As a Recruiter of almost 15 years, I thought I’d share some of the all time biggest interview mistakes I’ve seen.  The fact is that people do tend to get nervous during an interview situation.  Why?  Because they are out of their comfort zone, doing something out of the norm, maybe something they haven’t done for years.  Even if they have prepared for the interview, there are still things they can say or do on the day, which may go against them.  I’ve encountered some real experiences in my time, so here are just a few to share with you:

1. BO – Yes Body Odour!  Would you believe that an interview candidate would turn up for their interview without being washed properly?  Would you believe they would turn up in clothes that they have worn for a week, or even longer?  I’ve interviewed many candidates with this problem.  The one that sticks in my mind the most was when I was sitting in the office one day, and my nose glands started to twitch.  I looked up and could not see anything out of the ordinary, so carried on working.  The smell got stronger & stronger, until I ventured down to the reception area, to see a candidate waiting for interview in a scruffy old t-shirt & jeans.  Clearly he had brought the eye watering odour in with him.  I asked him to accompany me to an interview room, (bad idea).  I spoke to him very politely and tactfully about the issue, to which he replied, “It’s the drains outside – not me” He was not even aware that it was he, that had stunk the whole office out for the rest of the day!  I gave him a chance to go home and address the problem, to which he did.  He never came back.  So listen up: If you’re going for an interview, shower properly, and put on fresh, clean clothes!

2. Smoker’s Breath – Another horrible thing for an interviewer to endure.  The smell of a smoker’s breath to a non-smoker is indescribable.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to sit and interview a candidate, who had one last fag, before they come in for their all important interview.  They haven’t even tried to hide it, or compensate by having a chewing gum.  So here is a tip for all you smokers.  DON’T have a cigarette just before your interview.  Your breath stinks! 

3. Bad Attitude – Ok so you’re there to make a good impression – right?  Of course you are.  So don’t sit there with an attitude problem.  Don’t give one word answers, or the impression you couldn’t care a less if you get the job or not.  Believe it or not I’ve seen this time and time again.  You’re there to sell yourself, to create that all important great first impression, (after you’ve given a fantastic CV, and smile when you greeted your interviewer).  See my earlier blog on ‘How to create a great first impression’.  So be polite, courteous, happy – look interested, and don’t try and be a smart alec.  Believe me if you do, you won’t get a call back.

4. Over confidence – Now then, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of confidence, in fact even a lot of confidence.  It’s paramount that you are confident.  Confidence is everything in life, especially in interview situations.  However, be careful!  There is a very fine line between confidence and cockiness.  Employers won’t warm to over-confident, or cocky characters.  The show-off, the boaster, the know it all.  You need to be able to show that you have that confidence, without coming across as a bighead.  So reel it in a little, by all means highlight your past successes, but in a humble way, and without ego.  I’ve interviewed candidates who claim to be fantastic sales people, but when asked to define the word ‘sales’, they couldn’t give an answer.  So just take care to get the confidence balance right.

5. Silly answers – I have to tell you about my all time favourite silly answer, I was doing a telephone interview, with a candidate who was applying for a telesales position.  I asked him what would be the ‘3 words’ that would describe him most.  And what did he say?  I bet you’re thinking “Ambitious – confident – enthusiastic” Or “motivated, energetic & positive”  Unfortunately not, his response was a response I never thought I’d hear in my lifetime.  He came out with the unforgettable words “I AM MINT”.  I still laugh about it even to this day.  Think before you speak, rehearse your answers, be ready, and prepared with an intelligent answer every time.

6. Dress sense – A certain situation springs to mind in relation to dress sense.  I telephone interviewed a candidate and she sounded very confident, outgoing, polite.  She had a great attitude, and I had high hopes for her so invited her in to see me for a face to face interview.  I was expecting this smart, dynamic, well presented young lady to walk through the door.  My expectations were slightly incorrect when she turned up in a shell suit, trainers, and fingernails bit down to the wood, so much so that they were actually bleeding.  Biting your fingernails is a definite no-no.  So if you’ve got an interview coming up, get your mitt’s on for a week.  And obviously don’t come in a shell suit or trainers.  Smart business attire at all times if you want to create a good impression!

7. Alcohol – Whatever you do, don’t have a pint before your interview.  Yes people do it believe it or not.  And definitely don’t have a skin full the night before.  It is a known fact that alcohol affects your concentration.  You will not be able to focus properly on the day, therefore reducing your chances of getting the job.  Make sure you have an alcohol free night, and a good night’s sleep. 

8. The Chatterbox – It’s good to talk – Yes?  Yes it is, but only when your interviewer prompts you to do so.  I interviewed a very nice lady once, I introduced myself, and before I could say another thing, she jumped in with “I’ll just give you a little bit background information about myself”.  Twenty minutes later I had to very politely stop her, as she was three quarters of the way through her CV, and I hadn’t written even written her name down on the interview card.  Don’t fly off on a tangent.  Your interviewer wants to control the interview.  Speak only when asked and keep your answers 3 to 4 concise sentences.  Then STOP, and wait until your next opportunity to give a great answer.

9. Lying – If you lie on your CV, you will get caught out at some point.  If you lie in your interview the same will happen.  Honesty really is the best policy.  Keep your CV, and interview answers factual at all times.  One of my candidates went for final interview with a future employer, and was interviewed by 2 people separately.  Unfortunately he gave two very different sets of answers to each interviewer, therefore placing doubt in their minds.  Guess what – He was rejected.  Tell the truth at all times!

10. Don’t Swear – Ok so it’s the job of the interviewer to make you feel at ease, to make you feel relaxed and comfortable at the start of the interview.  But not so comfortable that you think it’s ok to swear.  One of the most common errors during an interview is when a candidate swears!  I interviewed one guy who was working on a temporary basis on a building site.  He had come from an executive property background, but because he was working on a building site, he said the ‘F’ word 4 times during the interview!!  It’s never going to be OK to swear, so just don’t do it.  Even if you think it’s a soft swear word, do yourself a favour and steer clear.  Replace it with a nice word and give yourself every chance of landing that all important, dream job.

11. Don’t slate previous employer’s – Another all time classic that candidates fail on.  Whatever you do, do not say anything negative about your last employer, manager, or work colleagues.  It will automatically go against you.  I interviewed a gentleman who worked in a sports shoe shop.  For 45 minutes he did nothing but name call & disrespect his current manager.  He was so negative about everything to do with his current employment, there was no way he was going to find a new job with that attitude.  Always say something polite and respectful about your current, or previous employment.  Employers don’t want to hear you being negative.

2 Responses to “Confessions of an Interviewer – The all time biggest interview mistakes.”

  1. Scott Thorburn January 25, 2010 at 9:16 am #

    Brilliant blog Scott, keep it up!!

    Just to add to your very first point, I think a perfume overload is just as bad as B.O. One squirt is enough!!!!

    Also calling the interviewer mate or winking doesn’t create a good first impression either!!!

  2. Scott January 25, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    Yes Scott, another good couple of examples – Thanks for the input.