bad interview in progress with interviewee making interview mistakes

4 Ways to Ruin an Interview

Want the job? Learn what NOT to do with these interview tips.

Finding a job is a job.

My Dad told me that a long time ago when I first entered the workplace. It has stuck with me ever since.

Though now I find myself on the other side of the table, I've gone through the wringer. I know the feeling of a nerve-wracking interview.

Because let's face it — every interview is a good opportunity. If not to acquire a new position or career, it can at least provide valuable experience and skills to better market yourself.

So, if you're looking to make the best of your next interview, don't ruin your chances by making these interview mistakes.


Interview Mistake #1: Showing Up Late

Don't show up late. Period.

I really don't buy the "well, things happen" excuse. And I bet most employees will agree with me. Because rarely do really-out-of-the-ordinary circumstances ever arise (I'm still waiting on that zombie apocalypse).

You know the deal. You know the time and place. Don't ruin an interview by being late. With tools like Google Calendar and Waze readily available, you have more than plenty of time and resources to not just show up on time but be early.

When I used to go to interviews, I would show up no later than 10 or 15 minutes early. If I had to check in with admin and sit in a waiting room for a little bit, so be it. That just gave me more time to prepare and review my notes. More face time, too.

If you arrive to an interview late, you better be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Instead, follow this interview tip and just show up early — it’s much easier than practicing your illusions the night before.


interviewee running late for his interview


Interview Mistake #2: Showing Up Empty-Handed

You spent all that time writing, rewriting, and editing your resume and you're not going to show it off?

This is a huge pet peeve. To me, someone who shows up empty-handed jumps on a fast track to being subconsciously labeled as having "nothing to offer."

It takes very little effort to follow this interview advice and avoid having a bad interview. Print out at least ten copies of your resume. Make sure to also make copies of any portfolio items or research pertinent to the position (see the conclusion of this article for an impressive case study on this). In the grand scheme of things, this is a marginal investment that pays for itself and then some.

Simply providing a copy of your resume makes you tangible. It makes you real. It also provides a script for the interviewer to follow that works in your favor.

Assume the person you're speaking to hasn't even read your resume or seen any of your work. Unless you're going for a job in a very bureaucratic organization, there's a good chance that the person who's interviewing you has a thousand other things they are doing on a daily basis. They’ll appreciate the small token of professional courtesy.


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Interview Mistake #3: Talking Too Much and/or at Inappropriate Times

At some point, you must talk to demonstrate your abilities and to provide the hiring manager an effective module to evaluate your fit. But you also need to listen attentively. Here’s a super easy tip that is sure to please: show that you are listening by taking notes!

Additionally, keep in mind that nobody likes being talked over. There's a right and a wrong time to interject. I understand that there is a sense of urgency to say as much as possible (especially since most interviews are limited to an hour or less), but sometimes saying too much can do more harm than good.

This is a well-known conundrum in the sales industry called "talking yourself out of a sale." Don't forget an interview is essentially a forum to sell yourself. Also, there's always room for following up, which is something that should be done after every interview, regardless of the outcome.

Here's an example of how pulling the trigger too quickly can derail an interview and leave you looking like an egotistical barbarian:

Interviewer (giving introduction on company): "So today, we're highly focused on scaling out digital marketing efforts both internally and externally for our clients. One of our most important clients has the need…"

Candidate (overly excited): "That's awesome. I have a ton of experience in digital marketing from my last position at XYZ Agency. I'm certified in Google Ads in search and display, and I've spent a ton of time building out effective strategies to reduce costs and improve return on investment..."

Interviewer (now slightly befuddled): "Well, that's good to know, but right now we're looking to bring someone on to more specifically tackle an important marketing automation project in a custom CRM..."

Awkward, right? Know when and where to promote yourself.


interviewee checking her cell phone in the middle of an interview


Interview Mistake #4: Disrespecting the Hiring Manager

Showing up late and/or empty-handed and constantly interrupting your potential employer are all bad interview practices. Beyond that, they're just flat out disrespectful.

One of the most inconsiderate things you can do is waste someone's time. 30 minutes to an hour adds up quickly.

Ask yourself: What could this person be doing other than taking time out of their busy day to meet with me? Does that motivate you to be a little more punctual, more prepared, and conscientious? It should.

Furthermore, little things like turning your phone off, saying thank you often, and not yawning throughout the meeting (yes, I've had someone do this to me — sorry for boring you!) can go a long way in helping you stand out in the interviewer's eyes.

Reminder: At the end of the day, the person you meet with is a hardworking person just like you. The only difference is that they're sitting on the other side of the table.


A Case Study on How to Recover from an Interview Mistake

We’ve touched on many things that you should avoid during an interview. To conclude this piece, I felt it would be beneficial to share what our most recent hire — we’ll call him John — did to "wow" us.

John is a young, hungry guy. Not only did he show up on time and listen intently, but he also came to our introductory meeting prepared as if he had already earned the position. John put together a mockup of an Amazon storefront for our company and had a presentation showcasing his skills as a copywriter and designer. He was incredibly prepared beyond our expectations, and it went a long way.

Here’s the funny thing: John did this work based on a misunderstanding from our first call a couple of weeks prior, where we talked about B2B versus B2C, and how we are more focused on serving B2B clients.

That day, John heard it the other way around — B2C instead of B2B. So, he took it upon himself to create an Amazon store for our business, thinking it would be in line with future work that he might do for our clients.

On the day of our meeting, I had to burst his bubble and let him know that we don't really do anything on Amazon (except buy our friends and family birthday gifts).

"Well, that's unfortunate," John replied. He then sighed, reached into his bookbag, and handed me and my business partner a couple of t-shirts with our company logo printed across the chest.

"No way!" I shouted. "You got us the shirts that you just showed us in the store? That's awesome!"

I was probably going to hire John anyway, but the t-shirts sealed the deal. It likely cost him a few hours of work and printing expenses. But he got the gig. And we're committed to making sure that he gets one darn good return on his investment.


Stefan Schulz is a digital marketing expert with diverse experience as a creative consultant and agency director. Stefan serves as the Director of Agency Success at Orpical Group, a full-service digital marketing agency with locations in New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His work has helped Orpical Group earn accolades including The Philadelphia Business Journal’s Top Branding, Marketing, and Media Services Companies as well as Top Tech Employers List.

By Stefan Schulz, Guest Author | December 27, 2018
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