What not to do in an interview (plus useful tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A job interview can be an intimidating experience for any candidate, whether you've just graduated or are mid-career. If you have the right skill set and knowledge required, but without the right behaviours or actions, don't miss out on a dream job opportunity. An easy way to ensure a seamless interviewing experience is knowing what not to do. In this article, we discuss 15 things to never do in a job interview and provide alternative resolutions to increase your chances of landing a role.

What not to do in an interview

Here are 15 examples of what not to do in an interview:

1. Arrive late

Arriving late for your interview shows your potential employer your lack of organisation. It also suggests that your time is more valuable than theirs. It's advisable to arrive at your interview 15 minutes early to review your CV, complete your paperwork and prepare mentally. In case you arrive late, here are a few things that you can do to rectify the situation:

  • Explain your situation to the hiring manager.

  • Inform your interviewer if you're going to be late.

  • Apologise for being late.

  • Prove you're adaptable.

To avoid being late for your interview, set an alarm, plan your outfit and preview your route to the interview location the day before.

2. Dress inappropriately

Your appearance can make or break your chances of getting hired, making it vital to dress appropriately. Wear formal clothing and groom well to make a good first impression. Avoid dressing in casual and distracting clothes, as it shows you're unorganised and unprofessional. Be sure to try on your outfit the night before your interview to ensure everything fits well.

Related: What not to wear to an interview (and what to wear instead)

3. Display poor body language

Your body language reflects your attitude and what you're thinking during an interview. Good body language shows you're a confident and capable person, while poor body language such as slouching, yawning or falling asleep is a sign of boredom. When you have poor body language, your interviewer is less likely to take you seriously. Some examples of good body language include:

  • keeping an open posture

  • having a firm handshake

  • maintaining eye contact

4. Not do research

Many candidates forgo doing due diligence before an interview, which adversely affects how they articulate their skills and abilities to match the job position. This makes researching the company beforehand crucial to learning valuable information about the business, clients and industry. It also displays your interest in the company and position you're applying for, increasing your chances of landing the role. Be sure to browse the company's website and social media pages to learn about its culture, values and mission statement.

Related: How to research a company for an interview

5. Come unprepared

Bring copies of your references and CV and carry a paper and pen for taking notes. It helps you feel more in control and ensures you appear cool, calm and collected to your prospective employers. If you forget to bring any supplies with you, avoid borrowing from the office as it gives off the wrong impression. Instead, be honest about your situation and integrate your skills in your responses to impress the interviewer.

6. Look bored

Avoid showing signs of boredom, such as yawning during your interview. This can quickly offend the hiring manager, causing them to lose interest in you. Remember, recruiters like candidates that show interest and excitement during interviews, so it's vital to highlight your enthusiasm throughout the interview. You can do this by:

  • nodding your head when the interviewer speaks

  • taking notes

  • responding to questions

  • maintaining eye contact

  • smiling

7. Be rude

You're likely to meet company employees and other coworkers before and after your job interview. Regardless of who you meet, ensure all your interactions are friendly and professional. Being rude or standoffish gives off a bad first impression and lowers your chances of landing the role. If your recruiter asks the people you met what they think about you, you want their response to be positive. Speak to everyone kindly and smile.

8. Eat

Eating right before and during your interview is extremely unprofessional and impolite. You're more likely to have bad breath during the interview, which puts off the recruiter. Eating also divides your attention, affecting how you answer questions and your composure throughout the interview. It's advisable to eat at home before your interview and not at the office premises. Be sure to clean up and check yourself in the mirror to remove any food particles or remainders from your mouth and face.

9. Cross your arms

Body language plays a significant role in the interviewing process. It's one factor hiring managers look at when assessing a candidate for a position. If you cross your arms or hide your hands, it shows that you're defensive or wary of the situation. This can easily put off your interviewer, causing them to lose interest in you as a potential candidate. If you want to appear warm and welcoming, keep your hands visible and your chest open. This helps the recruiter perceive you as an open and honest person and allows you to build a rapport with them.

Related: Positive body language and gestures that put people at ease

10. Fidget with unnecessary props

It's normal to feel anxious during a job interview, and this might cause you to fidget with gadgets around to calm your nerves. This can be anything from pens and paper to nail files and cell phones. Whether you've come with these gadgets or have found them at the interview table, it's never advisable to fidget with props, as they can be distracting. There are plenty of ways you can calm your nerves, including:

  • taking a few breaths

  • listening to music before the interview

  • rationalising your fears

  • engaging in positive self-talk

  • practising with friends and family

11. Answer your phone

Avoid checking, using or answering your phone during your job interview. It's unprofessional and divides your attention between the interview and the events occurring on the other end of the phone. Using your phone also shows the hiring manager your lack of self-control, which isn't an attractive quality. It's wise to turn off or silence your phone during your interview. Be sure to put it away for the entire duration of the interview so that you're not tempted to use it.

12. Check the time

Never look at your watch or the clock during a job interview. The recruiter is more likely to misconstrue it as a sign that you have somewhere more important to be. It also shows that you're bored with the interview and interviewer and can't wait for the process to end. Instead, focus on the interview by maintaining eye contact with the hiring manager and listening attentively. Avoid committing to other appointments leading up to your interview so that your schedule is clear and you have more than enough time to participate.

13. Speak negatively about your former or current employer

One question you can expect the interviewer to ask during your interview is about your previous or current employer. When responding, avoid speaking ill, badmouthing or complaining about them. It shows your inability to remain professional in challenging situations and gives off a wrong first impression. Instead, speak positively about your boss and show your gratitude and appreciation for the opportunities they've provided.

14. Lie on your CV

It can be tempting to lie on your CV to make yourself stand out. But, anything written on your CV can come up during the interview, and fabrication is more likely to damage your reputation. Even if the lie doesn't come up during the interview, it may show up later on once you're hired. This makes being honest and truthful vital when listing your skills, abilities, education and qualifications in your CV.

15. Get personal

Don't say how much you need a job to support your family or pay off your accruing debt during your interview. It tells the interviewer you're not actually interested in the role and only care about securing a paycheck to address your personal needs. You're better off remaining professional and giving other reasons for wanting the job, such as to do the following:

  • gain more experience

  • learn new skills and improve your competencies

  • be part of a collaborative work environment

  • take on new challenges

  • advance your career and grow as a professional

  • pursue an alternate career path

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