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Worst Job Interview Mistakes

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While in college, I once showed up to an interview with Lockheed Martin fifteen minutes late because I wrote down 2:30 instead of 2:15. When I showed up, the interviewer didn’t seem terribly upset but he was a little miffed that I showed up late. The interview went along as you’d expect, the usual BS questions about my strengths and weaknesses, some more questions about projects I’d worked on, etc. The interview went well, albeit short, and I never heard a single thing back. No letter or email mentioning the interview at all, so I guess it went pretty terrible. Looking back, I think I was pretty lucky. :)

But showing up late didn’t even make it onto the worst in a Harris Interactive poll done for CareerBuilder.com. The original article is here, but if you don’t want to go through a slideshow, here were the “top detrimental mistakes:”

  • Answering a cell phone or texting
  • Appearing uninterested
  • Dressing inappropriately
  • Appearing arrogant
  • Talking negatively about current or previous employers
  • Chewing gum

The story went on to share some of the worst of the worst stories, such as someone putting an interviewer on hold during a phone interview.

Let’s be honest, it’s not surprising that those six would kill an interview. Answering the phone or texting? That’s absurd. If you’re doing that, you have more to do than to review the most common interview questions. Heck, you can even skip a series we did several years ago called Career Week – you need to grow up. :)

What’s your worst interview story?

{ 8 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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8 Responses to “Worst Job Interview Mistakes”

  1. Shirley says:

    As a suddenly (and unexpected) single mother of two pre-teens, I was desperate for a job. I had spent the time since they began school volunteering at those schools and now I needed a paycheck.

    My interviewer was an older gentleman whom I had known since I was 12 years old and I felt comfortable with him. When he said that there were no immediate openings, I said OK and then burst into tears as I left the room. Thirty-seven years later I am still embarrassed when I think of that! (I did end up going to work there after a few years.) :-)

  2. Scott says:

    One time in college I forgot to set my alarm and woke up only 5 minutes before a schedule interview across campus. I quickly raced around (cut my hand in the process and started bleeding everywhere), threw on a suit (no time for socks), and drove like a madman to the career building where I parked illegally and raced into the interview 5 minutes late and apologizing like crazy. I knew I wouldn’t get a callback but I didn’t care – all that mattered was that I made it and didn’t get marked as a no-show, something that would have prompted the university (per its policy) to cancel all of my other pending interviews and put me on career services probabtion until I wrote an apology letter to the university and the company. Definitely didn’t want that to happen!

  3. yourPFpro says:

    I think it’s important to always overdress. If you’re applying for a job that is business casual, dress business. I think this at least gives off a great initial impression. Whether you agree or not, first impressions do matter and make a difference IMO.

  4. Hi Jim, Agree with all your points! I think out of all the 6 that you listed, the most subtle one is probably ‘talking negatively about your current employer’. I’ve first hand seen my old boss bring up a red flag and not want to hire someone who’s down about her current position in an interview.

    It can be tricky to remain positive about your current employer if you’re truly unhappy about your job and employer and are looking for a new position as a result. But, it’s still important. No one wants to work with a debbie downer or work with someone who will just as easily talk bad about them. Dig deep and find the things that you do like about the job, talk about the things you’ve learned and what you’re looking forward to doing at the new job rather than focus on the negative aspects of the current/old job.

  5. daenyll says:

    I had a phone interview for an internship that the call ended up getting dropped just after I answered. Luckily they called back and I had no further trouble with the connection. This is a downside these days where many people no longer have a landline phone

  6. Martha says:

    My favorite interviewee mistake was when a candidate wouldn’t make eye contact with me all interview long! The candidate would look at the other two interviewers without issue but when it came to me (the future boss) it wasn’t happening, even when I asked a direct question! I figured if they weren’t comfortable talking with me then I imagined how difficult it would be for that person to come to me if they had made a mistake. Not a good interview tactic!

  7. Shirley says:

    Always be sure that if you put down a current employee as a reference, that they really think you would be fit for the job. They are quite liable to be asked and may not back you up the way you expect. I have personally seen interviewees red flagged because of current employee input.

  8. Melissa says:

    I spent the entire interview calling the person by the wrong name. She did not correct me until we were done. I could not help but laugh at myself as I called myself creating a connection by using their name often lol at me. Anywhoooo, there’s a lesson in everything and from this I took to stop every time just before entering and reviewing who I’m meeting, what exactly I’m applying for and why I’m the person for it. It’s one thing to do it before leaving out your door but it’s easy to forget during the commute there. If your interviewing a lot (as I was then) things can get jumbled up.


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