by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
If you have made it as far as the job interview, you must have a decent understanding of job-hunting and the key elements of job-searching. Now is not the time to relax, thinking you have made it from the hundreds (or thousands) of applicants to the chosen few. While a strong resume helped get you to this point, it will now take strong interviewing skills (probably over the course of several interviews) to obtain the job offer.
While QuintCareers.com has many interviewing resources to help you prepare (some of which you’ll find listed below), the purpose of this article is to help you realize some potentially serious errors and interviewing flaws that can knock your candidacy completely off track, leading you to bomb the interview and lose a potential job opportunity.
Before getting to the top 10 ways to bomb an interview, here’s a quick overview of the three components of a job interview — all of which are vital to your interviewing success:
- Nonverbals. From the opening handshake to your posture, smile, and eye contact during the interview, the manner in which you present yourself nonverbally plays a critical role in how the interviewer judges your interest and enthusiasm for the job. [For a more detailed look at the importance of nonverbals, see our article, The Unspoken Secrets of Job Interviewing: How Your Nonverbal Presentation and Behaviors Impact the Impression You Make.]
- Personality/Attitude. You might be surprised at how many job-seekers are perceived by interviewers as unfriendly, snobby, or a “know-it-all.” Your goal is to present a warm personality with a positive attitude — while building rapport with the interviewer(s).
- Interview responses and questions asked. The heart of any job interview is the quality of a job candidate’s responses to questions asked by the interviewer(s). Research and preparation are essential. Remember to ask at least a few questions during the interview to demonstrate your interest in the position and employer.
The 10 Deadly Sins of Interviewing
1. Late to the interview. Only an accident or act of God should make you late to a job interview. When possible, complete a full dry-run to the interview location a day or two before the actual interview. Always allow extra travel time, and plan to ideally arrive about 10-15 minutes early.
2. Inappropriate attire/grooming. Arriving to the interview in unsuitable or ill-fitting clothing or with uncombed hair or body odor is completely unacceptable. Like it or not, appearance plays a major role in establishing a strong first impression. [For a more detailed look at grooming and dress for the interview, see our article, When Job-Hunting: Dress for Success.]
3. Limited eye contact. Job-seekers with limited interviewing experience may have difficulty maintaining strong eye contact throughout the interview, but doing so is key. If you feel weird looking into the interviewer’s eyes the whole time, try focusing on the bridge of his/her nose. In a panel interview, maintain eye contact with all the interviewers as you respond to questions.
4. Little evidence of research and knowledge about the company. It is never acceptable not to have thoroughly researched the employer prior to the interview, and the silence you’ll hear when you can’t respond to a question about why you want to work there is your chance of receiving a job offer dying. Plus, how would you know you want to work for an organization if you haven’t completed any research? [For a more detailed examination of conducting employer research, see our article, Step-by-Step Guide to Researching Companies.]
5. Weak content: Incomplete and/or short interview question responses. Probably the most common problem facing job-seekers in job interviews is responding with extremely short answers to interviewer questions. You can solve this problem by anticipating questions and developing compelling answers tailored to the job and employer. [Use the resources at the end of the article to help you improve on the depth and focus of your responses to typical interview questions.]
6. Failure to show appropriate level of enthusiasm. You’re in trouble if you are not smiling enough, appear bored or disinterested, showcase a low energy level, or act cold, distant, or unfriendly. Focus on maintaining a high (but not over-the-top) energy level, engaging the interviewer, and smiling when appropriate.
7. Appearing desperate for the job — or any job. It’s an unfortunate truism of interviewing, but the job-seekers who appear the most needy for a job — regardless of the reality of the situation — are the least likely to receive the job offer. Even if you are desperate for a job, your goal must be to appear calm and confident to the interviewer(s).
8. Seeming unsure about job you want. This deadly sin is most typical of younger and entry-level job-seekers who are often unsure of the type of job they seek. Again, conducting thorough research on careers and jobs can help clarify the jobs that best suit your skills, experience, and interests.
9. Badmouthing former bosses, co-workers, or employers. Even if your former boss or organization is widely known for its incompetencies or other problems, a job interview is no time to express your anger or disgust. Job-seekers who complain are immediately labeled just that — complainers — who should not be hired.
10. Failing to ask questions. Most job interviews conclude with the interviewer asking the job-seeker is he or she has any questions. Failure to ask at least one non-obvious question here signals a level of disinterest (or laziness). In fact, if you have completed your research thoroughly, you should have more questions than you have time to ask. [Use this collection of questions to help you plan the questions you will ask in the interview: Questions You Can Ask at the Job Interview.]
Final Thoughts on Avoiding Mistakes, Achieving Interviewing Success
Some other behaviors that did not quite make the top 10, but you should avoid if you want a better chance of acing the interview:
- Bad habits and odd mannerisms (tapping fingers, cracking knuckles, fidgeting, touching face or hair, etc.)
- Taking overly long pauses to respond to questions
- Excessive use of “filler” words in your responses (ah, um, uh, like, you know)
- Poor/too casual posture
- Limp or moist handshake. (And no bone-crushers, either)
- Gum chewing
- Failing to turn cell phone to silent, or worse, answering your cell phone
- Arguing with the interviewer
- Not attempting to build rapport with interviewer
- Treating receptionist, office assistant, or any other employee poorly
- Bringing a parent with you to the interview
Now that you know that key behaviors to avoid in a job interview, here are a few links to some key interviewing resources that can boost your knowledge, preparation, and confidence in interviewing — and help get you one step closer to receiving the job offer.
- Frequently Asked Questions About Interviews: Comprehensive Job Interviewing FAQ
- The Quintessential Guide to Job Interview Preparation
- Job Interview Question Database for Job-Seekers
- Job Interview Tutorial for Job-Seekers
- Rehearsed, Mock, and Videotaped Interviews
- Job Interviewing Do’s and Don’ts
- Interviewing Prep: Job Interview Checklist
- Interviewing Prep Technique: Composing Written Responses
- Phone Interviewing Do’s and Don’ts
- Sticky Job Interview Situations — and How to Handle Them
- Behavioral Interviewing Strategies for Job-Seekers
- 24-Hour Countdown to the Job Interview
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Have you taken advantage of all of our job interviewing resources? Find articles, tutorials, and more — all written to help job-seekers learn how to succeed in all types of job interviews.