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Applicants Behaving Badly - How Not to Behave at a Job Interview

Updated on August 14, 2013
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I'm a dad, husband, and Christian first. Second, I'm an educator and organizational development professional.


Sometimes applicants do the darnest things during an interview

Finding the right person for the right job is quite difficult. Obviously no one is perfect. But surely employers want the closest match. The search for the best candidate can be a daunting task especially if you get “low quality” applicants. OK, that sounds a bit rude but hey, there are applicants who just don’t cut it. In fact, I have endured sitting across really pathetic applicants and it’s no pretty sight. In many instances, headaches follow an interview. in some rare cases, I had to take a quick break before i can continue. Suffice to say, it's not a pretty experience.

In the spirit of sharing (even the dismal experiences) I have compiled some appalling moments with applicants. You'll never want to face an applicant behaving badly.

Late and mad

Being late for an interview is an automatic red flag. But there was one applicant who barged in 20 minutes late for her appointment into an ongoing interview. She detested the fact that the company did not wait for her to show up. Moreover, she blamed many things for being late. Her list included bad weather, neighbors fighting and the inability to locate the office building – which was actually located along a major thoroughfare with a huge signage.

Interview reminder:

  • Please be early for your interview. Some companies may need you to fill up forms prior to your actual interview so be early. Some even have a set of tests that you have to take.
  • Ask for directions. It’s not a good excuse that you do not know where the building is located. Surely, not everything is on Google Map so ask the best and fastest way to get to the office.
  • Consider severity of traffic. Job interviews are usually done during office hours. So expect traffic especially during rush hour. Take alternate routes or modes of transportation just to get to our job interview on time.


Improperly dressed is an understatement

Putting your best foot forward during a job interview is something we expect applicants to do. More than just exaggerating on accomplishments and skills, even how one presents himself gets points. So it was a huge surprise when one applicant went to an interview wearing beach shorts and a t-shirt. He smugly said that the interview was just formalities and that he had to catch a plane for a weekend getaway with buddies. Suffice to say after his weekend escapade he was still unemployed.

Interview reminders;

  • Dress properly. Interviews are supposed to reflect one’s professionalism. So take the time to dress properly. Business attire is often a good choice.
  • Clean is next to getting hired. Allow me to expand this further: clean and fresh smelling is ideal. It’s one thing to wear business attire but it’s another to present yourself without the stench of the commute. So if you can go to the building earlier and freshen up do so. You can brush your teeth before the interview or simply pop in a mint or two.

Incomplete requirements

Applying for a job usually entails submitting personal records, credentials and other security documents. Although some companies allow you to complete the requirement once hired, it is prudent to complete them right away. In many selection processes, receiving applicant requirements is a common procedure. This is why it was a real shock when an applicant went in for an interview without anything on her not even her resume. The applicant even asked the receptionist to log on her online account and print a copy of her resume and other documents. What’s even irritating is that the applicant had to sift through many versions of her resume. Suffice to say her online storage system just did not work for her.

Interview reminders:

  • Be prepared with your documents. If you are job hunting make sure you print out resumes and other pertinent documents. It’s logical the companies will ask for them.
  • Label your documents properly. This is for everyone’s benefit. The faster you retrieve information the better. But of course, don’t rely on the company to print everything for you. It’s just not right.


Important note

If some of the stories resemble a job interview you once had, It's not my intension to make you feel bad. Likewise, these are some of the experiences I find dismal. It may be different from your point of view.

Poor communication skills

Depending on the job you re applying, the level of communication skills also varies. But in any company, being able to express yourself properly is a basic skill needed. Surely you don’t need to enroll in a prestigious school to acquire eloquence but at least you should be able to communicate. One turn off in job interviews is applicants who fail to complete a coherent sentence. There was one applicant you who would pale in comparison to a 6 year old pre-school student. Here’s the interview as I recall it:

Interviewer: Good morning Mr. XXXX, How are you doing?

Applicant: Shrugs and nods head.

Interviewer: Can you tell me your qualifications for this job?

Applicant: I know it.

Interviewer: Can you give me some examples of your past experiences related to the work?

Applicant: Yes I can.

An eerily long silence

Interviewer: What are your work experiences similar to this position?

Applicant: There are some….Yes, yes, there are some

Interviewer: Can you enumerate them for me?

Applicant: Sure, but there are a few I can share.

Another eerily long silence – but shorter than before

Interviewer: Is there anything you would like to share about your previous work experience?

Applicant: Uhmm, I guess none.

Interviewer: Thank you for coming in today sir.

Applicant: So, when do I start?

The guy was applying for a customer service position!

Interview reminders:

  • Please practice and plan your answers. If you’ve been in many interviews, you’ll notice that many questions get repeated. Some are rehashed but still have the same idea. Practice what you’ll say.
  • Give details that will help you land the job. Let’s face it, resumes can only do so much when it comes to getting information about you. The way you sell yourself will definitely make a bigger impact.
  • Show enthusiasm. Show that you are interested. Moreover, show that you have an open mind regarding the work.


Disparages previous employers

It’s never a good idea to trash talk your previous employer. When asked why she left her previous company she started getting furious and agitated. Worse, it became more of a rant than a straightforward answer. Of course we don’t want to lie about our experiences and our reasons for leaving. But this does not mean we have to disparage people or company. This will reflect our own attitude and professionalism.

Interview reminders:

  • Choose your words properly. Even if you want to cuss and curse, choose not to. How you compose yourself during an interview is very important. This will reflect your mental and emotional attitude.
  • They are not the complaint bureau. Give your interviewer a quick answer. They don’t need to learn every detail of what happened during that interview. If there is cause for additional inquiry they will do so at a different time. Bearing your soul at this time is not an ideal course of action.
  • Be honest. If you were let go, then say so. If you resigned, give them an idea why. Just remember that you should be consistent and honest with the information you give.

There are many other harrowing interview situations that I have witness. I’m pretty sure I can add to this list a few more in the future. One thing is common in all these scenarios. None of them made it to the shortlist of candidates. It simply underscores the importance of proper attitude and preparation for job interviews.


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