Asking the hiring manager for a sip of his coffee during an interview isn’t the smartest move–especially if you want the job. Taking your shoes off while you’re in the hot seat or asking, “What company is this again?” will never get you a job offer either–but these will earn you a spot on our list of the most unforgettable interview blunders hiring managers have seen.
Harris Interactive conducted a survey on behalf the jobs website CareerBuilder.com, in which they canvassed more than 3,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals between Nov. 9 and Dec. 5, 2011, to unearth the most shocking mistakes they had seen candidates make during interviews.
The sluggish hiring environment may cause frustrated candidates to make avoidable mistakes–but no amount of stress or pressure can justify some of these outrageous gaffes. Nerves and lack of preparation can also be to blame, says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s vice president of human resources, leading to errors like referring to yourself in the third person or showing up in a Boy Scout uniform and never explaining why. “In this job market, it can be tough just to get a face-to-face interview. When the day comes, it’s not uncommon for anxiety to get the best of the person,” she points out. “On the other hand, there are candidates who are confident and are articulate about their own record, but fail to research anything about the prospective role or the organization.”
Even common blunders can be a sure-fire way to make a bad first impression. CareerBuilder asked hiring managers about frequent mistakes that will destroy a candidate’s chance at employment, and more than three quarters (77 percent) cited answering a call or texting during an interview as one of the biggest deal breakers. Seventy-five percent said one of the most detrimental mistakes a candidate can make is appearing uninterested. Dressing inappropriately, appearing arrogant, talking negatively about current or previous employers and chewing gum are other common missteps that hiring managers won’t tolerate.
“One item on the list of detrimental mistakes that stuck out, and that we hear from hiring managers a lot, is talking negatively about current or previous employers.” Haefner says. “It’s a mistake that a lot of job seekers probably don’t think about. After all, the job seeker may be entirely justified in their criticisms or frustrations with past employers. However, the employer may see it as unprofessional, unwarranted or a sign that the candidate may have a hard time building positive relationships with colleagues.” If you’ve had a negative experience in a previous job, focus on what you’ve learned from the challenges and stay away from badmouthing old bosses, she adds.
One job candidate brought a “How to interview” book into the interview with him, and another talked about promptness as one of her strengths, after arriving 10 minutes late. Another woman told the interviewer she wasn’t sure if the job was even worth starting the car for.
To avoid such screw-ups, Haefner suggests researching and practicing. Vigorous preparation can help you stand out from the crowd — in a good way — so you’ll want to show up with well thought-out questions and examples for the interviewer, and present yourself confidently without teetering into arrogance, she says. “Most important, do whatever it takes you to be calm and focused. For example, exercise a few hours before the interview, make sure you’ve had a meal and aren’t jittery, leave early to eliminate any chances of a rushed or late arrival, and when you’re there, let your personality, professionalism and skills do the standing out.”
Your interview is often where you make your strongest impression, so to avoid making it also your last impression, carefully consider what you want the employer to learn about you during the meeting, and strive to stand out for being a perfect fit for the job. Putting the hiring manager on hold during a phone interview to schedule a date on the other line–as one candidate actually did–just won’t cut it.
“Interviews are a job audition,” Haefner says. “The employer isn’t hiring a list of skills and accomplishments. They’re hiring the whole person: their personality, their resume, their critical thinking and creative ability. The impression you make during the interview, regardless of how competitive the job market happens to be, will most always be the determining factor in landing your next job.”