How to Fail a Job Interview Even If You’re a Good Candidate

Jade-Ceres Violet D. Munoz

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Unemployment is currently 6.9 percent, according to the Oct 2020 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this is significantly less than the all-time high of 14.7 percent unemployment rate in April 2020, the numbers are still concerning. Many are still looking for work and the pandemic isn’t making it any easier.

If you’re one of the many Americans on the hunt for a job right now, honing your job interview skills may be the key to getting the position you want. Job interviews are a crucial part of the recruitment process -- it gives both the potential employer and the candidate an opportunity to get to know one another better. It is a good time to decide whether the candidate is a good fit for the company and if the company suits the candidate.

I was a hiring manager for six years and have successfully added more than 25 people to my team as part of my job. Deciding who to hire is fairly easy -- most hiring managers already know the skill set they need to complete the team. It’s really a matter of whether the applicant is a match for those needs.

There were also instances when I’ve hired people for their attitude. They may not have the skills at the time of the interview, but I knew that there would be a good culture fit with the company and they have the right mindset to learn the skills we needed.

I’ve been lucky in most of the interviews that I conduct. However, there were a few candidates that seemed perfect for the job (at least on paper) but failed miserably during the job interview. There are a few things that were a real turn-off and I just had to say no to a potentially good applicant.

Here are 5 things you should never do during a job interview:

1. Lie on your resume - Human Resource teams validate the resume that you submit by calling previous employers or your references. So lying on your resume is a big no-no. Even if it is just a little white lie -- like proficiency in a certain language -- just don’t do it. Getting found out won’t just ruin your chances during a job interview, if you are found to have lied during your application, some companies actually have it in the contract that they can fire you for it.

2. Be inconsiderate - Discourtesy during a job interview can manifest in a number of ways. On top of that list is lateness. Being tardy for an interview shows you don't respect the time of the person interviewing you. It is better to be 30 minutes early to an interview and wait your turn than be 10 minutes late and ruin the hiring manager’s schedule for the day.

To avoid being construed as having bad manners during an interview, make sure you are on time, dress the part and be well-prepared before you come in for the interview. Some quick tips to help you:

  • If in doubt, don’t dress down. If you don’t know the dress code for the company, stick with semi-formal. Opt for the black pants instead of denim. Wear a collared long-sleeve shirt. If you have a tie and know how to tie one, use it. That would look so much better than a t-shirt and jeans.
  • Look up who is interviewing you. If they give you the names of the hiring manager, take a quick look at their linked in account.
  • Read up about the company. At the very least, check their website to find out what they do. Make sure to read the job descriptions for the position that you are applying for.
  • Be mindful of your body language. Sometimes it isn’t even about what you say but how you act while saying it. Practice having good posture while walking, standing, and sitting down. Slouching during an interview may come across as disinterest in the job.
  • Do not, under any circumstance, do anything that distracts the interviewer from paying attention to what you are saying. Some nightmare interviews I had included a person who chewed gum throughout the interview and another one who was biting her nails while talking to me.

3. Pretend to know an answer you don’t - Interviews conducted by a hiring manager are in place so a candidate can be vetted by someone who knows the job. These people are often experts in their specific field. So, the “fake it til you make it” attitude just won’t fly. If you do not know the answer to a specific job-related question, do not pretend that you do. Instead, be honest about it and say what you do when you encounter a situation like that while on the job.

4. Ask about the money upfront - Inquiring about the salary and benefits is important for the job seeker to even consider an offer. However, I would advise asking about these later in the interview or when you do get a job offer. This is not Jerry McGuire where you can just scream “show me the money!” Use the first part of your interview to find out more about the company and the position. Get them interested in you so they can consider you for the job before you start talking about the money.

5. Put yourself in a bad light - I had a candidate who was applying for a role as a travel writer in my team. I was impressed by her resume and how she spent 5 years as the head writer for her most recent position. That was until she told me that they were actually writing porn. She then proceeded to elaborate the kind of writing they do. I would have been perfectly happy not knowing those details. It’s not exactly omitting anything, I would have done my research or asked the questions related to her writing process, but having her volunteer that kind of information was not my cup of tea.

If you are failing your job interviews and are getting rejected, even if you know you have the skills that match what they are looking for, then it might be another issue. You can fix it and you can take control The first step is to identify where you went wrong.

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I've been a professional writer for over 15 years and write about a variety of topics but prefer to write about things that make the world a better place.


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