What NOT to do in an Interview


I have spent a lot of time interviewing people lately. We are currently hiring at my day job for two positions and I have the “joy” of being on the interview panel.  I know that a lot of people are having a hard time right now and there is record numbers of people looking for a job. I will provide my two cents on what NOT to do in an interview from someone who has had a lot of recent experience in participating in interviews.

Not knowing exactly what you applied for.
Don’t go to an interview unless you are certain you know exactly what position you are being interviewed for. I once had an interviewee who answered every question as if they were applying for a job in another department.  I think our interview would have been great, but it was obvious they didn’t know what they had applied for and that biased the rest of the interview process. The moral of the story here is do your research and make sure you can intelligently answer questions in relation to the position you applied for.

Not answering the questions.
In any interview there is a chance you will be asked a question about a situation you have never been in. Under no circumstances should you just say “I have never had that happen” and leave it at that. You should explain you have not been in that particular situation, however, if you found yourself in it you would handle it in this way… The interviewer is trying to get an idea on how you handle yourself in difficult situations and if you don’t provide an answer you are leaving it up to their judgement how you would do.

Wearing wrinkled clothes/clothes that don’t fit.
It is surprising they actually do it but people regularly show up to interviews with clothes on that don’t fit or are wrinkled. A certain amount of wrinkleage is understandable, especially if the interviewee had other individuals to interview with earlier in the day. There is no real excuse for clothes that don’t fit. Especially with unemployment on the rise you want to make sure you look like you care about the opportunity.

Don’t use words the interviewer might not understand.
I am not uneducated but there is really no need to try to impress me or anyone else with fancy words. I was in an interview recently where the candidate used the word “tangentially”, I didn’t even know what it meant, at the time, so I could not decide if he answered the question correctly or not.  Big words may be helpful in an English professors interview, but they are not going to do anything but make you look like an ass in an interview. Don’t do it.

Don’t read your resume, don’t even bring it in.

Ok, you can bring some in but only to offer in the event the interviewer does not have a copy. You should not have to consult your resume to answer a question, ever. Your answers should come off the top of your head, or at least seem like it. I once had an interviewee read directly from their resume for every question that was asked, it doesn’t exactly make the interviewer confident when you have to consult your own resume to answer.

Do your research but don’t bring it with you, memorize it.
An interviewee came in once with a 2″ thick folder of information they had gleaned from the internet about the company. While I applaud effort to better understand the company, I don’t think they realized what it looked like but they were constantly pulling things out of the folder and referencing it, a few of them were reports we had written. It was kind of creepy. Don’t do it.

Saying “I just need a job.”

My single greatest pet peave is anyone who actually thinks it is ok to use the line “I just need a job” in an interview. It may be an honest answer but it shows a complete and total lack of caring about the position, the company, or the interviewers time. You don’t have to use a canned answer when someone says why do you want this job, but at least show a little bit of effort.

Whatever you do…. Do not make a video resume like Barney Stinson:

Photo (Okko Pyykkö)


1 Sarah Eliza @ Devastate Boredom March 11, 2009 at 10:49 am

Haha! I guess I should view this as an opportunity to feel more confident in my own interviewing skills… Great list/reminders though, thanks!

2 Jason Van Steenwyk March 16, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Hmmm. The word “tangentially” isn’t exactly a Vatican secret.

Assuming the interviewee used the word correctly, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone who claims not to be uneducated to have grasped 9th grade math.

If you’re uneducated, I don’t think that’s the interviewee’s fault. And if you didn’t understand it, and couldn’t be bothered to clarify what the interviewee meant at the time, and instead held your ignorance against the interviewee, the only one who looks like an ass is you.

3 Kyle March 16, 2009 at 11:32 pm

@ Jason Van Steenwyk
I appreciate you making my point, it doesn’t matter what you the interviewee know, it matters what impression you give, why bother with extraneous words which provide no usefulness to the dialogue. You can’t assume the level of knowledge of the interviewee and should therefore default to a more common subset of your vocabulary.

4 Making a Will UK November 3, 2009 at 10:40 am


I worked in banks and financial institutions for years and then I opened my own recruitment consultancy finding specialist staff for the banks. I tried to always help people rather than just send them anywhere and interview preparation took a great deal of time.

Please, please, please realise that employers need you to be well prepared for interview. You should know all about the employer – how many people do they employ, how many offices they have, what were there profits last year – and much more.

Open a file and start building a list of interview questions. Surf the web for ideas. It is quite amazing how many people are unable to answer something simple like “why do you want this job?” or even “what do you think this job is all about?”

Of course, a genius can wander into interviews and get by thinking on his or her feet. The rest of us have to prepare meticulously.


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