job_interview_donts_main.jpgJob interviews are nerve-wracking. Not a lot of people are keen on talking about themselves—their flaws, their experiences, and their personal lives—in depth with a complete stranger. It is not easy to put yourself in a situation where your express purpose for showing up is to be judged and scrutinized. You want to put your best foot forward—not in your mouth! Still, while it may be easy to say, the most important thing is to remember not to panic.

Other than that, here are some other things you should never do during an interview:


1. Arrive late

This should go without saying. Leave with the idea that you have to be there 30 minutes before the intended time; at the very least, be there 10-15 minutes before your schedule. Make sure you know how to get to the area at least a day before. Bring a map if you need to and ask others what would be the best way to get there.

2. Be bossy or arrogant to the staff or receptionist

Naturally, you should be nice to everyone. But in this particular situation, note that secretaries and receptionists are the gatekeepers of an office. It pays to be nice to them, even when you’re already employed. When you are impolite or unkind to them, trust that this news will get around and it will reach the interviewer even before they see you.

3. Complain about waiting

When you are invited for a screening, you should expect to wait. In most cases, expect to wait a few hours. Yes, this can be a hassle, a waste of time, and can even be downright annoying. However, try to remember that you are not the only applicant being processed. Usually, the interviewer cannot control how long an interview will take, and it is best to complete an assessment before moving on to the next applicant. Just like you, everyone deserves a shot for making the most out of their interview, which means that waiting for your turn is really part of the process. You never know, this might also be another test.

You can use this time to prepare for your interview. Find out more about the company through observation, and perhaps chat up the person next to you; you’ll be surprised at what other information you might gather.

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4. Come unprepared

Being unprepared at a time when you’re supposed to be making a good impression obviously will not make a good impression. It is like that cliché about a soldier going to war without a gun—whether it’s in the form of having a spare resume or a pen, or not being in appropriate attire (see interview attire article). It gives the interviewer the impression that you are messy, irresponsible, or perhaps not that interested in the position.

5. Be distracted or distracting

When you are conversing with another person, it is common courtesy to pay attention to him/her; this is most important during an interview. While it would be good to anticipate questions in order to prepare your answer, do not assume anything and jump the gun. Make sure you listen carefully and understand what the person is saying. Instead of asking your interviewer to repeat the question, ask them what they mean, perhaps by elaborating or rephrasing the question. Think before you speak. It is better to have the interviewer wait a minute for a well-thought out answer, rather than immediately stammering out an unorganized thought.

Also, be conscious of your movement. Slouching, fidgeting, twisting/turning your seat, tapping your fingers or feet, or swinging your legs are distracting to the interviewer, and are obvious signs that you are nervous. The image you should put across is one of confidence and competence.

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6. Badmouth your previous company (or anyone else, for that matter)

Perspective is a complicated thing. In any experience, there are at least two sides to the story, and in a lot of cases, people see things rather differently from the truth. When an applicant starts acting like a bitter ex-employee, the interviewer will start wondering how objective your story is, and wonder if you were part of the problem. Also, it is a sign of immaturity and tactlessness to complain about your former boss or company—and casts a bad light on how well you can present the company to others as an employee.

While it is unavoidable to have bad experiences with your previous employers, which are probably your reasons for leaving the company, there are more tactful or objective ways to address this matter. An interviewer may try to probe these details. If it is unavoidable, it is best to share past experiences or situations in an objective manner, leaving out personal comments or opinions.


7. Fail to be polite

Once you step into the interview room/area, remember to offer to shake hands with your interviewer, wait till you are offered a seat, and stand when you’re introduced to someone. Maintain a calm but well-modulated voice. Do not interrupt the interviewer. Also, even if the purpose of the interview is to talk about you, don’t talk too much about yourself. Try not to come off as too arrogant or self-centered. Keep it at a professional level and try not to delve too much into your personal opinions.

8. Ask about compensation

There are stages in the application process, and this is not the stage for that conversation yet. Since you are still being assessed whether you are suitable for the position you are applying for, it would appear presumptuous to request information about sensitive or confidential matters.

Most people fail to remember that Compensation and Benefits are confidential information, and should not be shared with coworkers. Sharing this information can cause conflict between coworkers and management.


9. Appear desperate

As in any relationship, looking desperate is not attractive. There can be a fine line between seeming determined and desperate. Asking to be placed in any position available equates to not having a career in mind. This may make you seem like a flight risk. Yes, it is difficult nowadays to find work, and one cannot be picky; but the interviewer will not be confident you will be able to perform to your full potential if you cannot even create a clear plan for yourself.

10. Lie

One of the first lessons we are taught as children is to be honest. As we grow up, this value will be challenged many times. However, integrity and credibility are the most important values one can possess. These are values employers place above the rest. By lying, you are risking more serious repercussions and an even bigger humiliation.

Disclose relevant information during the interview, such as having relatives working in a competing business. Answer each question honestly, but be aware that you do not have to volunteer “unnecessary” information either.


An interview is a conversation, not an interrogation. You are encouraged to ask questions, about the application process, the company, or the job description, and to clarify things that may seem unclear to you. Remember that this meeting can be mutually beneficial: while you are being assessed by the recruiter if you will fit the company, this is also the time for you to assess if you see yourself in this environment.

Your interviewer will not bite your head off. Once you keep in mind that it is just an interview and does not necessarily reflect on you as a person, things should be less taxing.


(Photo ©iStockphoto/AdamGregor)

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