Top 8 Job Interview Blunders (Plus 3 Ways to Win)!

Whether you are a university or college student trying to get an internship or you are seriously seeking to land that permanent dream job, these are the boneheaded mistakes that will ensure you never get a foot in the door (and leave you feeling pretty silly).

What was I thinking yesterday? Man I wanted that job!

The list comes from a recently published CareerBuilder study in which 3,023 hiring managers and human resource professionals were surveyed.

The Amazing Things People Say & Do in An Interview

Before we get to the list, here is something to make your day. A compilation of some of the most ridiculous things people have done in an interview, sent in by the thousands of managers.

  • Candidate brought a “how to interview” book with him to the interview.
  • Candidate asked, “What company is this again?”
  • Candidate put the interviewer on hold during a phone interview. When she came back on the line, she told the interviewer that she had a date set up for Friday.
  • When a candidate interviewing for a security position wasn’t hired on the spot, he painted graffiti on the building.
  • Candidate wore a Boy Scout uniform and never told interviewers why.
  • Candidate was arrested by federal authorities during the interview when the background check revealed the person had an outstanding warrant.
  • Candidate talked about promptness as one of her strengths after showing up ten minutes late.
  • On the way to the interview, the candidate passed, cut-off, and flipped his middle finger at the driver who happened to be the interviewer.
  • Candidate referred to himself in the third person.
  • Candidate took off his shoes during the interview.
  • Candidate asked for a sip of the interviewer’s coffee.
  • Candidate told the interviewer she wasn’t sure if the job offered was worth “starting the car for.”

The Top 6 Blunders

The Interviewee Chewed Gum (63%)
Please, just wait until its over.

Do you love gum that much? This is the 6th biggest blunder most frequently cited by managers surveyed (63% of managers cited this).

The Interviewee Bad Talked Current or Previous Bosses (67%)

Keep your thoughts to yourself.

It may be tempting but do not give in to the urge to talk negatively about your previous or current employers. 67% of the managers surveyed cited this as the biggest blunder.

The Interviewee Appeared Arrogant (72%)

Sorry, but you are a bit too much of a diva to be employed.

If you think so much of yourself, why do you even want to work for others? 72% of all managers cited appearing arrogant as a problem. It is the 4th biggest blunder!

The Interviewee Dressed Inappropriately (72%)

Right clothes for the occasion?

72% of managers surveyed reported that interviewees messed up by dressing inappropriately. An interview is not a hot date, nor a day at the beach. Dress professionally.

The Interviewee Appeared Uninterested (75%)

Bored in an interview? Really?

You would never believe how common this is! With 75 percent of managers citing it, it is the 2nd most popular blunder! If you want the job – show it.

The Interviewee Answered Cell or Sent A Text (77%)

An extremely bad idea during an interview!

This is the #1, most popular, most reported blunder. 77% of managers surveyed report that interviewees missed the opportunity of their lives by taking calls and or sending a text message during the interview. How is this even possible?

Don’t Fall Into The Trap of Not Thinking

 Clearly, the bulk of these blunders come from not using the brain very much. As an interviewee, if you are serious about snagging a good job, you need to think. Put yourself in the interviewees shoes.

Take for instance, what Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder had say on the issue of speaking negatively about past or current employers.

 “It’s a mistake that a lot of job seekers probably don’t think about. After all, the job seeker may be entirely justified in their criticisms or frustrations with past employers. However, the employer may see it as unprofessional, unwarranted or a sign that the candidate may have a hard time building positive relationships with colleagues.” Haefner says.

The other major blunders are also bird-brain activities. They include:

(at number 7′) not providing specific answers, and

(at number 8′)  not asking any questions.

The Most Important Issue In Landing A Job

Be very careful however to think that this is all you need to do. The most valuable thing, I believe is in what Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder stated about what is actually most definitive in a job interview. It is not simply about avoiding the mistakes perfectly. 

You need to STAND OUT.

Most Important Thing: Stand Out From The Competition.

“…for most job seekers avoiding a big mistake isn’t the issue – it’s standing out from the crowd. A successful interview is a presentation that marries one’s personality and professional experience to the needs of the hiring manager and the company. Knowing how to do that successfully can be difficult, but with preparation and practice, candidates can greatly improve their interview skills,” Haefner said.

How To Win In Your Interview

Haefner recommends the following interview tips:

Do your research: Before the interview, research the company online by looking at their press room for recent company news, the ‘About Us’ section for information about the company culture, and the list of products and services so you are familiar with all they do. Having this knowledge will allow you to easily answer and ask questions during the interview.

Keep it upbeat: Many job seekers may be experiencing tougher than usual job searches in this economy. During the interview, stay positive, emphasize what you learned from the situation and stay away from bad mouthing previous employers.

Prepare examples and ideas: Bring your resume to life by practicing specific anecdotes that highlight your accomplishments and how you dealt with challenges in your past roles. Be prepared to share ideas of what you would bring differently to the position. Doing so shows the hiring manager that you are already thinking strategically.

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3 thoughts on “Top 8 Job Interview Blunders (Plus 3 Ways to Win)!”

  1. I
    like this article and it comes on the cusp of just having an interview a week
    earlier. The advice given here is great. I don’t think I’m the only one but
    most of us think that we have the best interviewing skills known to man. If
    that was the case, you’d be employed. I’ve learnt that as small as these pieces
    of advice may seem, they can be crucial to you getting the job you’re being
    interviewed for.

    thing I’d like to point out that was not stated in the article above is the
    need to be conservative. Being upbeat is one thing but mixing that with wit is
    like a death trap. I learnt that the hard way. It’s always best to present
    yourself as a dependable potential employee, who is efficient and effective. It
    may be part of your personality to be witty but that can easily be seen as
    sarcasm and then the employer may think that you’re not a cultural fit. Here
    are two articles that I think could be helpful to anyone who has landed an
    interview. Good luck!

    Link (1):
    Link (2):

    1.  Hey M, thanks very much for your response (and the websites)!
      I have seen what you have described at work in a number of settings. Injecting wit and jokes is not always advisable. If you are a witty person, it will come out naturally, but we should all make an effort to gauge the atmosphere.

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