What Not to Do in a Job Interview


So! Your CV has worked its magic and you’ve wangled yourself an interview. Now that you’ve got your foot in the door, you’ll want to kick it wide open and bag yourself that position by pulling out all the stops in person. While ticking all the right boxes is desirable, avoiding certain behaviours in front of the recruitment team can be every bit as important.

Of course, it goes without saying that literally kicking the door wide open is inadvisable, while a few other obvious no-no’s are arriving late, swearing, yawning, chewing gum, passing wind, picking your nose and being generally ill-prepared for the interview. However, there are some other pitfalls which might be a little more subtle; in fact, most interviewees who fall afoul of these practices are not even aware they’re doing them. The short list below should give you a heads up on what not to do in an interview to avoid alienating the hiring team and ensuring you don’t get the job.

Dressing inappropriately

According to a recent survey, 53% of hiring managers said that dressing inappropriately was one of the most commonly committed errors in an interview setting. Tie dye t-shirts and spandex are obviously out, as are denim and trainers, and while cummerbunds and corsages are clearly over the top, you should dress to impress. A clean, ironed shirt/blouse and nice trousers is normally enough to do the trick, but do some snooping and find out what the dress code at the workplace is prior to your arrival.

Showing negative body language

You can communicate a lot about your personality through the way that you handle yourself. Maintaining eye contact, projecting your voice confidently, sitting up straight and avoiding crossing your arms or fidgeting will do wonders to paint you in a positive light. Also, it might sound positively Edwardian, but it’s simply good manners for one not to sit down until one is asked to do so.

Checking your mobile phone

In the digital age, your online presence can be an incredibly useful tool in finding and getting job interviews… but once you step into the room yourself, your phone is no longer needed. Answering calls, responding to messages or simply checking its display – even if there is a lull while the interviewer checks his/her notes – shows extremely poor manners and communicates that there are other things more important to you than the job at hand. Switch that puppy off.

Sharing too much personal information

When prompted, it’s good to share information about yourself, but be careful not to go overboard. Your prospective boss doesn’t want to hear about the funny things your cat does or where you ate dinner last Tuesday. Furthermore, you might think that revealing financial difficulties or relaying sob stories will invoke sympathy; it won’t. You’ll simply come across as a desperate sad sack.

Becoming over-familiar with your interviewer(s)

It can be tempting to try and establish a personal link with your interviewer, especially if you seem to have a natural rapport. While this can be an excellent thing in itself, don’t push your luck too far by trying to ingratiate yourself with them or becoming overly familiar, à la Shaun Murphy in ‘Trainspotting’.

Similarly, don’t be a yes-man; if the interviewer gets the sense that you’d simply say anything to land the role, they’ll be instantly turned off. “Of course, most people don’t want to hire folks who are combative or rigid – but they do want people who have a sense of who they are, what they think, and what’s important to them,” says Erika Andersen of Forbes magazine. I couldn’t have put it better myself, Erika.

Slagging off previous employers

Your old boss might have been worse than David Brent and your former place of business akin to a Dickensian workhouse, but your potential employers don’t know or care about that. Badmouthing previous co-workers is quite possibly the worst mistake you can make in an interview (according to Omni One) since it marks you out as a gossiper, a cry-baby and a troublemaker. Worse still, there’s always the chance that your interviewer knows the person in question, and then you’ll really be up thon creek without thon paddle.

Jumping the gun on salary or holidays

Of course, it’s vital to know all about the perks of a job before accepting the position – but you’re not there yet. Inquiring into pay or paid leave before you’ve sold yourself gives the impression that you’re only in it for the money, and companies don’t take kindly to golddiggas. Of the other hand, the salary question might pop up in the interview of its own accord; if it does, this handy little article should give some pointers on how to deal with it most effectively.