What Not To Do in a Job Interview
Job interviews can be awkward. They give you just a couple of hours at most to serve up the perfect snapshot of your qualifications and personality. The pressure’s on. If you slip up, you may lose the opportunity or agree to something you don’t truly want.
Navigating a job interview is an art form that comes more naturally to some than to others. When you’re interviewing for a job, there are a lot of things you should do and tools you can employ to ensure interview success.
There are also some things that you shouldn’t do if you want a second interview or job offer. You also don’t want to give a false impression—even if it’s a good one—because it will come back to bite you later.
Don’t Do These 12 Things During a Job Interview
Employers are evaluating more than just your resume during the interview process. Here is what not to do when you’re interviewing for a job.
1. Don’t arrive too late or too early.
Arriving on time is the most basic prerequisite for a job interview. This goes double for online interviews, where there’s truly no excuse to be late. Prepare your travel carefully and leave a cushion for unexpected delays. If you are late one time due to an emergency, be very communicative with your contacts and try not to do it again.
However, don’t arrive too early for your interview and force yourself to sit nervously in full view in a waiting area. Plan to arrive no more than ten minutes earlier than your interview appointment time. You can grab a cup of coffee nearby if you get to your destination earlier than expected.
2. Don’t dress too casually.
Err on the side of overdressing to demonstrate that you are serious about the opportunity. Research the company’s website and social media pages to learn about their culture, and always dress one step up for an interview. Click here for tips on how to dress during online interviews, which come with their own set of rules.
3. Don’t appear disorganized.
You want to appear organized and focused. Don’t come to a job interview with a thousand bags or papers in tow. Keep it to one, neat, professional bag with a pen and a few copies of your resume, references, and other application requirements. Bring a tiny notebook and take copious notes throughout the interview. Keep your paperwork neat in folders or binders, and make sure that everything is easy to find so that you don’t have to rummage around.
If you’re doing an online interview, neaten up your background. Don’t let the boss see all of those candy wrappers littered around your workspace.
4. Don’t come unprepared.
By the time you walk into a job interview, you have hopefully researched the company and the potential position. While most hirers won’t expect you to know everything about a new job, you should peruse the company’s website and social media outlets, and have plenty to say about your position. If you come into the job interview without preparing, one can only imagine your performance on the actual job.
5. Don’t be rude to anyone you meet.
Everyone in the office is part of your hiring process. You never know if you’re riding the elevator with the CEO – and frankly it shouldn’t matter if she’s the CEO or the receptionist. Treat everyone you encounter with the utmost respect. Rudeness toward your fellow colleagues is an instant dealbreaker for many companies.
6. Don’t look at your cell phone.
You want to be as engaged and present as possible, so don’t glance at your cell phone during an interview. Most of us are semi-addicted to those incoming messages and alerts, so knock out the temptation by silencing your cell.
If you have kids, an elderly person, or another potential emergency in your life, you can set your phone only to ring when certain numbers call you. Your interviewer should understand if you absolutely must take an emergency call. Otherwise, put it away.
7. Don’t use negative body language or negative expressions.
If possible, do not lean back, slouch, or display disinterest through your posture. Lean slightly forward to engage your interviewer(s) and show an interest in what they are saying.
If you find that you haven’t smiled in awhile, try it. Interviewers want to know that you’re enthusiastic about the position. Other negative expressions that suggest anger, nervousness, dejectedness, or anxiety should be left at home. Remain calm and professional at all times so that your emotions don’t distract from your qualifications. You can always scream into your pillow later on.
Of course, if a disability or mental illness precludes you from doing any of these things, an interviewer by law must not hold it against you.
8. Don’t interrupt or talk too much.
Listening is an underrated interviewing skill, and routinely interrupting a hiring manager is a huge no-no. Make sure you know what your interviewer is driving at before you launch into an answer. You don’t want to do all of the talking.
Here are tips for listening and responding during an interview. Getting into a cadence of listening and speaking is particularly important in virtual interviews, where interruptions can bring the conversation to a halt.
9. Don’t lie.
There are many reasons why you shouldn’t lie during a job interview. You might get caught inflating your qualifications, for example, which will almost certainly cost you the job.
Furthermore, there’s no reason to lie when you can instead emphasize your willingness to learn or refuse to answer potentially discriminatory questions. For example, communications coach and career brand strategist Lucy Samuels said that if an interviewer asks how much money you made at your previous job, you can deflect by saying, “I would much rather focus on the current position.” Or you can focus on your research and say, “I’ve researched this role, and this is the salary that’s appropriate.”
In fact, many states have made illegal the interview question “What did you make at your previous job?” and it is against federal law for job interviewers to ask applicants about their pregnancy status, age, and potential disabilities, among other subjects.
10. Don’t eat in a distracting way.
As a rule of thumb, try to avoid eating or chewing gum during a job interview. Eating is an informal experience, and you want to avoid unnecessary distractions or mess. Eat beforehand so that you’re not hungry. Stick to one cup of coffee, water, or tea, then proceed to sip and ignore it throughout the interview.
If you are in a situation where you absolutely must eat, such as true lunch interview, you still want to make the food as straightforward and unmemorable as possible. Order a small portion of something that can be gracefully consumed, like a salad, for example, instead of pizza or oily pasta. Don’t let eating get in the way of your conversation. Here’s more information on how to handle an interview at a restaurant.
Also, avoid ordering alcoholic beverages at all costs. It doesn’t matter if anyone else is drinking; you want to stay 100 percent lucid and professional.
11. Don’t play favorites.
Do not unintentionally play favorites during group interview situations. There is a natural tendency for most of us to feel a stronger chemistry with one or more of our interviewers than the others. You might look at the comfortable person more often or address your answers or questions to her more frequently.
Make a deliberate effort to focus equally on each of your interviewers since it is likely that each of them will carry weight in the decision-making process. If you have to sit in a group interview, here’s how to handle that situation with finesse.
12. Don’t accept or reject an offer right then and there.
Your judgment is usually clouded during a job interview. Often your adrenaline is high and you want to please the boss. Alternatively, perhaps you had an encounter with someone in the office that rubbed you the wrong way, so you’re feeling down on the job overall. Either way, an interview is no time to accept or reject a job offer. Don’t give them an answer right away. You need to be away from the interview environment and alone with your feelings.
If you’re still interested in a job offer later on, you can start the negotiation process. You may even want to negotiate for things beyond salary, like your start date or the company’s remote-work policy. These things take time to consider and should never be hashed out in an interview.