10 Simple Ways to Mess Up a Job Interview


The interview with the hiring manager is usually the last hurdle standing between you and a job offer. Even if you prepare and rehearse, it’s easy to make a mistake that could hurt your chances. And a mistake doesn’t have to be big to trip you up.

Since the devil is in the details, here are 10 potential goofs to be aware of.

1. Asking About Salary, Benefits or Vacation Right Off the Bat

You’ll relinquish your negotiating power if you talk money too soon. Don’t discuss compensation until you’ve established rapport with the hiring manager and demonstrated your value. However, be prepared to tackle the subject if someone else brings it up.

2. Forgetting to Turn Off Your Cell Phone

Add to that chewing gum, drinking coffee, booting up your laptop or wearing a Bluetooth. Of course, it’s OK to show the manager your coding samples or portfolio—you want to do that. But ask before you pull out your laptop or tablet.

3. Badmouthing a Former Employer

Don’t be caught off-guard: Practice responding to negative questions. When in doubt, always take the high road. Also, never curse during an interview, and avoid controversial topics like politics, global conflicts or anything else that might get you into trouble without realizing it.

4. Not Bringing Extra Copies of Your Resume

Yes, it’s a digital world. But what if you meet prospective colleagues—or the IT director or CIO—during your visit? Don’t run out of hard copies of your resume at a critical moment.

5. Not Having an Elevator Pitch

Be able to reel off your elevator pitch at any time. You never know when you might you bump into the founder or a key investor on the way to the conference room.

6. Bringing up Personal Stuff

So you need a new car, you just bought a house and your dog is expecting puppies. Save those topics for your buddies. More importantly, don’t cite personal reasons for wanting more responsibility, a new title or a bigger salary. Keep the conversation professional.

7. Contradicting the Facts in Your Resume

So you’ve been working with Java for three years, according to your resume. But in the heat of the moment, you mention that you’ve just recently learned it. Contradicting your resume will raise the interviewer’s suspicions. Make sure everything on your resume, job application and online profile sync up. The sure-fire way to do that: Be honest.

8. Arguing with the Interviewer

It’s OK to express a professional opinion or convey a preference for a particular software or tool, even if it differs from the hiring manager’s. But don’t lose your temper or argue over answers to technical questions or the merits of a particular methodology.

9. Disrespecting the H.R. Manager

They may not know how to write code, but they can keep you from landing the job. If you can’t communicate with HR, the hiring manager will assume that you can’t communicate with end users.

10. Inflating your Technical Skills

If you lack a critical skill, talk about your ability and willingness to learn new technology. Whatever you do, don’t claim to be proficient with a tool or program you don’t really know. Since 90 percent of companies verify a job seeker’s information, inflating your tech skills or hands-on experience may come back to bite you.

The best way to avoid these mistakes is to rehearse. Anticipate the questions you’ll get, and you’ll be more comfortable during the interview—and less likely to go in directions you’re better off avoiding.

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3 Responses to “10 Simple Ways to Mess Up a Job Interview”

  1. It seems like the HR and interviewers have put a large number of arbitrary barriers to finding a good candidate. Most of these “mistakes” by the job candidate have no relevance to the quality of work a person will do on the job. I would expect a competent trained HR staff in charge of screening and hiring candidates to know the difference between irrelevant interview skills and the skills demanded for succeeding on the job. Unless of course, the candidate is being hired for the job of a HR staff manager, in which case most of these are probably relevant reasons to disqualify a candidate.