10 ways to ruin a job interview

Searching for a new job isn’t easy. Between polishing up your resume, researching companies, and doing your very best to score job interviews, there are a lot of moving parts you need to keep track of.

On the upside, all that effort could lead to you landing your dream job. But, what about the downside? There are far too many opportunities for you to miss the mark, look unprofessional, and thwart your attempt at career progression.

We know, it sounds brutal. But, being aware of potential stumbling blocks that can lead to sabotaging yourself in your next job interview, is half the battle. So, here are ten negative (and unfortunately, common) behaviours that can instantly take you out of the running.

10 Behaviours That Can Cost You the Job

1. Multitasking

If you’re serious about the position, then the hiring manager or recruiter deserves your full attention. That means no scrolling through emails during your phone screening and giving distracted replies. Or, even worse, glancing at your phone during your in-person interview.

Refusing to devote all of your focus to the interview process just makes you look uncommitted, unengaged, and – most importantly – incredibly rude.

2. Being Rude

Speaking of being rude, this is definitely a behaviour you’ll want to avoid when you’re interviewing for a job (and, even when you’re not!). Make your best effort to be kind and friendly to everyone you meet – including the receptionist that greets you in the office lobby.

“Behaviour outside the four walls of the interview room speaks to someone’s true colours,” says Katherine Marr, CPA, CA, Partner of The Mason Group’s Accounting and Finance Permanent Division. “Walk into the interview with a mix of confidence and humility, smile, and show some enthusiasm by projecting a positive attitude.”

Remember, word travels fast in an office. So, when news about you spreads like wildfire, you want it to be positive.

3. Arriving Late

Showing up late is one of those classic job interview faux pas – it makes you look disorganized and wholly unprofessional. So, chances are, you know enough to avoid it by now.

In fact, you’re always better off arriving a little ahead of time. But, don’t show up too early – that can be just as rude, as it disrupts office flow and schedules.  We suggest showing up no more than fifteen minutes early.  Grab a coffee and relax somewhere close by – but don’t carry that coffee with you into the interview!

If everything seems to go wrong and you know you’re going to be behind schedule? “Give the company or the recruiter a call ahead of time to notify them of your delay, and make sure to apologize,” shares Mitch Goldstein, President of The Mason Group.

4. Rescheduling Multiple Times

Occasionally, unexpected circumstances crop up that require you to reschedule a commitment. But, when this does happen, you want to make sure you give at least 24 hours’ notice so that the company or recruiter has adequate time to adjust their schedules.

If you absolutely must reschedule, you want to ensure it’s the first and last time you do so. Repeatedly forcing the interviewer to shuffle their calendar around just shows that you’re flakey, undependable, and even a little entitled.

5. Failing to Prepare

Adequate preparation is imperative when it comes to job interview success. If you don’t lay the right groundwork, you’ll be left floundering throughout the entire process.

“Not being prepared for the interview – such as not reviewing the profile of your interviewer and failing to research the company as a whole – instantly makes you look unqualified and uncommitted to the process,” shares Marr.

Also, make sure to come armed with any information the interviewers could ask for – including what your current base and other incentives are, extra copies of your resume, and a list of your references.

6. Lying

Lying during the job search process – whether it’s on your resume, LinkedIn profile, or during the interview – will simply never end well for you. In a recent CareerBuilder survey, 69% of employers said that catching a candidate lying about something is an instant deal breaker. So, save yourself the headache and don’t even try it.

Recruitment agencies and employers always run extensive background checks before an offer is made, so getting caught is virtually inevitable. Lying is a surefire way to end a relationship before it starts.

7. Looking Sloppy

Your resume and interview answers speak volumes about you. But, so does your appearance – meaning you can’t show up looking like you just rolled out of bed.

Make sure you have great hygiene, but avoid any overly strong perfumes or colognes. Additionally, you need to dress professionally and ensure that your outfit is clean, pressed, and polished. “As an accounting and finance professional, dressing the part is not optional,” confirms Jeffrey Horowitz, Partner at The Mason Group.

8. Communicating Poorly

Communication is key – particularly throughout the job search process. So, you need to pay extra attention to ensure that you’re always communicating clearly, effectively, and respectfully in order to portray yourself as the qualified, high-level candidate that you are.

Avoid interrupting the interviewer, oversharing personal information, and, of course, cursing. Also, make your best effort to answer interview questions in a way that’s concise and direct, instead of rambling on without a central purpose or focus.

9. Neglecting Body Language

Yes, the words you say are important. But, sometimes what you’re not saying can be even more revealing. You should take extra care when it comes to your body language in interviews.

Maintain eye contact with the interviewer, avoid slouching in your seat, fidgeting, or making hand gestures away from your body, and of course, don’t forget to smile. Those are all marks of a confident and worthwhile candidate.

10. Failing to Follow Up

While it might seem old fashioned, you should still plan to send a thank you email or note after your meeting, to show that you’re courteous, gracious, and still very much interested in the opportunity.

“It’s a tough market out there,” warns Marr, “So, good manners are not optional.”

There are a lot of opportunities to screw things up throughout your job hunt. But, remember, there are even more opportunities to get things right. Stay away from these ten common behaviours, and you’re sure to improve your chances.


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