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“Um, What Company is this Again?” Candidates’ Most Cringe-Worthy Interview Mistakes

Man forgetting which company he is interviewing withEmployers know as well as job seekers do that it’s still tough out there, and it seems they would be kind to overlook job seekers’ most innocent of mistakes, like spilling coffee on the boss’s suit, or letting it slip that “snugglebear” was one’s childhood nickname, or calling the hiring manager “Dad” in a moment of flustered introductions (No? Never happened to you?).

In a labor market where a single open position may receive resumes from hundreds of applicants, however, there are certain mistakes employers won’t — or shouldn’t — brush off. But which mistakes are blips — and which are total blunders? You be the judge, as CareerBuilder’s latest survey, conducted by Harris Interactive© among more than 3,000 employers, takes a closer look at candidates’ biggest interview mistakes – straight from the HR employees and hiring managers who experienced them.

What are the most harmful interview mistakes, according to hiring managers?

It’s hard to believe candidates would risk pulling out the iPhone during an interview to answer a text about Friday night plans, but it does happen. The mistakes below are surefire ways for candidates not to get the job, according to the majority of employers surveyed:

  • Answering a cell phone or texting: 77 percent
  • Appearing disinterested: 75 percent
  • Dressing inappropriately: 72 percent
  • Appearing arrogant: 72 percent
  • Talking negatively about current or previous employers: 67 percent
  • Chewing gum: 63 percent
In addition to these egregious errors, we recently walked into offices across the nation to ask hiring managers what would make them count a candidate out immediately. Here’s what they had to say:

Employers’ most memorable interview experiences

There are your run-of-the-mill “Don’ts” for interviews — and then there are some that are a bit more unusual. While, as we’ve said before, strange interview tactics can be a smart move, the tactics must show how a candidate will contribute to a company or display their strengths somehow. Do any of the tactics below pass that test for you?

  • 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 she had a date set up for Friday.
  • When a candidate interviewing for a security position wasn’t hired on the spot, he graffitied the building.
  • Candidate wore a Boy Scout uniform and never told interviewers why.
  • Candidate was arrested by federal authorities during the interview when a 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, candidate passed, cut-off, and flipped middle finger to driver who happened to be the interviewer.
  • Candidate referred to himself in the third person.
  • Candidate took off shoes during interview.
  • Candidate asked for a sip of the interviewer’s coffee.
  • A mature candidate told the interviewer she wasn’t sure if the job offered was worth “starting the car for.”

 Take a moment to reassess

It’s important for job seekers to keep in mind that with so many others applying to the position they want, every misstep can matter — and they need to be presentable, prepared, and courteous to those interviewing them, above all else. While many of the examples above show a lack of these qualities, it’s also important for hiring managers to remember to put themselves in candidates’ shoes for a moment (as seen above, possibly even literally), to reassess the situation.

What would your advice be to candidates on what NOT to do if they hope to ace the interview?

 

Amy McDonnell

About Amy McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the creative services manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.
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