If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you know that before I was a writer, I worked in accounting and finance, and toward the end of that career, as a recruiter for finance and accounting professionals. In that job, I interviewed hundreds of job candidates, prepared those people for interviews at my agency’s clients (the companies doing the hiring), and gathered feedback about the candidates. Sometimes we got people offers; other times not.

Recruiting gave me a lot of insight on what it takes to interview well. While I do think some people are naturally better at interviewing than others, my recruiting experience taught me some major dos and don’ts when it comes to interviewing. Here are seven ways to blow a job interview.

1. Talk bad about a former employer, coworker, or company.

Acting disgruntled is a sure-fire way to get a hiring manager uninterested in you. If your last boss was difficult, it’s okay to be honest, but don’t go into extreme details. If you found your last company to be unethical, you can say so, but don’t let horror stories hog the entire interview. No matter what type of situation you’re coming out of, it is always best to be diplomatic. Bashing anyone in an interview just isn’t classy, and ends up making you look bad.

2. Dive right into asking for favors/time off/special treatment.

So you’re a mom who would love flexibility. Or you’re going back to school and would appreciate tuition reimbursement. Or you currently get five weeks of vacation time and hope this employer could match that. There is a time for negotiations, and that time is not during your first interview. It’s a huge turnoff to an employer for you to start laying out demands before they’ve gotten to know you. Also keep in mind that if you really want a job, you may have to wait awhile before you gain certain privileges. It’s fine to ask about the possibility of these things, but use tact. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you think of a job candidate doing so at this stage?

3. Be late, dress poorly, or act weird.

At the risk of sounding blunt (and obvious), be on time and dress and act professionally. Numerous times, I had candidates cry during interviews. I understand job hunting can be an emotional thing, but keep it together during your interview. Other interesting candidates included the guy who rested his head on the table (while talking to me), the guy who got belligerent (about the frustrating job-hunting process), and another who played with her gum our entire interview. Needless to say, these people never went on for interviews with my clients. Bottom line: be your best you!

4. Act uninterested.

Being hard to read or playing hard to get is just plain silly in the job interview process. If you’re interested in a job, act like it! That said, being over-the-top about your interest can be a turnoff to an employer. Eager and excited is good. Frantic and desperate is not.

5. Talk about what you don’t want.

You want a great fit at your next job, so you want the hiring manager to know everything you’re not. You want him or her to understand the things that drive you crazy in an employer. Bad idea. Instead, try sharing the skills and abilities you’ll bring to this position, and what value you could add. Share your strengths, not your weaknesses. What will you bring to the table?

6. Stray from the questions.

If you’re being asked about your job duties at your last position, don’t go into what you hated about your job. If the interviewer asks you what you’re looking for in your next company, answer as best you can, but don’t go off on a tangent about how you wish you’d chosen another major in college. Listen, and answer. Don’t ramble.

7. Be unprepared.

A little preparation goes a long way—and makes you look stellar (especially compared with those who do not prepare at all). Do some homework on the company. Learn about what they do and come to the interview with a few questions. If you know ahead of time who you’re interviewing with, look them up on LinkedIn or the company’s website.

Interviewing isn’t easy for everyone, but there are some very simple things you can do to put yourself ahead of the pack. It comes down to being professional, kind, and easy to talk to.

If you’re interviewing now, what has and hasn’t worked for you? If you’ve interviewed job candidates recently, what don’ts would you add to this list?


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