16 Things Not to Do During an Interview -- If You Want the Job

bad job interviewCongratulations; you've landed a job interview. You might think you've got it covered when it comes to knowing what not to do when you meet your potential employer. We're all familiar with the biggies like "Don't be late!" and "Don't show up dressed like you're on your way to a nightclub," but what are some other less-obvious no-nos that could blow your chances of getting an offer?


We asked hiring managers and career coaches to share their best advice for avoiding potential missteps that could ultimately cost candidates the job. 

1. Don't bring a drink with you.

"Sounds surprising, but I can't tell you how many times candidates bring a hot Frappucino from Starbucks and then leave it on the desk for me to clean up," says Wendi Berger, the mompreneur behind Pour le Monde Parfums. "The worst is a big cup of iced coffee whose leftover condensation needs to be mopped up with paper towels. Tossing it in my office trashcan has the smell permeating all day. I'm sure these offenders were totally clueless about it, but my advice is to wait for your interviewer to ask if you would like coffee or water."

2. Don't forget to prepare and ask questions. 

"Come prepared with at least a few things to ask the interviewer, not only to help you figure out if you'll be a good fit, but also to show that you're intellectually curious, which shows a growth mindset, something employers are looking for," suggests John Turner, founder of QuietKit.

3. Don't show up too early.

"It's so annoying and it shows poor planning," explains Leon Rbibo, president of The Pearl Source. "If you're sitting in our reception area 45 minutes before an interview, the only thing I'm thinking about while I'm trying to wrap up work is that I have someone sitting in my reception area ... waiting for me. Without you knowing it, it applies pressure to the person interviewing you and may even cause them to rush through what they're doing. That gets your interview off on a bad note."

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4. Don't talk about your social/personal life.

"Don't say: 'I didn't have any problems finding the office; coincidentally I was at a bar in this neighborhood just this past weekend.' It's good that you're familiar with the neighborhood -- that, in fact, is something to share and make small talk about -- but that you were drinking/out at a bar might be frowned upon by some. Not to mention ... why were you out at all last weekend? Shouldn't you have been home, preparing for today's interview?" advises Alex Twersky, cofounder and vice president of Resume Deli.

5. Don't discuss political or religious affiliation.

"Don't say: 'My experience includes volunteering as an event planner for the Trump presidential campaign...'" Twersky continues. "Unless you know, without a doubt, that your interviewer is going to react favorably to your political affiliation, your best bet is to leave this tidbit off the table, or rephrase so as to avoid revealing your political leanings. You may not know the political (or religious) leanings of your interviewer, and he/she may subconsciously or otherwise exclude you from consideration based on a perceived difference in ideology."

6. Don't forget to do your homework.

"If you walk into an interview not knowing what the company does or why you're excited to work there, you're doing yourself a huge disservice," notes Jordan Wan, founder and CEO of CloserIQ. "At a minimum, you should know the basics about the company, product, clientele, and leadership team. To impress, prepare some insightful things to say about the company’s competition and what the market’s like."

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7. Don't talk badly about your former employer.

"Even if it was a bad parting, nothing can be gained rehashing the details. Move on," says Mike Smith, founder of SalesCoaching1.

8. Don't overlook the importance of your tone.

"Vocal affectations such as 'fry tone,' upspeak, laughing at the end of a sentence, saying 'um,' 'like,' 'so,' or 'well' to start a sentence -- avoid these and other cultural habits by listening to yourself speak on a recording device while you are having a casual conversation," suggests certified personal image consultant Marian Rothschild, author of Look Good Now and Always.

9. Don't ask for too many specifics.

"For example, you would certainly want to know whether there are benefits offered and general scope -- health care, pension, legal -- but don't ask about specifics: deductibles, co-pay, waiting period, etc.," notes Laura MacLeod, who created From the Inside Out Project. "These questions should be addressed once you have the job offer. Same principle for job duties -- overall picture -- not: 'Will I be able to leave early on Monday and stay late Tuesday?' Again, a question for your boss, once you have the job."

10. Don't forget about your body language.

"Bad posture while you are sitting, standing, and walking can give the impression that you have low energy, little interest, no self-awareness, and bad etiquette," Rothschild points out. "Be aware of your posture always. Sit with your back up against the back of a chair, shoulders back and down, spine straight. Good posture sends the message that you are engaged, focused, interested, and energetic."

11. Don't discuss your post-interview agenda.

"Don't say: 'After I leave here I'm going to meet a friend who works nearby for lunch,'" notes Twersky. "Sounds harmless, but by sharing your post-interview plans, you may inadvertently be placing pressure on your interviewer to hurry things up, and that won't help your interviewer's mindset, or your chances of moving on in the process. Not to mention, you shouldn't have plans right after the interview. Who's to say that your interviewer won't want to take you to lunch, or have you spend another 40 minutes talking with another employee?" 

12. Don’t rush with a quick response.

"Think before you speak," advises Nancy Friedman. "Mom or Dad probably taught you that. And it’s a good one. Think about the question the prospective employer is asking. The one- or two-second pause will show you’re thinking. That’s a good sign. Answering a question too quickly can make you look as though you have rehearsed and planned your answer. It’s too easy to make a mistake."

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13. Don't forget to turn off your cell phone. 

"Another faux pas for some job seekers is that they forget to turn off their cell phones before the interview," says Cheryl E. Palmer, M.Ed., CECC, CPRW. "Having your phone ring during an interview can disrupt the interview and make you look unprofessional, especially if you have a loud ring tone that the interviewer may not appreciate."

14. Don't hide your interest.

"My solution ... is to encourage candidates to practice their closing statement," explains Lauren Milligan, career advancement coach. "This is to be delivered at the very end of the interview, after you’ve had a chance to ask all your other questions. Here’s an example: 'I’m very interested in this position and I hope to continue to the next round of interviewing. Is there anything specific you would like me to prepare or research, in hopes that I’ll be called back in?'"

15. Don't forget to follow up after the interview.

"An interview can be like one big sales pitch," explains Wan. "Put time on your calendar to send that thank-you note and reemphasize why you’re the best candidate for the position. Add additional value, like articles you may have referenced, or offers to help the business for bonus points."

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Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, concurs and shares a scenario in which one candidate set herself apart by following this advice.

"The best example of this that I've seen is one applicant for a project manager position [who] sent a thank-you note [and then] also sent an article from the trade publication that tied into what we discussed during the interview," he notes. "It showed me that she was engaged, she knew our industry, and she was thinking about ways to contribute to the team and was willing to go above and beyond the same old motions of trying to land a job."

16. Don't get ahead of yourself.

"The worst thing I ever heard in a job interview was 'okay, so when do I start?'" Pierre Tremblay, director of human resources at Dupray, explains. "This happened roughly five minutes after the hour-long interview started. We were hiring for a product manager position within our e-commerce department. You should never presume you will automatically get the job. Why? Because it’s not a done deal. We probably have four or five other candidates lined up. A candidate’s cockiness detracts from their overall appeal."

It's natural to be a little nervous going into an interview, but reviewing this checklist before the big day could save you from making a potentially career-crushing mistake.


Image via Eviled/Shutterstock

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