[ Skip Main Nav ]

Career articles

How to blow a job interview

How to blow a job interview

Human resource professionals have no end of stories about oddball behavior by job candidates, which can run the gamut from prospective employees inviting interviewers out for a drink to bringing pets to interviews.

But an obvious blunder isn’t the only way to ruin your chances of landing a job, says Cathy McGinnis, MS, a career coach for Phoenix Career Services™ at University of Phoenix. Here are seven things you shouldn’t do in an interview:

Bring your cellphone.

Even though cellphones have become part of almost everyone’s lives, that doesn’t mean they should be part of your interview. If you routinely carry one with you, turn it completely off before your interview.

Texting, talking or having your phone ring or vibrate during an interview can be enough reason for the employer to consider another candidate. “Even if you have it off and in your pocket,” McGinnis notes, “you might wonder who’s calling you, and you can’t have that distraction.”

Show ignorance about the company.

Learn as much as you can about the organization you’re interviewing with. “It’s so easy now,” McGinnis notes. “You can find out who works there, their mission, vision, benefits and more, online.”

If the company doesn’t have a website or its website has no comprehensive About Us section, McGinnis recommends calling the company and asking where you can learn more. You also can check websites such as Glassdoor for company information. “Be tenacious,” she emphasizes. “Don’t just say, ‘I can’t find it.’”

Dress inappropriately.

“You have to dress the part,” McGinnis emphasizes. If it’s a place like Google or Pixar, they’ll probably think you’re overdressed if you wear a suit to an interview. Likewise, if you show up at an accounting firm wearing khakis and a polo shirt, hiring managers will know you didn’t do your homework on the company culture.

Ask the wrong questions.

“The questions you ask in an interview should be thoughtful,” McGinnis says, “and ones that haven’t [already] been answered in the interviews or covered on the website or in any materials you’ve received.” Don't ask about anything that you could find easily on a website. And, McGinnis advises, never ask about vacation time or pay, or the interviewer will think that’s all you care about.

Dismiss any questions.

“This is an interview, not a confessional,” McGinnis says, so practice limiting your answers to 90 seconds or less. There’s also a good chance the interviewer will ask the classic question: What are your weaknesses? Never say you don’t have any, and never give a laundry list of your character flaws.

Try spinning a negative into a positive, she suggests. For example, you could mention a skill that’s related to the job but not essential and then describe how you are working to improve in that area.


Just don’t do it, because the employer likely will find out. “I was on a committee doing interviews where we asked candidates if they had experience with made-up software that didn’t exist,” McGinnis says. “Almost everyone said yes, except for the person we hired.” If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest.


Forget to thank the interviewers.

Express your appreciation for the interviewers’ time before you leave, and then follow up with thank-you notes. McGinnis recommends sending email messages, as well as snail mail notes, and tailoring communication to each person.

“That thank-you needs to go to everyone,” McGinnis emphasizes. “The secretary who welcomed you, the assistant who walked you down the hallway — everyone. If you met 27 people, you’re going to write 27 thank-yous.”