Top 10 Interview Fails

Dear, Anita,

I just sent a follow-up letter to a highly desired position I applied for by email using a draft for another industry. Unfortunately, I didn’t make all necessary changes that apply and cannot stop beating myself for this silly mistake on such a grand opportunity. Any words of comfort?

Dear, Oopsy Daisy,

There, there; everything will be all right. Seriously, don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ve all made mistakes before we hit the “send” button. It won’t be your only grand opportunity and maybe not even the best one for you.

Oops keyYou may be wondering if you should send a follow-up email apologizing for the error. I would not. Who knows? The recipient of the email may not have even noticed your mistake, and calling attention to it would not be wise in that case. If they did notice it, it will either be significant (and they won’t call you back because of a perceived lack of attention to detail) or it won’t (in which case your bringing it back up will mean nothing – or it will make them change their mind about its significance).

So, take the lesson – proofread everything twice before sending – and move on.

To make you feel better about your smallish error, here – in no particular order – are 10 interview fails I have seen in my ample years.

  1. Bringing your boyfriend to an interview. Or your mother. Or your kids. If you need a ride, get dropped off. The few dollars you spend on a babysitter is money well spent toward your career.
  2. Arriving for an interview with a cup of coffee in hand. While Starbucks would be proud to have infiltrated the interview space, this is not a casual chat with your best bud.
  3. Wearing flip-flops. No matter how relaxed the work environment, dress appropriately and professionally. Interview outfits should be a notch above what you’d wear once you land the job. (Side note: I once interviewed a college student who committed both #2 and #3.)
  4. Answering phone or texting during an interview. Cell phones should be silenced and out of view, and for goodness sake, take off your Bluetooth earpiece.
  5. Trash-talking your former boss or co-workers. While you may not be able to take grandma’s advice, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” frame your responses about your less-than-perfect previous jobs in neutral language.
  6. Showing up late. Take traffic into account when planning for your appointment. If you arrive too early, drive around the block so you’re not staring through the office window at your interviewer.
  7. Showing up deathly ill. An interview is an important meeting not to miss, but nobody wants to share the air with a walking Petri dish. Call and let the interviewer choose to reschedule or not.
  8. “Ummm, I’m, like, such a people person, ya know?” Practice answering interview questions with a friend to minimize your speech idiosyncrasies.
  9. Interrupting. Curb your enthusiasm and wait for the interviewer to finish his or her thought or question. Just like on the Jeopardy, if you buzz in too early, you’ll likely lose points.
  10. Acting desperate. Telling the hiring manager that you really need the job, or sharing your financial hardships will backfire. Just as in dating, desperation is a turn-off for employers. Self-confidence will bring respect, while sad sack stories will just bring pity.

Readers: Don’t be shy! Share your interview faux pas.

Need some job advice? Anita Clew is happy to help. Click here to Ask Anita.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nany
    Sep 28, 2016 @ 08:21:53

    I interviewed with a district manager for a position at a cellular store. Other than his booming voice, he stared at my (well concealed!) chest during the majority of the interview. After stating I worked well under pressure he got even louder and asked a string of personal questions in rapid succession.

    Reply

  2. Ricrane
    Jan 21, 2016 @ 20:17:10

    Nice job you’re doing Anita… I have a question though. What are likely questions to be expected with respect to Personal Characteristic and Experience assessment questions? There are some questions with just 2 option and you must chose one and neither of the questions seems to be relevant to you or stand a danger, in such case, what is least expected to do?

    Thanks and curiously waiting for your response.

    Reply

  3. Tina
    Dec 30, 2014 @ 14:06:39

    I’m may be called for a second interview for a company. Can you help with the question of scenario cases with customers.

    Reply

    • anitaclew
      Dec 30, 2014 @ 14:51:40

      Tina, This is a very broad question, and you may likely be asked something specifically related to the position or industry for which you are interviewing. But try to adapt standard interview questions such as “Tell me about a time where you had to deal with conflict on the job” and “Give me an example of a time that you felt you went above and beyond the call of duty at work.” For more on prepping for your second interview, read http://anitaclew.com/2014/11/18/take-stock-with-a-mock-interview/ and get a partner to help you field potential scenario questions. Good luck!

      Reply

  4. Mike N.
    Jun 29, 2014 @ 22:09:40

    You have provided great concepts to avoid when being interviewed. I have seen individuals also do many weird things in interviews. As an employer there it is easy to judge every aspect of the individual being interviewed. This makes it important for the interviewee to make sure he/she stays confident and calm.

    Reply

  5. Carlene Byron
    Jun 24, 2014 @ 16:52:39

    The worst moment from someone I interviewed was the guy who crossed his arms behind his head, leaned back in the interview chair, and asked, “Just how hard do people really have to work here?” Not a hire!

    Reply

  6. Tiffany Lieu
    Jun 24, 2014 @ 12:36:59

    These days interviewers do look for verbal fluency and literacy during the conversations. I haven’t gone to a single interview where it doesn’t count in some ways. It does explain why the degree of difficulty for job searches can vary among so many applicants. Yet, at the same time interviewers aren’t supposed to exhibit too much discrimination among the screenings. So, steady, good verbal flows are certainly important. Also, it is very important to have good recall about the interviewers talks till they finish prior answering. I try to find the right moment to interrupt for a response though. Sometimes interviewer can go on for a while.

    Reply

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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