You know the formula for success: A solid resume + a great phone interview = an in-person interview. Acing the in-person interview will put you a few steps closer to an offer letter, but a bad, or even mediocre interview can completely knock you out of the running. What’s the best way to do well? Know what not to do. Below, we share 11 ways to sabotage your interview, and what you should do instead.
Show up Late
This is the cardinal sin in the world of job hunting and a surefire way to sabotage your interview. Recruiters know that a candidate is (usually) on their best behavior while in the interview stage. If you’re early for the interview, you’ll probably show up on time for work. If you’re late, you’ll probably also be late for your shifts.
Make sure you give yourself enough travel time. Check your GPS the night before and add a buffer of 20-30 minutes to your commute. You don’t want to get stuck in traffic or end up late because you were searching for a parking spot.
Try your hardest to be early, or at least on time. If you’re going to be late, call the recruiter ASAP. Letting them know sooner, rather than later, shows that you respect their time and are a good communicator.
Show up Super Early
Self-sabotage has many faces: Showing up too early is just as bad as showing up late. Arriving more than 15 minutes in advance may make the hiring manager feel rushed to greet you.
Aim to be in the building 10 minutes before your interview is scheduled to start. This way, you have time to complete any additional paperwork, review your notes, and take a moment to breathe before you jump into wowing the interviewer.
Often, recruiters have interviews scheduled back-to-back, and showing up early may put you face-to-face with another candidate. With your excitement (or nerves) already running high before an interview, you’ll want to avoid anything that could throw you off your game.
Be Rude to the Reception Staff
This is common sense to some and news to others. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
Being anything less than friendly to everyone you come into contact with once you’re on company property could end up costing you the job. Be on your best behavior long before you sit down for the interview – you never know who has the ear of the hiring manager.
Pro-Tip: Keep it real. People can tell when someone isn’t being genuine, and laying on the charm too thick can work against you.
Any staff members you meet could end up being your coworkers, and it’s much easier to simply start off on the right foot rather than trying to mend relationships after you were inadvertently rude to someone.
If you’re prone to road rage (like some of our team), resist the urge to use your horn when you’re driving to an interview. It would be pretty embarrassing to flip the bird to another driver and then realize they work at the building you’re visiting.
Don’t Dress to Impress
First impressions often shape someone’s entire perception of you and a great way to sabotage your interview is to show up dressed inappropriately.
Even if the job you applied for won’t require you to wear a suit, it’s a good idea to dress professionally for the interview. Show the hiring manager that you take the opportunity seriously and skip the jeans and sneaker combo.
At the minimum, you should wear slacks and a complimentary blazer. Remember, when you look good, you feel good.
Forget Your Resume
Never assume that a recruiter or hiring manager has a copy of your resume on hand, and always bring a few extras with you.
Often, you’ll be asked for a copy of your resume at the beginning of your interview. There’s no need to say you’re a prepared and organized person if you can show it by pulling out a folder with enough resumes for everyone who’s interviewing you to have their own copy.
Pro-Tip: Bring five copies of your resume to any interview. You probably won’t need them all, but you’ll feel like a champ if you end up interviewing in front of multiple people.
Have a few bucks to spare? Go the extra mile and print your resume on professional paper. Kinko’s, FedEx, UPS, and many mail stores have printing services available for a few cents a copy. Choose a high-quality resume paper and keep them in a folder so they don’t get damaged.
Give One Word Answers
An interview is, at the core, a conversation between you and an employer which will help you both decide if it’s mutually beneficial for you to go into business with one another.
Each interview question is designed to find out if you’re a good fit for the position, team, or organizational culture. Unless you’re applying to be a dentist, your interview shouldn’t involve pulling teeth. Be open and responsive to the questions being asked.
Avoid one-word answers, which can make you appear disinterested in the conversation. Not sure how to elaborate past ‘yes’ or ‘no’? Practice some answers to common interview questions beforehand.
Talk the Hiring Manager’s Ear Off
Another surefire way to sabotage yourself in an interview is to hog the conversation. As we mentioned before, an interview is a conversation, not a monologue.
Practice brief, impactful responses to common interview questions. Your answer to “tell us about yourself” shouldn’t take up more than 45 seconds. If you haven’t heard the interviewer’s voice in more than a minute, you’re talking too much. Back and forth dialogue should be fairly constant, especially when you’re in a first-round interview.
Pro-Tip: Remember that you’re on the clock and the interviewer has a whole list of questions to get through. Use your time wisely!
Set yourself up for success by preparing short responses and relevant examples that highlight your professional successes. Don’t feel like you need to blurt out a response immediately. Long answers can lead to rambling or forgetting your point. It’s okay to take a few moments to think about what you want to say before responding.
Plan for your responses to get longer as you get deeper into the interview. Once you’re past the traditional “tell us who you are” and “why are you interested in this position,” the hiring manager will likely dive into behavior and skill-based questions that require more in-depth responses.
Let Your Nerves Get the Best of You
Don’t get caught up in appearing so much like a professional that you lose your personality. Interviewers want to get to know you, so, even though you’re putting your best foot forward, let your natural charisma come through.
It’s normal to be nervous in an interview setting! Even people who interview for a living get butterflies when they’re the ones in the hot seat. A great way to calm your nerves and showcase the best professional version of yourself is to practice, practice, practice your responses beforehand.
We’ve said it before, and we’re saying it again: You don’t need to memorize your responses, but having an idea of what to say will help you sound confident during your interview.
Have you ever finished an interview and immediately couldn’t recall a single question you were asked or answer that you gave? When you’re anxious or in an uncomfortable situation (aka an interview) your body will jump into fight or flight mode, triggering your built-in alarm system and releasing floods of adrenaline and cortisol. Suddenly, muscle memory takes over and your usually calm, witty demeanor is nowhere to be found.
If you practiced your responses beforehand, your brain will use those past conversations and you’ll sound like a competent, prepared professional, rather than a rambler.
Be a Negative Nancy
No one likes to be around someone who’s great at pointing out the negative in every situation, and this goes double for interviews.
Prepare yourself: You’re likely going to be asked about your current or last job. If you’re leaving because you can’t stand the people you work with (or for), don’t use this opportunity to spill the tea on why they suck.
Even if what you’re saying is true, badmouthing a previous employer is never a good idea. Instead of focusing on the negative reasons for your departure, highlight something positive that you gained from your time with the company.
Any time you have to discuss a negative, follow it with a positive, productive solution. A 2014 study of hiring managers showed that 77% believe soft skills, like a positive attitude, are just as important as skills and experience.
Your ability to turn something bad into something good will go a long way in convincing a hiring manager that you’ll make a great addition to their team.
Say “No” When They Ask If You Have Any Questions
Want to sabotage yourself at the end of a great interview? Just shake your head and say, “No thanks,” when it’s your turn to ask the questions. Remember that you’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you.
In the moment, it can be hard to verbalize the questions you have, so write down two or three beforehand. There’s definitely something you don’t know about the company, so use this opportunity to get firsthand insight.
Make your questions count! Ask about office hours, your department’s reporting structure, or what the next steps in the hiring process look like. If you want clarity on something that was mentioned earlier in your interview, this is a great time to have a follow-up conversation.
Not sure where to start? Here are our top questions to use when it’s your turn to do the asking.
Forget to Send a Thank You Email
Last, but certainly not least, is self-sabotage by appearing ungrateful.
Thank you notes and emails should be standard after interviews, but they’re becoming less and less common. Luckily, this is great news for you. Your thank-you email can help you stand out among other candidates and it allows you another opportunity to pitch yourself and highlight your skills.
Pro-Tip: If you’re not sending thank you’s, you’re doing it wrong. A little appreciation can go a long way.
You want your interview to be fresh in the hiring manager’s mind, and you definitely want your message to be delivered before they make their decision. Make sure to send your thank-you note within 24 hours of your meeting.
Email, snail-mail, and LinkedIn message are all appropriate ways to deliver your thanks. If you know the company’s planning to act on a fast timeline, opt for quick, electronic delivery.
Make sure to thank everyone involved in your interview process. Want a great template that’s proven to be effective? We’ve got one!
Don’t hurt your chances of landing your dream job by sabotaging your own interview.
Remember the formula for success: Be punctual and polite, dress well, bring a resume (or two), have a conversation, prepare beforehand, stay positive, ask questions, and end with a thank you!
Looking for more interview prep? Check out our section dedicated to helping you secure the job.
Best of luck!