Fantastic Ways To Screw Up A Job Interview ( Credit:SIphotography ) (Credit:SIphotography)


Back in my recruiting days, I once had a hiring manager say to me about people he interviewed for jobs: "If it's not 'yes,' it's 'no.'"

In other words, unless the candidate made a truly great impression during the interview, they probably weren't getting the job. And trust me, it's really, really easy to introduce doubt about a candidate into the process. Managers are always looking for reasons to say 'no' - because it's a lot easier than taking a risk on somebody who's less than perfect. It's not fair, but it's reality. Here are some fantastic ways I've personally seen interviewees sabotage their chances.

  • Showing up late.
  • Leaving your cell phone on – and it rings during the interview. Extra points for stopping the interview to answer it.
  • Checking your phone's messages during the interview.
  • Being visibly sick during the interview. Seriously, reschedule the interview; you won't impress anyone with your dedication, and you may gross them out by coughing on them.
  • Sending "thank you" notes afterward to some interviewers and not others.
  • Asking no questions during the interview. You'll appear bored.
  • Asking stupid questions. Yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question. Especially dull, obviously improvised questions which clearly illustrate you didn't prepare.
  • Bringing up salary before they do.
  • Swearing. This isn't limited to the 7 words you can't say on television. If you wouldn't say it in front of your sweet, old grandmother, don't say it in the interview.
  • Not dressing up for the interview. Business casual usually applies after you've gotten the job.
  • Taking bathroom breaks during the interview. Repeatedly.
  • Calling the interviewer "dude."
  • Behaving nicely to the hiring manager, and rude to Human Resources.
  • Giving varying answers to different interviewers asking the same interview question. Trust me, they'll compare notes.
  • Having bad breath. It's a bad idea to eat a tuna fish sandwich with onions just before your meeting. Oh, and remember to use deodorant, too.
  • Hitting on an interviewer.
  • Lying. Probing questions can flesh out dishonest information pretty quickly.
  • Badmouthing your current or former employer.

I'm sure I'm missing a few beauties. Feel free to send me your favorite examples – if I get enough, I'll include them in a future article!

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at, or via the website,