10 things you should never do in an interview

Last week we discussed what you should do during an interview to enhance your chances of success. But just as important as what you should do is knowing what you should never do, unless you want to instantly destroy your chances of getting hired.

1. Don’t Be Late!

Unless all the roads have been closed due to the outbreak of war or a rampaging Godzilla-like lizard monster, you really have no excuse to be late to your interview. Every job interview is potentially the first step in a new career – don’t make the people you want to work with think you can’t arrive on time! Plan your route in advance, taking note of potential delays, and leave more than enough time to get there.

Questions to Avoid in an Interview

While it’s really important to ask questions during an interview, not all questions are equal! Here are a few to avoid or re-frame.

  • “So, what are the hours around here?” – you want work-life balance, of course, but at this stage you should project interest in the role and passion for the industry, not concern over when you get to knock off.
  • “So, how soon will I be running the place?” – it’s great to show that you’re interested in career growth, but don’t be too aggressive about it. Remember, you’re interviewing for this job not the next one.
  • “Why did you ask me to the interview?” – don’t ask questions that indicate uncertainty about your own worth. Even if you can’t believe you landed an interview with your dream company, keep it on the down low. Your job is to show them how great you are, not ask for validation.
  • “Can I surf the web/tweet/Facebook at work?” – never ask question that make it seem like you’re already planning to slack off. You’ll find out about a workplace’s culture if you get the job, but you don’t want it to seem like a priority (even if it is).

2. Don’t Bad Mouth Past Employers

Even if you have legitimate grievances against a former boss or colleague, this is not the time to air them. Focusing on bad aspects of your old job makes you seem like a negative person and can make interviewers wonder “gee, how will they talk about our company?” If asked why you left a previous job discuss your career development rather than faults in your last workplace.

3. Don’t Eat, Chew Gum, or Drink Soda

The interview room is not a snack bar. Don’t eat, as you will seem unprofessional, and definitely don’t chew gum – that goes beyond unprofessional and makes you seem like a jerk! You can stay hydrated, of course, but polite sips of water will do the trick.

4. Don’t Um and Ah

Avoid ‘ums’, ‘ahs’, and other filler words as much as possible. If you’re not quite sure of your next word, simply take a pause to think. If you need to, clarify the question with the interviewer to give yourself time to think. No one expects you to answer straight away, so gather your thoughts then answer the question ask directly. There’s nothing worse that waffling on for five minutes without even giving a relevant answer.

5. Don’t Give Generic Answers

Your answers to interview questions should be unique – no one else but you should be able to give them because they should include stories, details, and accomplishments for your life. Anyone can rattle off a list of positive sounding traits, but you need to show them how you will be good for the role with evidence and examples.

6. Don’t Dress Inappropriately

Find out the company’s dress code before the interview and match it, whether it’s formal, neat casual, or laid back.

7. Don’t Say You Have No Questions

Anytime you are asked if you have any questions, ask a question! During your interview preparation compile a list of questions you have about the company and the role. A couple of good fallback questions are “Why did you choose to work here?” or “What excites you most about the company’s future?” You also need to avoid certain questions (see box).

8. Don’t Forget Your Resume

You may not need your resume at all, but always have at least one for each interviewer on hand. If appropriate, you should also have a neat folio of past work to show. Forgetting these basics can create a really bad impression.

9. Don’t Be Blase

Don’t try to play it cool in an interview, be excited! Recruiters want to hire people who are enthusiastic about their company and the role – let them see how much you want to work with them.

10. Don’t Focus on Salary

Of course you want to be paid well – everyone does! But the interview is not the time to get hung up on this detail. You should have a ballpark salary in mind should you be asked what you’re expecting or hoping for, but don’t keep bringing it up. In fact, don’t talk about money at all unless asked – the interview is about showing them why you’re right for the job, not a bargaining table.