20 Surefire Ways to Blow an Interview
In the past, I’ve written several blog articles with advice, tips and tricks on how to succeed at interviews. I’ve covered Phone Interviews [“Phone Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips”], Face-to-Face Interviews [“Face-to-Face Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips.”] and even Skype interviews [“Skype Interview Tips: Welcome to the Future!”]. Over the years I’ve prepared and coached many hundreds of candidates for each of those types of interviews, stressing positive approaches and techniques. And yet … I’m still constantly amazed at how often people defy basic common sense, and totally blow their chances of landing a job by doing (or failing to do) and saying (or failing to say) things that I thought were pretty basic.
So, at the risk of re-stating things that may seem obvious to most intelligent job-seekers, what follows is a list of 20 things that are pretty much guaranteed to blow any interview. I’ve personally observed each and every one of the following things happen with job-seekers I’ve worked with at one time or another. Take this list and some the comments that follow each item with a huge grain of salt, and hopefully laugh a little and also learn from it! If you recognize anything on this list from personal experiences … well, now at least you’ll know why you are reading this blog instead of working at your job!
1. Arrive late (or too early). Don’t call ahead if you are not on time.
Keeping an interviewer waiting, and failing to call if you have an unexpected delay is probably the number one no-no any interviewee can commit. And showing up more than 10 minutes early just shows desperation.
2. Dress casually. Wear lots of cologne or perfume, and tons of jewelry. Facial piercings are especially impressive.
I’ve never heard of anyone being passed over for a job because they dressed too nicely for an interview. On the other hand, I’ve personally run out of interview rooms gasping for air after meeting people who smell like they just visited the free sample spritzer counter at a local Macy’s.
3. Shake hands weakly — like a limp fish.
Bad first impressions are hard to shake (please excuse the expression) … and a bad handshake is guaranteed to create a bad first impression! The worst is the “fish” handshake – a completely limp hand. That’s just creepy! Almost as bad is gripping someone around their fingers instead of fully locking hands at the base of the thumb.
4. Appear disinterested — act like a zombie, and do not smile or make eye contact.
This is one of the most often-stated issues that decision-makers site as a reason for not hiring someone: they simply didn’t seem enthusiastic or even interested in the job.
5. Don’t research the company you are interviewing for — just wing it!
Not knowing everything you can possibly learn about a company before you walk in the door is just plain stupid.
6. Badmouth your past bosses and companies. Blame your job misfortunes on others. Wear that chip on your shoulder proudly. Complain about everything.
This is another one of the most often-stated things that decision-makers site as a reason for not hiring someone. It’s just like your mother said: “If you can’t find something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all!” If you bad-mouth another company or person, the interviewer will wonder what you’ll be saying about them or their company after you leave.
7. Be arrogant, overconfident and rude — especially to the receptionist!
Failing to respect and befriend the receptionist is huge. Those gatekeepers often pass their impressions on to the hiring manager … and can easily veto any job-seeker’s efforts.
8. Lie and exaggerate about your qualifications, your education, your experiences, and your prior salary.
It worked for the CEO of Yahoo, didn’t it? Those things will inevitably be caught in a background check, but hey … at least you’ll pass the audition, right?! Saying or doing whatever it takes to get to the next level works so well for political candidates, so why not for other types of job-seekers also?!
9. Leave your phone on, and answer any calls, emails and text messages you receive — any one might be another job offer. In fact, wear a Bluetooth earpiece during the interview!
I’ve actually seen this happen!
10. Chew gum, bring a drink and snacks with you. Smoke a cigarette just before the interview to make sure you smell like tobacco.
Believe it or not, chewing gum is another one of those things that comes up at the top of most surveys for reasons given by decision-makers on why they don’t hire people!
11. Fail to answer questions directly, and go off on irrelevant tangents.
Politicians get away this this all the time … so why not try it!
12. Talk a lot, and don’t listen. Interrupt frequently.
This is a classic symptom of nervousness. Job-seekers sometimes feel that they must aggressively “sell themselves” to the person they are meeting with, and forget that good listening skills are critical for interviews. People who dominate every conversation are generally not good listeners, and invariably turn people off.
13. Describe your past jobs’ responsibilities instead of your achievements.
This also applies to résumé writing and it’s one of my own personal pet peeves (along with receiving “functional” résumés instead of chronological résumés.) The least effective résumés are filled with job descriptions and fail to list any accomplishments. Same for interviews. Don’t tell me what you were responsible for. Tell me what you accomplished! Why should I hire you over the next guy???
14. Offer too much personal information.
Hobbies, athletic activities, marital status, kids, religion, sexual orientation … all great topics for a first date — but not a job interview!
15. Bring up the salary issue early in the conversation.
This is what you REALLY want to know, right? What does this job pay?! You know you want to ask it immediately, right?! You don’t want to waste your time interviewing with multiple people only to find out at the end of the process that they can’t even come close to what you need to pay your bills, right?!
16. Refuse to answer salary questions when specifically asked.
Some advisors tell job-seekers to avoid revealing their exact salary history or requirements when directly asked. I say playing that game is a surefire way to be immediately eliminated from consideration. [For more details on this topic, read: “Answering the Dreaded Salary Question.”]
17. Don’t ask good business-related questions. Instead, say that you don’t have any questions since they’ve all been answered during the interview. Better yet, inquire about things like vacation time, benefits, and other perks.
Again, those are the things you REALLY want to know about, right?!
18. Fail to connect with your interviewer on a personal level.
People skills are highly over-rated, right? [To learn about one of the most valuable interviewing techniques related to connecting on a personal level, read: “Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing Technique.”]
19. Don’t ask for the job.
You’re too good for that! They should just recognize your value in the job market, and beg you to come to work for them, right?!
20. Don’t follow up.
You’ve already done your part and sold yourself during the interview. Now it’s their turn! Besides, playing hard-to-get is much more fun. If they really want you, let them pursue you! If they don’t, then they’re not worth working for, right?