looking the part — it’s also about acting the part, too.

I’d like to think most of us know how to behave during an interview, but given a candidate I recently had to interview for an open position where I work… I’m not so sure.

So, here are a few things that you should never, ever, do when interviewing for a job. (Please note: All of these things actually happened.)

1. Bring an outside beverage into the interview… and drink from it while being interviewed.

It’s fine to stop and get a coffee on your way to the interview, but definitely don’t bring that drink in with you. It looks unprofessional to have a coffee cup sitting next to you while you’re intending to put your best foot forward. And if you do bring it in, keep it out of sight; don’t sip from it or toy with it while you’re being asked questions.

2. Act cocky and arrogant.

There’s a difference between being confident and being cocky. Try to channel the former, and not the latter, especially when it comes to body language. So, sit up straight and smile, but don’t slouch, lean on the table, cross your arms, or use your hands to dismiss a question that’s being asked. (Definitely don’t do that last one.)

3. Cut the interviewer off.

Always let your interviewer complete the question before rushing to answer. It’s not a race — you’re trying to impress these people so they want to hire you! Listen, thoroughly and thoughtfully, to each question. Don’t be afraid to pause before answering to gather your thoughts. In some cases, that’s better; you shouldn’t blurt out the first thing that comes to mind.

4. Answer every question with just one sentence.

Most questions, if structured correctly, will require a longer answer than a simple “yes” or “no.” Even if your interviewer, for some reason, has poorly laid out his or her questions, use that as an opportunity to impress them by elaborating anyway. And take full advantage of hypotheticals. “How would you handle yourself in X situation?” should require a more poignant answer than, “I would do X. Next question.”

5. Fail to bring up relevant examples from your past.

Interviewers want to hear about your previous experience. Resumes only give a very small, surface glance into your previous work, so interviews are when candidates really get a chance to shine. Take advantage of that! If you’re asked how you might prioritize your day, don’t just speak hypothetically; give a solid example from a previous job or internship where you had to prioritize your day and speak to that. It helps paint a picture of who you are and shows that you can think critically.

6. Lie.

Look: your interviewers aren’t idiots. If you’re lying about something technical, but you have no idea how to elaborate on that thing, it’s going to be really obvious, really quick that you have no clue what you’re talking about. In general, lying is a terrible idea, even if you know you can get away with it. If you say you’re good at something and you’re really not, eventually, you’ll be called out on it. You’ll end up looking foolish and unreliable.

7. Bad-mouth your last job, your co-workers, or the HR rep who set up your interview.

Ugh. Never, ever, ever speak ill of your previous co-workers, company, and especially not the HR rep who set up your interview! (I did not think I’d have to reiterate that last point. Alas…) Seriously, even if your last employer was awful, don’t say as much. Use neutral language when discussing them. If your interviewer asks why you want to leave your current job, say something like, “I’m ready for a new challenge.” Don’t put down your co-workers, either. Saying “I’m so much better than them” doesn’t make them look bad, it makes you look bad. You don’t seem like a team player if you look down on the people around you. Be positive, even if you don’t feel positive.

8. Forget your potential boss’s name.

You’re nervous, there’s a ton of stuff to remember, so forgetting stuff happens. But please, please try to remember the names of those you are interviewing with, especially if that person is going to be your boss. If you happen to forget their name, try to find ways around using it (“My last interviewer…” or “How closely will I be working with the CEO?” rather than their name, for example).

9. Wing it.

Before you go into a job interview, do your research. Know the basics about the company (what they do, for starters, but also the names of the important people, a bit about their history, and whatever else may be pertinent). Study for an interview like you would an important test. You may need the knowledge, you may not, but it’s so much better to be over-prepared than to go into an interview and just hope for the best. The job market is tough; make it a little easier on yourself by trying your best in every interview you get.

What are your interview don’ts?

Photo credit Flazingo Photos


2 responses to “What Not to Do During a Job Interview

  1. Great list Crystal!! I can’t believe all these things actually happened. I’m sure it is safe to say that this candidate did not get the job.


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