Interview Blunders Can Close the Door on Valuable Job Opportunities

MENLO PARK, CA -- Job seekers typically research what they should do during an interview. But knowing what not to do is an equally valuable lesson. Executives were asked recently to name the strangest things they have ever heard of happening in a job interview, and the results show that many job seekers could benefit from a refresher course in interview basics.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in highly skilled administrative professionals, and conducted by an independent research firm. It includes responses from 150 executives with the nation's 1,000 largest companies.

While it's helpful to have the support of loved ones during a job hunt, many executives surveyed gave examples of applicants who went to extremes: 

  • "After answering the first few questions, the candidate picked up his cell phone and called his parents to let them know the interview was going well."
  • "At the end of the interview, the candidate expressed her interest in getting the position, but only if her boyfriend liked the company and the hiring manager. She then said, 'He's waiting outside. Can I bring him in to say hello?'"
  • "The person got up to leave just a few minutes after the interview had begun, saying he left his dog in the car and needed to check on him."

"In today's job market, there is growing competition for each opening, making it even more critical for applicants to put their best foot forward," said Liz Hughes, OfficeTeam's executive director. "Employers are trying to decide whether or not to hire you and the interview is their primary tool for making this assessment." 

Preparation is essential to making the best impression during the interview, and that includes getting organized. These next job seekers definitely weren't ready for their big meeting: 

  • "The candidate entered the lobby and identified herself to the receptionist. She then pulled two pairs of shoes from her bag and said, 'Before the interviewer comes out, tell me which pair you think I should wear with this suit.'"
  • "When asked why he wanted to work for the company, the applicant responded, 'That's a good question. I really haven't given it much thought.'"
  • "When asked how the candidate would improve sales if hired for the position, he replied, 'I'll have to think about that and get back to you.' He then stood up, walked out and never came back."
  • "When told she would meet with another interviewer, the candidate said, 'Wait just a minute.' She then took out a large bag from her briefcase and proceeded to reapply her makeup and hairspray, all in the first interviewer's office."

Candidates also should remember to keep their comments positive, as the next examples illustrate. "The way in which the candidate treats the interviewer speaks volumes about that person's interpersonal skills," Hughes noted. "If a job seeker isn't initially courteous and upbeat with the hiring manager, he or she is unlikely to display these qualities with coworkers, managers and others in the workplace." 

  • "When asked by the hiring manager why she was leaving her current job, the applicant said, 'My manager is a jerk. All managers are jerks.'"
  • "When asked what the candidate was currently earning, she replied, 'I really don't see how that is any of your business.'"
  • "The candidate disparaged his former boss during the interview, not realizing the boss and the interviewer had the same last name, and were related."
  • "When asked what he liked least in his current job, the applicant replied, 'staff management.' He was interviewing for a management position."

Finally, some interview blunders that defied classification: 

  • "After being complimented on his choice of college and the GPA he achieved, the candidate replied, 'I'm glad that got your attention. I didn't really go there.'" 
  • "The candidate asked for an early morning interview. He showed up with a box of doughnuts and ate them during the meeting, saying this was the only time he'd have to eat breakfast before going to work." 
  • "When asked by the hiring manager if he had any questions for him, the candidate replied by telling a knock-knock joke."
  • "The company sent an employee to meet a prospective candidate at the airport. The applicant got off the plane, said it was far too cold to live and work in this city, and said he was taking a flight home. He never met the hiring manager."
  • "When asked by the manager about his goals, the job seeker said, 'To work in this position for the least amount of time possible until I can get your job.'"

Hughes offers three final tips to ace the interview: 

  • Think before you speak. The first idea that comes to your mind may not be the most appropriate to share with the hiring manager. Focus your comments on what you can offer the firm, not what you want in return.
  • Remember your delivery. Hiring managers aren't just evaluating you based on the content of your answers; they're also observing your interpersonal style. Be concise, maintain eye contact and resist the urge to fill in every gap of silence.
  • Don't throw in the towel. If it's clear the interview isn't going well, don't give up. You may not be right for that position, but other openings in the department may arise that would be a better match. Convey your interest in being considered for other opportunities.

OfficeTeam has more than 300 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at

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