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Things Not To Do in a Job Interview

Updated on September 30, 2017

Welcome guest writer, Susan Bates. You'll discover wonderful tips from this talented writer. Learn more about the author at the end of the article.

It is just as important to know what not to do during a job interview as it is to know what to do. Therefore, I asked employers and career counselors to tell me about mistakes job candidates have made during interviews. Below I discuss some of what I learned. My hope is that you will be able to learn from the mistakes others have made in order avoid committing those mistakes yourself. I want you to make a great first impression.

Don’t Use Your Phone

The number one interview complaint that I have received from employers about job candidates is the use of their telephone. Several employers have told me that they have had multiple job candidates accept phone calls during the interview! Do not be that person! Your phone should be on silent (or off) and put away. You should not text, make calls, accept calls, play games, or anything else phone related during the interview. Your focus should be on the interview, not an electronic device. I would even recommend putting your phone away before arriving at your interview location and keeping your secured until you are safely out of sight of all interviewers.

Don’t Wear Flip-Flops

Always dress appropriately for interviews. While appropriate attire will vary somewhat depending on the nature of the job, the company culture, and the region in which you reside, formal attire is typically expected when interviewing for professional positions. Formal attire does not include hats, t-shirts, or flip-flops.

It may sound like I am being facetious when I say not to wear flip-flops but I have actually heard from employers that job candidates have arrived wearing flip-flops. As you can imagine, this doesn’t typically go over well. However, I will mention that I have talked with at least one person who said she wore flip-flops and managed to get the job.

Don’t Stink up the Place

Do not let a desire to smell good during the interview lead you to wearing too much cologne or perfume. A very small amount of a light fragrance is acceptable. It may even be best to skip applying a scent altogether. You never know if interviewers are allergic to the fragrance you are wearing of if they will simply find it unappealing. One candidate that my colleagues and I interviewed wore so much cologne that we could barely ask him questions. After he left the room, we had to air it out before we could bring in the next candidate. We were concerned that he would wear too much cologne to work as well. Ultimately, we decided to take a chance and hire him. Fortunately, that was the only day he wore that much cologne.

Don’t Drop an F-Bomb

It’s best to speak professionally and not to use any explicit language during an interview. It can be a real turn off. Once I interviewed someone who used explicate language casually in almost every sentence. The job he was applying for required extensive contact with students and parents. Before the interview, he was our leading candidate because of his strong qualifications. After the interview, he was out of the running. We simply could not take a chance that he would speak this way while representing our school.

Don’t Be Rude

You should show respect to everyone you interact with at a company where you are interviewing (This, of course, includes the receptionist!). Do not interrupt the interviewers when they are talking, do not disparage the interviewer’s job, and do not put down the job you are applying for. Yes, people actually do all of these things!

Don't Get Drunk

I am being a little facetious here. Personally, I have not actually heard any horror stories where a job candidate became intoxicated during an interview (although I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that it had happens.). However, I have had employers complain about job candidates who order alcoholic drinks during interview lunches. I also had a restaurant manager tell me about a job candidate who ordered a beer at the bar prior to his interview (Remember, you are being judged even before the interview officially begins). Generally, it is best to abstain from alcoholic beverages during your interview. You don’t want an interviewer wondering if you will drink on the job as well.

Don’t Hug Strangers

During an interview, don’t share too much personal information, don’t ask interviewers out for social engagements, and definitely don’t hug them! Employers have reported all of these behaviors.

Remember that the interviewers are strangers to you. If you become overly familiar with them, they are likely to feel uncomfortable. If your behavior makes them feel uncomfortable, they are less likely to want to work with you.

Don’t Be Unprepared

One of the chief complaints that I have heard from employers is that job candidates have not prepared for the interview. An employer told me about a candidate who showed up for the interview without knowing what job he was applying for!

Always prepare answers to commonly asked interview questions. Of course, you cannot prepare for every question you might be asked. Sometimes employers can ask tricky or off-the-wall questions. However, that’s no excuse for not having answers ready for the most commonly asked questions. Do an Internet search for common interview questions and another for interview questions that are often asked specific job you are applying for. Have answers ready for both.

Also prepare questions to ask the employer. If you fail to ask a question, employers may believe you are not really interested in the job. Make sure the questions are related to the job itself, not related to benefits or salary.

Susan Bates

My professional experience includes work as an academic advisor, a career advisor, a school counselor, and a college instructor. I have a master’s degree in student affairs counseling in higher education and a bachelor’s degree is in advertising with minors in English and psychology.

I love to write. Because I have a passion for education and career development, the majority of my writings have focused on education, learning, and career planning. I plan to continue exploring these topics as well as others through my writing.

Among other places, my writings have been published in The Mentor: An Academic Advising Journal and on the website BellaOnline.

I can be found on Twitter @susan_bates.


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