23 Ways to Blow a Job Interview

January 15, 2016, 5:08 PM UTC
job interview
Large businessman about to push button on trap door below small businessman
Photograph by Jon Berkeley—Getty Images/Ikon Images

Making snap judgments about people is usually a mistake, yet we do it all the time, even in high-stakes situations like job interviews.

Consider: Half the decision-makers sitting across the desk from a potential employee say they can tell in the first five minutes of an interview whether he or she is “a good fit for the position,” according to a new CareerBuilder survey of 2,300 corporate hiring managers and HR executives. That’s a slight uptick from the 49% who said last year that five minutes is enough.

There’s more. No matter how great your credentials and experience may be, the wrong body language can blow your chances. The most common reason that otherwise qualified candidates don’t get hired, the survey says, is “failure to make eye contact,” cited by 67% of the interviewers. These folks have also screened out potential hires who (perhaps suffering from simple nervousness) didn’t smile (39%), “play[ed] with something on the table” (33%), didn’t sit up straight (30%), fidgeted too much (30%), or crossed their arms over their chests (29%).

While you’re rehearsing pithy answers to possible interview questions, you might want to practice your handshake, too. More than a quarter of hiring managers say they’ve ruled out potential hires whose grip was either too weak (21%) or too strong (7%).

Of course, some deal breakers are obvious. Getting caught in a lie about education or experience is a big one, mentioned by 69% of interviewers. Interrupting the conversation to answer a phone call or text (68%) and seeming “arrogant or entitled” (60%) are not so good, either. Dressing inappropriately and swearing during the interview have each made 50% of these managers decide to keep looking.



Suspect you may have committed one or more of these faux pas? Cheer up. Nobody’s perfect, and at least you probably didn’t do anything truly strange. Here’s a sampling of managers’ most, um, memorable interview experiences:

  • The candidate “took a family photo off the interviewer’s desk and put it in her purse.”
  • “… started screaming that the interview was taking too long.”
  • “…said her main job was as a psychic/medium and tried to read the interviewer’s palm, despite interviewer’s attempt to decline the offer.”
  • “…when asked what would be his ideal job, replied ‘painter of birdhouses.’ The job opening was for a data entry clerk.”
  • “…sang her responses to questions.”
  • “…put lotion on her feet during the interview.”
  • “…when asked why he wanted the position, replied, ‘My wife wants me to get a job.’”
  • “…started feeling interviewer’s chest to find a heartbeat so they could ‘connect heart to heart.’”
  • “…had a pet bird inside his shirt.”
  • “…took a phone interview in the bathroom — and flushed.”

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