Five Fatal Interview Etiquette Mistakes to Avoid
While some of these mistakes are a little rarer than others — like the time a candidate who showed up for an interview sporting a blue Mohawk during the Kansas City Royals play-offs — most errors in interview etiquette happen because candidates are inexperienced or unaware of the first impressions they make.
Fortunately, many of these common interview mistakes are easily remedied by following the advice of our seasoned recruiters.
Read on for some complimentary coaching from the pros.
1. Don’t be late
Aerotek Recruiter Paul Gianfagna recalls an instance when a candidate showed up late, looking disheveled and holding a cup of coffee.
“Showing up late is always [frowned upon], but making it obvious that you stopped for coffee even though you were running late is even worse! That’s a clear indicator that you don’t want the job and don’t respect the interviewer’s time,” says Gianfagna.
To be on time, he suggests candidates clock their commute prior to the interview date. “Then add 15 or 20 minutes to the commute time to allow for traffic jams or glitches,” says Gianfagna.
Professional Recruiter Lead Jackie Ross also recommends candidates arrive at the interview a little early. “That way you aren’t rushed. You’ll look and feel more confident and composed, making you less likely to make mistakes during the interview,” she says.
2. Don’t bring the cell phone
Almost every one of our recruiters mentioned inappropriate cell phone etiquette on their lists of the five worst interview mistakes.
In fact, a new survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder, found that 68 percent of the more than 2,500 hiring managers surveyed said that answering the phone or sending a text during an interview was one of the top five ways to ruin a job interview.
“Leave your cell phone in the car,” says Embedded Software Engineer Recruiter Claire Krieger. “If you must bring your phone with you, be sure to turn it off before your interview. It is never OK to check messages or even glance at your cell phone during an interview!”
3. Don’t interrupt the interviewer
Though being enthusiastic about a job opportunity makes a good impression, repeatedly interrupting the interviewer because you can’t wait to answer a question doesn’t.
“Finishing the interviewer’s sentences and answering questions before he or she has a chance to ask them in full comes off as rude. It gives the impression that you aren’t able to focus and listen,” says Executive Professional Recruiter Melanie Wilson.
Instead, our recruiter panelists recommend candidates listen carefully to interviewers’ questions and pause before answering. This technique gives candidates the time to come up with thoughtful responses that are more likely to impress the interviewer — without stepping over someone’s thought.
4. Don’t badmouth former employers
Did you leave your last job due to conflicts with your manager or co-workers? If so, resist the impulse to speak negatively about your former colleagues, advises Senior Professional Recruiter Matthew Wiehe.
“Explain truthfully why you left your job but stick to the facts, frame the situation positively and leave your feelings at the door,” he says. “In my five years of recruiting, I have seen more people lose job opportunities because they badmouthed previous employers than for any other reason,” says Wiehe.
It’s not always easy to put a positive spin on a negative experience but “practice makes perfect,” says Senior Professional Account Recruiting Manager Kathryn Keller.
If you’re worried about how to answer a question — such as “Why did you leave your last job?” — Keller recommends taking time to formulate responses prior to interview day. Then, try them out on a friend or family member and get their feedback.
5. Shake hands and make eye contact
You might be surprised how important a strong handshake and good eye contact are when it comes to making a good impression.
Over and over again, our recruiter panelists mentioned the importance of these basic social graces. And they’re far from alone.
CareerBuilder found that 67 percent of hiring managers surveyed said that failure to make eye contact was the biggest “body language mistake” that disqualified candidates.
Meanwhile, Daily Finance contributing writer Ann Brenoff is so convinced that a proper handshake is crucial, she offers this written tutorial on the subject.
“Extend your right hand in vertical position with the thumb upright and fingers extended,” writes Brenoff. “Shake web to web firmly. Don't squeeze so hard that a trip to the ER becomes necessary and just shake with two pumps, then release.” Brenoff also recommends waiting for the interviewer to initiate the handshake.
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Aerotek recruiter panel members:
Paul Gianfagna, Alexandra Hirt, Alexandra Horst, Kate Keller, Claire Krieger, Julie Lewis, Matt Lubecki, Jake Plegge, Gina C. Prudhomme, Ross Minton, Kaitlin Morkel, Jackie Ross, Stephanie Sanders, Dana Sheehan, Matt Wiehe and Sam Yeomans contributed to this article.