AnnaMarie Houlis via Fairygodboss
Interviews can be intimidating — you likely spend the whole day before preparing your answers to the most common interview questions, studying up on the company and your interviewer and hyping yourself up in the mirror. And even after all of that, you’re still stressed out about making a mistake.
The reality is that, boiled down, interviews are just two-way conversations. You’re only human; everyone makes mistakes.
That said, some people make bigger mistakes than others. That’s why Fairygodboss Associate Editor Liv McConnell took to the Fairygodboss community dashboard to ask hiring managers about the worst mistakes they’ve ever witnessed — and they’re certainly cringeworthy.
“This question goes out especially to hiring managers or those who’ve worked in a hiring capacity — what’s the worst mistake you’ve seen a candidate make in an interview?” she asked. “Interviews can be anxiety-inducing, so anytime I’ve been in the interviewer’s seat, I try to approach candidates with empathy. That said, there are certain mistakes that you’d be doing a disservice to both yourself and the company to ignore.”
For her, she says that the most glaring mistake she’s ever encountered was when a candidate addressed her by the wrong name at least four or five times during the interview, despite her stating her name in the beginning.
“Not only did it show the candidate wasn’t listening to me during our conversation, but it revealed a sense of carelessness on their part — we’d already exchanged multiple emails at this point, and he really should’ve done some research on me and my role at the company besides,” she goes on, asking the community about the biggest mistakes they’ve seen candidates make during the interview process.
FGB’ers responded with a whole host of ugly mess-ups. Here’s what they had to say (and what you should avoid doing in your next interview!).
1. The candidate was hungover/high.
“I’ve had a candidate talk about how hungover they were… They were not hired,” says Jamie Jacobs.
Another candidate came into a job interview high.
“I recently had someone interviewing for an entry-level position at my company come into the interview completely stoned (red eyes, lost concentration, slurred some words, laughed out of nowhere),” says Dawn A. “Needless to say, we ended the interview early.”
2. The candidate badmouthed their former employer.
“I’ve had a candidate talk incredibly bad about their former employer — that’s exactly what NOT to do,” an anonymous FGB’er says.
3. The candidate was texting during the interview.
“I had a candidate stop to check their phone during an interview and send what I think was a text or an email,” says another anonymous FGB’er. “Then they offered no explanation on why they had to do that. It was weird and happened while a question was being asked to them, so then they had to ask for the question to be repeated.”
Other FGB’ers had similar experiences.
“Not only did this person leave their cell phone on, but the candidate went to check the text during the interview,” says Olivia Oz.
4. The candidate didn’t follow up with a thank-you note.
“Not following up with a thank you and then not being responsive (timely) in their reply are dealbreakers,” says an anonymous FGB’er.
5. The candidate focused too much on their weaknesses.
“I asked ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ and the candidate responded ‘I’ve got 3,’ and then proceeded to explain them to me in great detail,” an anonymous FGB’er shares. “She spent more time telling me her weaknesses than explaining her strengths. We decided to go in a different direction!”
Other FGB’ers had similar experiences with candidates lowballing themselves.
“I’ve asked someone to rate themselves on a scale of 1-10 for their abilities communication skills; he gave himself a 2… This position was for a strong communications role,” says Ceci.
6. The candidate asked the wrong questions.
“Not asking questions regarding the challenges related to the role, what the company values, etc. shows me the person has not imagined themselves in the role and, therefore, is not truly interested in working with us,” says Coach Sandra.
One person even asked all the wrong questions.
“One candidate asked if we provided free food and snacks and what were they; he cared about food over the interview,” says Julez.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards and career advice.
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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.