10 Things You Should Never Do During a Job Interview


Though the U.S. economy is alive and kicking again, the job market still feels a bit sluggish. If you've managed to land an interview, congratulations — you're doing something right. Build on that success by avoiding common interview blunders. Here are 10 things you should never do in an interview.

1. Don't Arrive Unprepared

Take time to learn about the company and the position you're applying for. Gathering a few basic facts shows motivation and will help you know what questions to ask later. Also, prepare by bringing along extra copies of your resume or CV; some interviewers may be pulled in at the last moment and appreciate your forethought.

2. Don't Show Up Late

No surprise here; don't show up late to a job interview. In fact, pad your schedule by 20–30 minutes just in case the train is running late or you can't find a parking spot. Arriving to an interview five to 10 minutes early is completely acceptable and gives you time to mentally prepare.

3. Don't Leave Your Phone On

If your phone rings during a job interview, you'd better hope there's an HR director on the other end of the line with a smokin' hot offer. Ringing cell phones and formal job interviews don't mix. As unnatural as it may feel, completely silence or turn your phone off during an interview (and remember, vibrating phones can still be heard and are still a distraction).

4. Don't Sit Down Before You're Invited

Sometimes small courtesies can make a big impression. It's good business etiquette to not sit down until you've been invited or shown to your seat.

5. Don't Slouch

It may sound terribly old-fashioned, but posture matters. Standing tall and sitting up straight not only conveys a sense of maturity and experience to others, it can boost your self confidence. If you're a chronic sloucher, improve your posture with 10 targeted stretching exercises.

6. Don't Talk Trash

Be honest, but stay positive when it comes to discussing your previous or current employer. The world is smaller than most of us imagine and it's impossible to know the personal or professional connections your interviewer may have.

7. Don't Talk Money

Don't talk money unless you're asked, or an offer has been extended. A premature focus on money and benefits sends the wrong message to your potential employer. (See also: 5 Things Never to Bring Up in a Job Interview)

8. Don't Mumble

Hold your head up, speak clearly, and make eye contact. Employers shouldn't have to work to hear you and mumblers don't come across as capable, confident employees. Remember, good communication is a skill you can learn. If you've had trouble in the past, explore ways to speak more effectively.

9. Don't Up Talk

Up-talking is that annoying linguistic habit of phrasing statements as if they were questions ("I really enjoy my current position, but I think I'm ready for something more challenging?"). Up-talking implies you're unsure of what you're saying, need approval, and lack confidence. Sure, it seems like everyone is doing it, but up-talking is still the verbal equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.

10. Don't Skip the Questions

Your interviewer is likely to ask if you have any questions about the role or the company. Don't be shy; be ready with a set of essential interview questions. Speaking up shows that you're interested and have been listening.

In our hyper-casual world, paying attention to the details during an interview can help you stand out in all the right ways. Especially for those positions that require interacting with clients or the public, knowing how to navigate a formal interview with grace and refinement is its own unique qualification.

What's the biggest mistake you've made in an interview? If you've been on the other side of the desk, what advice do you have for interviewees?

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Guest's picture

I got reprimanded for not bringing a copy of my resume once and have never done it again! More often than not, I've not needed it, but better to have it! I also have a "resting bitch face" and calm nature, so I make a point to not looked pissed and try to be energetic, those small things matter!

Guest's picture

I arrived late once but it was an error in my calendar entry. When she informed me that I was a half hour late I politely shook her hand and told her I'm sorry if I wasted your time. I left. She may have been willing to conduct the interview but why should I even waste my own time. For all I know the calendar entry error might have been hers. I am not a habitually late person. In fact I'm punctual and usually early.

Guest's picture

I think talking money is an extremely important thing to do when you're considering a job--it's silly to act like it's not a huge factor that affects whether or not you should pursue a position. There's a right way and a wrong way to do it, and right and wrong times to bring it up, but it's not something that should just be outright a "thing you should never do during a job interview."

Kentin Waits's picture

You're absolutely right; compensation is the primary driver (of course). Timing and approach is everything...particularly when it's early in the interview process.