Home > Career, Interviews, Job Search > Interview Killers – A Top Ten List of What Not To Do

Interview Killers – A Top Ten List of What Not To Do

top-ten-blueOver the years I have interviewed hundreds of candidates. I have seen and heard things that would shock you and that you would never expect during an interview. So I have compiled a list of the top ten things not to do during an interview.

10. Do not bring your boyfriend, best friend or children to an interview. This is horrible interview behavior. I once had a candidate bring her entire family – there were seven very rowdy people in our lobby. You can imagine what we were thinking.

9. Do not curse or use profane language during an interview. Absolutely someone has done this before and they were promptly removed from the running. Using profanity during an interview is unprofessional.

8. Do not chew gum or smoke during an interview. Again this goes back to professionalism and smacking gum during an interview = not professional.

7. Do not argue with the employer. Even if you know you are right beyond a shadow of a doubt about something it is just bad manners.

6. Do not put your briefcase, purse, pocketbook, handbag, etc. on the employer’s desk. This is more subjective then the rest but it goes along with their personal space and professional etiquette. You would not go to a stranger’s house and prop your feet on their dining room table… same theory here.

5. Do not gossip or tell jokes. Jokes have no place in an interview even if it is related to the job and gossip certainly doesn’t either.

4. Refrain from bad mouthing your previous employer. This is like an epidemic. I think people get trapped because the employer wants to know why you left your last position. Even if you left because so and so was a horrible manager, they were misappropriating funds, Sheila was sleeping around, or Joe was sexually harassing you. It does not matter your employer does not want to hear it. If you speak negatively about a prior employer your potential employer will assume that you will bad mouth them as well. Zip your lip my friend and instead use one of these: “I am looking for growth opportunities, advancement or a better opportunity”, “We had new management and they restructured the organization”, or “The Company went through a layoff.” Only use what is truthful. If something bad happened and you left because of it, then obviously you are in search of a better opportunity.

3. Do not accept refreshments. Drinks spill and food makes a mess. Enough said.

2. Do not say ANYTHING negative about yourself, colleagues, previous employers, competitive organizations and do not tell them about your personal or financial troubles. Most importantly do not express your NEED for the job. We are all human and as humans, desperation is a turn off. You know this… remember dating during your high school years?

1. During the first interview do not discuss wages, benefits, vacations, perks, etc. This is a tricky one because what do you do if the employer brings it up? Here is a general rule of thumb; do not bring up salary, benefits, vacation, perks etc. If the employer brings it up there are two ways to respond. If they bring it up at the beginning of the interview and they would like to know your salary requirements you could say something like: I would really like to hear more about the opportunity before I could say what my salary requirement would be. OR you can give them a range. I typically do not like to commit to a number. I like to share a range. For example, if you were interviewing and they asked you what are your salary requirements you could say mid-to-high $50’s. This gives them AND you some wiggle room. Often times you find that during an interview they will share with you what the budgeted salary is for the position. If it is within your range and they ask you about it you can share with them that it is within your range. It is perfectly OK to negotiate salary – but NOT during the initial interview. In fact, most experts will advise you to shy away from talking about it during the initial interview and instead leave it for when the employer brings it up during future meetings. Also, when they are asking you at the end of the interview if you have any questions do not ask them about benefits, vacation or PTO policies. These questions make you seem only interested in the perks and not in the position.

This is simply a basic list for your next interview. I assure you there are many more points to consider however, these are the most common mistakes I have seen. Review this list frequently and make sure you are not making the same mistakes at your next interview. Best wishes in your job search!

Jessica Holbrook is a former Executive Hiring Manager for Fortune 500 companies and President/CEO of Great Resumes Fast. She creates powerful, customized, and targeted resumes that are guaranteed to get her clients interviews. For a free resume analysis visit http://www.greatresumesfast.com, email your resume to info@greatresumesfast.com or for a free phone consultation call 1.877.875.7706.

  1. Jeff Romine
    October 18, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    Nothing unexpected but a good reminder of what not to do! Thanks

  2. October 19, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Excellent article!

  3. Shyamal Roy
    October 19, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Basic things but good reminder. Like the article. I would like add one point

    Wear decent and conservative clothes. No jeans, tank tops or T shirt with loud comments. (I have seen all of them in Silicon valley). If you are applying for a senior level position (sr. manager and up) wear business formal unless you have been told not to.

  4. Sara Olson
    October 19, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Good list, especially #1. Too often, we are interested in the perks, as you say. The comment about “I’d like to hear more about the opportunity…” is an excellent response if the interviewer brings it up first. I personally like to use a salary range if I have to respond to this part of the position, even on an application.

    Good, basic reminders as well as some newer pointers. Thanks!

  5. Barbara Perry
    October 19, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Great tips!

    Question: When the person doing the interview ask “Tell me about your self?”, what exactly are they asking you for?

  6. Tom
    October 20, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Also–always be on time. Its best to be about 10 minutes early….

  7. Laura Blanco
    October 20, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    I recently went on a second interview where they asked my salary requirements. Their HR department set the interview appointment and told me the position salary offering. When my interviewer ask my salary history and my requirements I told them, based upon the positions’ salary. I could tell the gentlemen was offering less and I am wondering if that was because I was a woman. I spent 2.5 hours at this second interview and I felt a strong sense that salary was an issue.
    What do you think?
    Thank you, that was very informative interview tips.

  8. Robert Fowles
    October 20, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Good list, but I would also add the following:
    If you have tatoos, hide them. You may think of your skin as artwork, but your potential employer does not. If you have body piercings, hide them or if impossible to hide, remove the hardware. The only exception to this rule is earrings (no more than three per ear) on a female candidate.

  9. October 20, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Great tips for those entering the interview arena and a good refresher for veterans. I know our students could benefit from reading your blog. We have a group of individuals in our Career Services department whom I have referred to this posting when they are counselling students. Thanks!

  10. Swapna
    October 22, 2009 at 4:27 am


    Goodone!!! Such things are always expected from candidates while interviewing them. Hope this article will help them out inknowing what to discuss and what not to.

  11. Arvind Mahajan
    October 22, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Very well done. It was a good refresher course in basics of facing the interviews.
    Thanks a lot.

  12. Hemendra verma
    October 23, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Very genuine instructions..
    Thanks a lot

  13. Ranoo Makroo Kalla
    October 24, 2009 at 6:48 am

    Good one & ofcourse a refreshing article. Can add one more point

    > Be thorough with what all has been mentioned in the Resume especially the dates, years & experience. Go through the resume copy before facing the interveiw.

  14. jdh
    October 24, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    As far as salary goes, I’d be honest about your expectations rather than evasive. I know I didn’t get a few calls back because I was straightforward, but that can sometimes be a good indicator of the true level of a job and help weed through prospects without spending your time chasing dead ends. My experience has been that good companies recognize the need to compensate adequately and will not lowball. Know what is fair compensation in your field and don’t sell yourself short.

  15. Victor
    October 26, 2009 at 5:22 am

    That was a good article. well done!

  16. Joe
    October 27, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Good information. Pretty basic. I would like to add a few things that people have not pointed out. Do your research. Research the company and the people you are going to interview with. Know about the company and where the interviewers came from. Know the job description inside and out. Know your strengths for the job and your weaknesses as well. Also, I would like to add that if someone asks your salary requirements I would give them an answer, at least a range. Not answering is NOT the way to go.

  17. TMM
    November 4, 2009 at 5:23 am

    I agree with most of your tips, good basics/refresher for anyone. I also like a lot of the other tips provided by your commentors.
    One tip I don’t completely agree with is #3 – accepting food/drink. I never accept food but I will absolutely accept a glass of water. If you’re talking for an hour or more, your throat will get dry and you definitely don’t want to have a coughing fit in the interview. I would urge you to ensure it’s set at a safe distance so you don’t spill it.
    In fact, taking a sip of water can help a job seeker re-establish their poise if thrown off by an unexpected question or comment (and others may not even realize that’s what you’re doing.)
    All in all, a great article. Thanks!

  18. November 7, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Ah!!! at last I found what I was looking for. Somtimes it takes so much effort to find even tiny useful piece of information.
    Nice post. Thanks

  19. David Villani
    November 12, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    While I agree that you should not discuss specific salary requirements, a lot of valuable time could be saved if the employer would include the “range” when posting the position rather than asking for “salary requirements”. Let’s be honest – it’s a loaded question which begs for an unloaded answer. In today’s tough market, I am sure that most candidates would like to know upfront whether they can afford to reply or even how to reply. If an employer chooses to accept a candidate based upon a low ball “requirement”, it will only lead to problems when the person who is hired learns he/she could have gotten more. Sure, it’s a buyer’s market but it’s incredible what potential employers expect but aren’t willing to pay for.

  1. November 19, 2009 at 9:54 pm

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