A firm handshake. Eye contact. Smiling and positive body language. Follow-up questions at the end of an interview. In the course of your career, there are certain pieces of interview advice that you hear again and again, and HR and career websites are publishing new interview advice articles with these same tips every day. At this point, they’re so ingrained in the culture of interviewing that to not follow them would be a major faux pas. And for good reason. They help establish a baseline level of rapport with the interviewer, and they help you implicitly communicate the most important thing you need to communicate in an interview: your interest in the job.
But what about those interview killers that you might not even be aware of? Those behaviours that, unbeknownst to the candidate, give a bad impression? At Argentus, our recruiters have decades of combined experience, and there’s a long list of eccentric interview tics that have cost otherwise-qualified candidates the job. Some of these are common sense. But you’d be surprised how often they sink interviews without the candidate even realizing they’ve done anything wrong.
1. “The F-Bomb” – The Candidate Who Swears in an interview
Interviews are somewhat less formal than they used to be, and during the course of an exceptionally great interview a candidate and client’s rapport can become almost jovial. But no matter how friendly or informal the interaction seems, no matter how well things seem to be going, you never want to swear in an interview. Whether it’s for emphasis, or as part of a joke, swearing sticks out in a hiring manager’s mind as unprofessional. The road to getting hired is strewn with the bodies of so many overly-profane candidates. Don’t be one of them.
2. “What are you hiding under there?” – The Candidate who Refuses to Take off Their Coat
This one doesn’t happen often, but most recruiters seem to have a story about a candidate who wouldn’t take their coat off in an interview. When you arrive at an interview, the hiring manager typically makes an effort to make you feel comfortable, even if it’s just a cup of coffee or water. Leaving your coat on sends the message that you don’t want to get too comfortable – and, implicitly, that you don’t feel like sticking around for long. If you’re someone who gets cold easily, wear an extra inside-appropriate layer. But don’t make the mistake of coming across as impolite.
3. “The Location Switcheroo” – The Candidate who Indicates Hesitation about a Location
This one happened to one of our candidates recently, and it sank the interview before it could really get off the ground. This candidate spoke with one of our recruiters and expressed interest in a position in one location, and agreed to interview for the position. But when he got to the interview, he mentioned that he actually wanted to work in a different location. They had a certain resource need. He thought he’d be able to convince them otherwise, and this hubris cost an otherwise-great candidate the job. The lesson here is to make sure you’re interviewing for the exact position specified, to be up front and honest with your recruiter, and to respect the process enough to know that a company is hiring for certain locations and certain positions for a reason.
4. “The Buddy System” – The Candidate who Brings Someone Else Along to the Interview
Again, it seems odd but it happens more often than you would think: a candidate will show up for an interview and bring along a buddy to wait in reception while the interview happens. This is just awkward, and it makes you look like you don’t have the confidence to go to an interview by yourself. The hiring manager isn’t sure why the extra person is there – and there’s no reason for them to be there. They’re not sure what they should do with them while you’re in the interview. It’s not a social visit. So just like you wouldn’t show up to work with a friend, you shouldn’t show up to an interview with a friend. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having someone drive you to an interview or accompany you – just ask them to wait at another location.
5. “The Eager Beaver” – The Candidate Who Arrives Overly Early
Everyone knows that you should arrive early for an interview. It’s important to show that you’re punctual, that you’re eager about a job. But past a certain point (20 minutes early? 30 minutes early? An hour early?), earliness starts to seem like you’re overeager. It can be awkward for the hiring manager, who might not be able to help feeling like they’re making you wait.
As a rule, you should show up about 15 minutes before an interview. Some people are very cautious and like to make sure they’re very early so they can get the lay of the land, and so they know they won’t be late. But if you find yourself at the interview location with lots of time to spare, go and grab a cup of coffee. Arriving an hour early doesn’t impress the hiring manager. It makes it seem like you don’t have anywhere else to be.
No list of similar tips could be exhaustive – there are too many peccadilloes in human behaviour and professional interactions. But hopefully this list helps you avoid making some easy-to-avoid mistakes!
So: what other unusual or uncommon “interview killers” have you experienced?