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Top 50 Ways to Ruin Your Job Interview

Top 50 Ways to Ruin Your Job Interview

So, you got the interview all lined up and your ready and raring to go…well if you plan on doing well, you better avoid these 50 interview killers (and yes, every single one of these we have seen or have heard about from colleagues):

  • Arrive late or too early (more than 10 minutes is too early)
  • Fall asleep or yawn
  • Smell like cigarette smoke or alcohol
  • Discuss your party life
  • Dress inappropriately
  • Talk bad about your past co-workers or boss
  • Be rude or obscene
  • Be overly sarcastic
  • Try to tell jokes
  • Forget your resume
  • Look at your watch/play with jewelry
  • Ask about money too early
  • Don’t research the company
  • Ask too many questions
  • Ask no questions at all
  • Use “like” too often
  • Be unable to answer their questions
  • Lie about your experience
  • Wear too much or too little makeup
  • Sound desperate
  • Leave your phone on
  • Be fidgety while talking or being talked to
  • Use big words incorrectly
  • Forget to ask for the job
  • Act like you have better places to be
  • Expect benefits immediately
  • Be a braggart
  • Be overly shy
  • Speak too quickly/or to slowly
  • Swear
  • Joke about sexual harassment rules
  • Talk about your solitaire skills
  • Complain about anything
  • Roll your eyes
  • Interrupt the interviewer
  • Arrive under the influence
  • Talk too much
  • Ask about holiday’s off
  • Not know which position you are interviewing for
  • Forget the name of the company/interviewer
  • Chew gum
  • Ask about dating in the workplace
  • Be fake/overly excited
  • Use words that really mean nothing like “web 2.0″ and “go-getter”
  • Don’t ask for their business card
  • Deliver a weak or too strong handshake
  • Name drop
  • Ask the interviewer their age/relationship status/gender
  • Bring in food to eat during the interview
  • Don’t even show up

Have you had a bad interviewer/interviewee? Share your experience!

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  1. I have interviewed a good number of people that come in with a resume that would knock your socks off, but they were only using it for show. One guy I hired just because he was clearly there for only one reason. To have me sign his job seeking form for unemployment so he could continue to draw his check. He never showed up for work and the unemployment office called me three days later asking why I refused to sign his papers. I told them I had hired him when he came in for the interview and he had never showed up for work. I was informed that he was unable to start work right away and just needed his papers signed so he wouldn’t lose his unemployment.

  2. Loved this post. My faves:
    “Don’t show up”
    “Use ‘like’ to often”
    “Use big words incorrectly”

    I loved interviewing potential employees. I discovered that if I allowed for at least one pause of silence, they would spill their guts and I would find out everything I needed to know about the person.

  3. Michelle Gilstrap

    I love this list, but also agree, the employer needs to know the rules. I have been interviewed, so they could learn my tricks and not hire me, but use the interview as how not to hire me, but learn from me. I hate that. I knew immediately what they were doing, and that I was there to shore them up , and it wasn’t going to help me.

    Sure enough it was exactly that. Having too much experience can also work as a way where employers use you. There should be a way where you can politely excuse yourself and walk out.
    I would rather, they just hired me as a consultant for 6 months than tap my brain power in an interview.

  4. I had a guy turn up for an interview and play with his i-phone all the way through it, needless to say it was a very short interview

  5. @ Use words that really mean nothing like “web 2.0″ and “go-getter”
    That’s soooo 20th century . . .

  6. Yes, these errors are all about as bad as not knowing the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’, or ‘to’ and ‘too’, and using apostrophes to indicate plurals.

  7. I agree.

    However such behavior cuts two ways.

    These are 50 ways a Recruiter can ruin a job interview with a job applicant as well.

    It should never be assumed that the job applicant is the only participant who must be on their best behavior in a job interview.

    Most job applicants have witnessed and complained about such behavior from recruiters, company reps and hiring managers.

  8. In this interview I was just “trying” to explain something and found out that I was sarcastic and I never got the job. That was 16 years ago but the experience has haunted me since.

  9. Try not to start talking about what you do when you’re drunk in the first few minutes of your interview…in fact, at all.

    Then stay away from swearing over and over again…even if you are imitating your boyfriend who you tried to calm down.

  10. I am really bothered by the fact that the person who wrote this article doesn’t know the difference between your and you’re. I didn’t even read the rest of this article because within the first sentence I found a grammatical error. Here’s a tip for you….take 4th grade grammar over again.

  11. Wearing too much/ too little makeup?
    Too much I understand, but too little? Looking neat and presentable is a must, but is something like makeup a necessity? I don’t think so.

  12. Sounds Familiar… it’s truly amazing the things people do. Check out my tirade, “21 awesome interview tips, stupid”


  13. The vast bulk of these are very true, however, asking too many questions and wearing too little make-up will rarely ruin an interview.

    You need to be right for the company, but they need to be right for you too and you can only find this by asking questions. Equally, I’ve never known someone be rejected for a role on the basis they weren’t wearing lipstick!

  14. WOW! I actually did Bob. We were interview a young lady whom came to the interview with scrubs ready to work. She also had flaming red hair. She told use that she came in with her scrubs on just in case she was going to start working. We don’t operate in that way. We also asked her to give us something that would make us remember her and make her stand out from the other candidates and she said “my red hair”.

  15. Swearing is a big issue. Some people dont even realize they’re doing it. Get it out of your system before it backfires on you!

  16. Just a reminder: words like “go-getter” are exactly what many HR professionals expect you to use – not to mention that they use those words in job descriptions!

    Also, i know you really wanted to have your 50 reasons, but a handshake will not ruin your interview.

    What’s wrong with ” too little makeup”? What about no makeup, which many recruiters actually recommend.

    • “Go-getter” is not the right words today. The words are “Team Player”!! Employers want to be sure you will be a team player and will get the job done with cooperation amongst your coworkers. A happy workforce shows him that he is producing and that is the bottom line.

    • I was just told by an instructor at a workshop that yes, women are expected to wear makeup. If they don’t the interviewer can get the impression that they’re lazy. He said he didn’t personally agree with it but he said he should warn us.

    • I’ve never heard of a recruiter asking for people to wear no makeup, unless they’re a man. Then that would make sense. According to a study in the American Economic Review, women who wear makeup make 30% more than women who can’t be bothered (Source: In a lot of cases, wearing makeup helps women feel better about themselves and be on their A game. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      • Yes, but some women don’t wear make-up not because they “can’t be bothered” but because they are confident in their natural beauty and do not require a false sense of security. It greatly disturbs me that people would think that my not wearing make up would prevent me from getting the job. The reality is that you look at a whole package. Most of these tips in and of themselves will not be game changers, but a combination of them could affect your interview. Base line, employers look at accomplishments and attitude. Yes, we all realize that attractiveness also plays a subconscious part, but if I am well put together (sans make up) and have a portfolio touting myself as the hardest worker then I think I will get the job over some model who has zero experience!

  17. Most of these are common sense, but some are just employers being stupid. You are interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing you. Anybody who is willing to leave his current job because somebody offers him a job is an idiot.

    “Expect benefits immediately”
    “Ask about holiday’s off”
    Like I said…I’m interviewing you just as much as you’re interviewing me. If you’re not going to give me benefits, I’M walking out.

    ‘Use words that really mean nothing like “web 2.0? and “go-getter”’
    Yeah right! In the big companies you use these to become manager!

    ‘Arrive late or too early (more than 10 minutes is too early)’
    The person interviewing you is usually 5 minutes late anyway. Nobody is going to be upset if you’re early. Sorry to those of us that made the 40 minute commute and wanted to make sure traffic wouldn’t keep us.

    “Smell like cigarette smoke or alcohol”
    Yeah…cause smoking is illegal now.

    “Don’t ask for their business card”
    Seriously? Never hurt me.

    “I once had an interviewee ask if the 8:00 start time was firm or was there some flexibility there as he often had a hard time making it to work at exactly 8. If I could give him a few minutes, then he would be OK. NEXT!!”
    Valid question. Do you seriously want somebody stupid enough to NOT find the best company for them? What if he has to drop his kids off to school at 8. I’ll never work somewhere that has strict times to be in the office. Only stupid companies keep such draconian practices.

    “I once had an interviewee that did a few of those in one session. He should up about 5 minutes late and my boss decided to let the interview take place. His answers were obvious he didn’t care an then proceeds to answer the phone in the middle, cutting me off midsentance to speak with a friend about last night and plans forthat night. Finishes off saying he’s in an interview but he doesn’t care anise he’s only using it for ‘practice.’. I interrupted him and showed him the door.”
    Good for him. Its good to practice with companies you don’t actually care about. YOU were the idiot in this case…not him.

  18. About 75% common sense that everyone knows intermixed with 25% stupid petty shit that everyone hates…

    “…too early (more than 10 minutes is too early)” really? I had to take 2 busses and walk half a mile and I’m actually here 15 minutes early, and you’re going to hold that against me?

    • Dave, I hear ya. That one never resonated well with me either. I am a time freak and am always early. I leave myself time for getting lost (which I am also really bad about!) and the unexpected flat, etc. I pooh-poohed the “Too eager” concept, thinking that could not be a bad thing. But I hired a guy once who came super early to the meeting. I felt flustered when he showed up so early and I had other stuff going on. But at the time I was having a problem with employees always being late, so it seemed like a good idea. He ended up being a horrible clock rider and put my hours over most weeks until I started cutting his shifts. If you get there more than ten minutes early, it is best to just hang out the extra five minutes before going in. This will demonstrate that you are puntual without being a clock rider and that you respect your interviewers time!

  19. The list is quite good. But if anyone seriously makes hiring decisions based on handshakes, I’ll pass on that company.

  20. I once had an interviewee take his shoes off in the reception area – NEXT

  21. I once had an interviewee that did a few of those in one session. He should up about 5 minutes late and my boss decided to let the interview take place. His answers were obvious he didn’t care an then proceeds to answer the phone in the middle, cutting me off midsentance to speak with a friend about last night and plans forthat night. Finishes off saying he’s in an interview but he doesn’t care anise he’s only using it for ‘practice.’. I interrupted him and showed him the door.

  22. I once had an interviewee ask if the 8:00 start time was firm or was there some flexibility there as he often had a hard time making it to work at exactly 8. If I could give him a few minutes, then he would be OK. NEXT!!

  23. Before everything was smoke free, even prospective employers smoked during an interview. I had a cigarette during an interview 30 years ago and got the job. That wouldn’t happen today!

    Not to mention I wouldn’t be smoking under any circumstances nowadays.

    • It won’t matter how you look! You won’t get the job anyhow. Ever since Affirmative Action got into the White House only minorities are getting the available jobs. This is because there is a mandate from Obama’s admin to the Atty. Generals office (Eric Holder) to only hire minorities at the present time.

      • That has been the feeling here in South Africa, too. After 1994 I had hopes to benefit from the Affirmative Action with my qualifications. Man, I was wrong and decided to go to varsity to further my studies. I’m proud to say today I hold a Master of Commerce degree in Industrial Psychology and currently working towards a Doctor of Commerce degree in Industrial Psychology.

  24. LOL @ “don’t even show up”… Yeah that might ruin the interview and your chances of getting the job.

    Good list, and thanks!

    • Recently, I didnt go to an interview i had and 5 days later they called me and told me that I got the job! Still cannot understand how that happened coz no one knew I had an interview with them! hah

  25. I always say be very careful what you say!!!

  26. Unfortunately, I have witnessed most of the things on this list from job seekers of all ages.

  27. Another 50 ways to screw-up an interview, that makes about 200. If one can’t conduct themselves appropriately and have some common sense in a job interview, they should think about some career change, like handing out coupons in front of a department store.

  28. Anybody that commits any of these errors is asking for rejection. Talk about a great way to insure failure!

  29. Well, well, well ….

    If ANY of this is going on during an interview it may mean that you don’t really want to job and it’s only a horrible practice interview run or perhaps your unemployment benefits haven’t expired yet.

    At any rate it leaves the playing field wide open for your competition!!

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