7 Job Interview Behaviors That Can Wreck Your Chances

During job interviews, hiring managers not only evaluate the substance of your responses, but how you interact. Exhibiting certain behaviors can raise questions about your competency and ability to work effectively with others, no matter what you say.

To ensure that you put your best foot forward during online or in-person interviews, make sure not to engage in the following seven behaviors.

Reading Your Answers From a Script

Preparing answers to common questions (and specific examples of your skills, experiences, and accomplishments before an interview) is good. But reading them from a script makes it seem like you lack confidence and the flexibility to cope with unexpected change, noted Kyle Elliott, a career and interview coach who goes by the handle Caffeinated Kyle.

Worse, “readers” tend to fall apart when they’re asked follow-up questions and forced to go off-script, Elliott added. Instead of memorizing lengthy, set answers to potential questions, take the time to turn your examples and background into talking points or short bullets that you want to discuss during the interview. It’s less to memorize, and your answers will have a more natural “flow” as you move from point to point.

Of course, you can still use notes as a reminder or to get back on track in case the conversation wanders. Remember, a good interview needs to be as natural and conversational as possible.

Looking Like a Deer Caught in Headlights

It’s one of the most dreaded moments in a job interview: The interviewer asks you a difficult question or to write some code on a whiteboard, your mind goes blank, and you look totally baffled. Freezing up can set off an anxiety spiral that you can’t recover from, explained Ian Douglas, senior developer advocate and author of “The Tech Interview Guide.”

The problem stems from unrealistic expectations. “The reality is that you don’t have to know everything,” Douglas noted. The interviewer is simply trying to assess what you know and don’t know and whether you have enough knowledge to fill the gap on the team, he added.

The better approach is to admit your lack of familiarity, ask clarifying questions, or explain how you go about finding the answers to questions on the job. Showing the interviewer how you think through challenges can go a long way toward positioning you as a creative, innovative problem-solver. (And remember that any attempt to fake the answer will only make you look worse.)

Mailing It In

Maybe you have “Zoom Fatigue” from back-to-back interviews, or think your ability to perform the job is enough to land the position, but the interviewer views your blasé attitude and failure to ask insightful questions as a lack of enthusiasm and sincere interest in the role.

Enthusiasm and curiosity are regarded as highly essential and desirable qualities and characteristics, noted Bill Cole, interview coach and author of several books, including “Interview Mistakes You Don’t Even KNOW You’re Making.” If you can’t show the hiring manager that you’ve taken the time to research the job and the company, or explain why they should hire you over someone else, then you probably won’t get an offer no matter how talented you might be.

Detailed to a Fault

In the tech world, attention to detail is one of the most crucial characteristics to have. But if you take forever to explain things or labor over words during the interview, the hiring manager may conclude that you are perfectionistic to the point that it will slow you down or annoy your colleagues. Don’t let unreasonably high standards impact your communication style.

“It’s a conversation, not a lecture,” Elliott noted. If you’re using the STAR method to respond, pause at the end of each point.

However, the opposite is also true. Don’t give terse, one-word answers, especially when responding to “get to know you” questions. Be friendly and personable in order to encourage conversation.

In addition to evaluating your skills, the hiring manager is also checking whether the two of you can get along and work together, Cole noted. That’s why a positive attitude almost always trumps technical ability.

Overestimating Your Competence

Certainly you want to project a healthy level of confidence in your ability to do the job and learn new technologies. But understand that no one knows everything about everything. Overestimating your abilities, which is often referred to as the Dunning-Kruger effect, is a red flag.

To come across as powerful but also honest during interviews, be specific and realistic when describing yourself and what you can bring to the position. Also, make sure that your value proposition aligns with your skills and abilities.

You’re Not a “People Person”

The most successful technologists demonstrate passion for technology, intellectual curiosity and a willingness to learn more. However, if you don’t relate well with people, you’re not going to get the job.

It’s not enough to say you enjoy working with people. Use real-life examples to show how you’ve married technical and soft skills when working on projects and overcoming challenges.

Credit Grabbing

Taking credit for the work of others can destroy comradery and create a “you versus me” environment that isn’t good for anyone. That’s why hiring managers assess teamworking skills when hiring new technologists. To keep from coming off as a potential self-focused credit grabber, avoid using too many “I” statements; use “we” statements instead. Also, be clear about your contributions to team efforts whenever you get an opportunity.

“Be radically honest,” Elliott said. For instance, if there were multiple product owners, explain why that was challenging and how you navigated the situation through collaboration, communication and coordination.

5 Responses to “7 Job Interview Behaviors That Can Wreck Your Chances”

  1. Nick Petersen

    “Be radically honest…”

    I cannot emphasize this enough. Being radically honest also means recognizing when you are not a good fit, or do not have enough of the requisite skills to effectively onload. When it comes to acknowledging that you do not have enough experience to meet the employer’s needs, recognizing that early and bringing that to the forefront will be appreciated by the interviewers. Setting that level of trust may lead to future opportunities that are better suited to you skill sets and experience.

    I had one interview where, after about 15-20 minutes, it became clear that I had many of the skills they were looking for. However, I did not have enough experience in one key area that was clearly vital to any new hire. The hiring committee then spent more time actively looking for other ways I might be able to contribute while I gained that needed experience.

    Had I overestimated my competence, it would have been clear within the first week of employment. It would have been detrimental to that company and my relationship with them – assuming they didn’t fire me instead.

    By being sincere in my level of abilities and communicating that information accurately and timely, I cemented a relationship with a potential future employer who is more likely to trust my self-assessment in any future hiring opportunity.

  2. Jeradiah

    It’s ironic that most of these behaviors I avoid displaying during the almost 4 months that I was laid off from my job at Centene……..and yet I still haven’t landed an IT Support role!!

    I’ve known to be long-winded, so I limit the length of time I answer questions, stay on topic, and even interact with some humor with the interviewers. After all that, it’s frustrating that the experts who explain how to make you more attractive to employers…….and yet nothing happens.

    I appreciate this article and I’ll remain optimistic, but I don’t like that the “experts” offer us advise about something that even they have no control over

  3. Lizbee

    My biggest desire is to know why I wasn’t hired. I can usually tell from the interview if I’m not technically qualified, but when I more than meet the requirements, why wasn’t I hired? (Over qualified?) Obviously, they can’t tell you or they open themselves up to lawsuits. But a little honest feedback would be nice, so I can see where I can improve. I’m left guessing. Very frustrating.