The process of finding a new job can be grueling. Whenever we are rejected in an e-mail, or we simply never get a call back about a job, it’s hard not to take it personally. You are probably wondering, “What did I do wrong during my job interview?”
These are 20 pieces of advice from real managers and CEO’s with all of the reasons that they decided not to hire someone. In a competitive job market, even just one of these mistakes can cause an interview to end badly.
20. You Showed Up Too Early
Being on-time is a good thing, and walking into the interview 10 to 15 minutes early is perfect. It shows that you respect the other person’s time, you are prepared, and you won’t be late to work once you have the job.
However, showing up to an interview isn’t like showing up to the doctor’s office. They won’t squeeze you in just because you’re early. If you show up 30 minutes to an hour or more early, that is bad for a number of reasons. Firstly, it makes you appear too desperate. Secondly, it can add pressure to your interviewer, if they were not prepared to speak with you yet. Third, you may spend way too much time awkwardly sitting in the waiting room with your competition.
Maybe you simply over-budgeted for time when you but the address into your GPS and drove to a new town. Maybe traffic wasn’t as bad as you thought it would be, and you are there an entire hour early. If this is the case, don’t just sit in the parking lot. Spend that time exploring the surrounding area. After all, if you get the job, you will want to know where all of the best restaurants and coffee shops are. If the job requires you to move, you also need to get a good feel for the town, anyway.
19. You Put Up a Front
Some people have a separate “work persona”, and they completely switch personalities when they go on an interview. They think that they need to put on a mask to fit in with what they believe the interviewer is looking for. Little do they know, people see right through this. It’s like watching terrible acting in High School drama club. It is a red flag that you may be disingenuous, and they won’t want to hire you.
Instead of trying to be who you think they want you to be, just be yourself…A professional, polite version of yourself.
18. You Lied To Appear Smarter
The interviewer may ask you a question, and the chances are, you won’t know everything. Maybe you’re afraid to admit that you have no idea what they’re talking about, and they don’t want to seem stupid. Some people handle this situation by lying. “Yeah. I totally know about that thing.”
Doing that is actually very bad. Most of the time, people can see through your lies, and they won’t hire you. Even if you succeed in pretending, it might come back to bite you later. If it’s you are unprepared for the job, and no one is helping you, because you claimed to be such an “expert”. People who are actually intelligent are not afraid to admit when they don’t know something. They are inquisitive, and they ask the other person to explain. If they say a big vocabulary word you don’t know, it’s best to just Google it later. But if it’s a skill that is necessary for the job, you need to admit when you don’t know much about it.
For example, maybe you are going on a job interview as a customer service representative at a bank, and you have experience working for a competitor. The interviewer may ask if you have experience with their banking software. It’s okay to say something along the lines of- “No, I have never used that before, but I used the other bank’s software. Hopefully, it’s similar, but I would do my best to learn.”
17. You Stretched Out the Time
Some people are terrified that their interviewer will get to a question that is too hard for them to handle, so they start stalling by taking a lot of time to answer the easy questions. They think that by stalling, the interviewer will run out of time, and they get to leave without ever getting into difficult or uncomfortable topics. However, there are very good reasons why each question is being asked, and it’s necessary to address everything. If you fail to get through all of the questions, you won’t get the job. Try to answer as concise and honestly as possible, and let the interviewer move on to all of their questions.
16. You Forgot to do Your Homework
Sometimes, people apply to dozens of jobs at once. If you have more than one interview that week, it’s hard to remember the differences between each company. Other times, people just go into an interview totally clueless. They think the interviewer will explain everything about the company and the job expectations once they arrive.
If you show having no idea what the company actually does, you will not get the job. Before you go to the interview, read the company website. Search their name on Google, and read some relevant stories about them in the press. Make sure you get a very good grasp on who they are, what they do, and how you would be a good fit.
15. You Interrupted the Interviewer
You should never, ever interrupt your interviewer. Some people tend to interrupt others when they are nervous, or they are afraid they will forget what they want to say if they don’t say it right now. But it’s very important to never do that during an interview, because it is very unprofessional and rude.
If you are nervous during interviews, and you know that you have a history of talking over people, take a deep breath and calm down. Maybe drink a cup of chamomile tea. Patiently wait for the interviewer to finish their questions. Don’t try to finish their sentences. If you thought they were done speaking, and you accidentally interrupt them, acknowledge it and apologize right away. Let them speak first. After all, they are the one in charge, here.
14. You’re Overqualified
Some people think that being overqualified for a job is a myth. After all, if you have a lot of impressive past experiences and a degree, that means you’ll be great at the job, right? Some people think being “overqualified” sounds just as ridiculous as not wanting to date someone because they were too good looking. However, it’s all too real, and managers will use it as an excuse not to hire someone for a number of very good reasons.
If you have a college degree and an impressive resume, you didn’t pay for tuition just so you could make minimum wage. In these situations, it is clear that you’re temporarily unemployed, and looking to make some money to hold you over for now. There is an assumption that everyone with a degree will keep searching for something better, and they will always have one foot out the door.
It is best to apply to jobs that are in your realm of experience, and at the pay grade you are looking for.
However, if you really, truly want to downgrade your job for some reason, explain in your cover letter or the interview why that is. For example, you may say, “I struggled with all of the responsibility of having a full-time job and taking care of my children. Waitressing in the evening hours would be a much better fit with my schedule.”
13. You’re Under Qualified
This one may be self-explanatory. Your past job experience and level of education or may be enough for a job you applied to. If you really want to move up in the world, and you believe that you are under qualified for nearly every job out there, it may be time to look for some training.
Search online for tips on what you should do to get your dream job. You may need to go back to school, find an internship, or buy books on the subject to get a better sense of the skills you will need. A great place to start might be your local community college.
12. You Didn’t Ask Any Questions
When you go into a job interview, it should be an opportunity for you to figure out if the company is a good fit, too. While you are doing your “homework” to look up the company’s information and re-reading the job listing, prepare some questions ahead of time. It is best to keep your questions in mind, and listen for the answers. Usually, the interviewer will ask you in the very end- “Did you have any questions for me?” That is your opportunity to ask the questions that were never addressed.
If you’re struggling to think of questions, you can ask, “What is an average day like? What kinds of duties would I be expected to perform?” Or, ask about opportunities to move up in the company, stock options, benefits, etc.
11. You Complained About Your Last Job
Some interviewers will ask why you left your last job. This is not an invitation to bad-mouth the boss and co-workers you hated so much. If you recently left your last job on bad terms, it’s very difficult to say anything nice about them. However, there is always a tactful and polite way to say just about anything.
For example, maybe you really want to go on a rant about how you slaved away at your last job for years, only for your dimwitted co-worker to get the promotion instead of you. Skip all of the drama, and say, “I felt that I had done as much as I could at the last company, and there were not enough opportunities for growth.” Or, “My last job was great, but I am looking for something closer to home.” Just prepare a professional answer ahead of time.
10. You Showed Up Looking Like a Slob
This may seem like common sense, but some people show up to a job interview in jeans and a t-shirt, and they think it’s actually good enough to be hired. Anyone who shows up looking like a slob will not get the job. The rule of thumb for a job interview is to show up dressed like one step up from whatever your actual day-to-day work outfit will be. For example, if you’re going to work at a fast food restaurant where they give you a uniform, it’s okay to wear a button-down shirt and dress pants to the interview. A suit and tie would be overkill.
However, if you are going to work in an office where everyone wears business-casual clothes, you need to wear a suit and tie or a tasteful dress with some nice shoes. If you are trying to be a lawyer, doctor, or any top-tier profession, you may want to step it up to the ultimate level. Get your hair done, get your suit tailored, wear a watch, and maybe even consider wearing a designer brand.
9. You Didn’t Act Like a Team Player
If you act too much like you are the star of the show, this is a red flag. If you are fresh out of school, and you were the smart kid who always had to do the work during group projects, that’s good for you, but no one is going to be impressed with that during a job interview. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.
While it’s important to show that you have the skills to get the job done, chances are, you won’t be working alone. In most jobs, you will have to work with a team of people in order to complete a project. Pay attention to questions your interviewer asks that may be pertaining to playing well with others. If you truly don’t work well together with other people, try to ask yourself why that is, and you may need to do some soul-searching and re-evaluating.
8. You Were Too Arrogant
There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence. It is good to give the impression that you would be good at the job, but if you think you’re God’s gift to the Earth, that is a major turnoff. Some people even go as far as to act like they think they are too good for the job, and they are doing the manager a favor by even showing up. This can sometimes happen when someone with a college degree is being interviewed for a position that only requires a high school diploma. If you don’t show some sense of humility, you probably won’t get the job.
7. You Smelled
Having good hygiene is a must, and it’s very important to shower and wear deodorant before you go on an interview. If you are a smoker, it’s important to make sure you don’t smoke right before the interview. You never know if someone is allergic. This is common sense, right? But bad smells aren’t the only problem. You could have worn too much perfume or cologne.
The rule of thumb with cologne and perfume is to dab some on your neck and a little on your wrists, and that’s it. The smell should be a surprising whiff when you go to shake someone’s hand. It should not be so overwhelming that it stinks up the whole office. On top of that, perfume and cologne can sometimes smell terrible when mixed with sweat. Experiment with your smelly water of choice before going on the interview.
6. You Were a Bad Listener
It’s easy to tell when someone has mentally prepared so much for an interview ahead of time, they just blurt out the answers to the questions they want to answer, rather than the question that is actually being asked. Being a good listener is a must. Even if the interviewer isn’t the most exciting person in the world, you have to pay attention to what they are saying, and give thoughtful answers. If the interviewer feels ignored, or if they have to repeat themselves multiple times, they probably won’t want to hire you.
5. You Got Too Personal
Your interviewer may ask you a little bit about your background, or what hobbies you enjoy. They’re just being friendly, and they want to get a good idea of what kind of person you are. This is not an invitation to pour your heart out. No one wants to hear about the fight with your boyfriend, or how your cat threw on on the carpet that morning. You’re there to talk about business, not the intimate details about your life.
On top of that, employers are not allowed to ask you about your marital status, or if you have kids. It’s illegal, and they shouldn’t judge your job skills for that. But if you freely give up that information, that’s your own fault. This is especially difficult for women in the workplace, because some employers won’t want to hire women with young children, because they will assume you’ll call out of work a lot. So tread with caution when it comes to talking about your personal life.
4. You Tried to Flirt
You should never, ever flirt with an interviewer. Maybe you have an outgoing and bubbly personality that is sometimes interpreted as flirting. So it’s best to dial it back during the interview. Even if your actions are as completely innocent as complimenting their outfit or giving them a sassy wink, it can be taken the wrong way. If your actions could be interpreted as flirting, they may see it as a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. If the interviewer initiates flirting with you first, that’s a huge red flag, too. Sometimes, office romances will blossom, but it’s completely inappropriate for that to start during an interview.
3. You Tried to Control the Interview
No one wants you to dominate the conversation, and that goes for an interview, as well. As the potential employee, you always need to take the back seat, and give the control of the conversation over to the interviewer. Even if you disagree with the questions they are asking, or if you feel that things are too fast or slow, just accept it for what it is. If the interview is truly so bad that you felt the need to take the wheel, it’s probably a sign that the job is not for you.
2. You Asked How The Interview is Going
You should never, ever ask for feedback about your performance during an interview, no matter how much you may feel curious. “How am I doing?” or “How do you think it went?” may leave interviewers feeling like deer in the headlights. You may as well be asking, “Did I get the job?”
Most likely, there are other people who are interviewing for the same position. They probably don’t know how well you did in comparison to other candidates. Sometimes, they may even need to do a second round of interviews before they come to a final decision. Asking questions about your performance puts pressure on the interviewer to give an answer right away, and it’s a turnoff. A better thing to say may be, “I hope I see you again soon,” and gauge their response. If they answer “We’ll be in touch”, it’s usually a sign that they won’t call you back.
1. You Just Weren’t A Good Fit
After something as personal as a job interview, we can’t help but over-analyze what went wrong, but in some cases, maybe your personality just didn’t jive with the manager. Maybe you’re not someone they could imagine hanging out with. This is not always the best way to pick the most qualified employee, of course. A manager should be looking for an employee, not a new friend. But if you are going to work closely with one another, a manager is naturally going to look for someone they can imagine is easy to get along with.
Where do we find this stuff? Here are the sources:
15 managers reveal the interview red flags that keep them from hiring someone. Katie Warren. MSN. 2018.
How Do You Hire The Right Person? The Strategy That Changed My Company. Kyle Nakatsuji. Forbes. 2018.
Why Employers Don’t Want To Hire Overqualified Candidates. Alison Green. US News. 2013.