8 Ways to Bomb Your Interview




1. Go Casual

 You have this interview in the bag- who cares if you’re wearing jeans! You’re Gen Y! Steve Jobs doesn’t wear suits!

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.”  – Mark Twain

I’m not suggesting you show up to your interview naked (although that would certainly end your interviewing excursion. Mission accomplished!) Ask the recruiter ahead of time, on the phone or email, about the company dress code. If asking is uncomfortable for you, play it safe with dress pants or slacks and a nice shirt and tie; or skirt and blouse. Even at a “laid back” start-up would be impressed with your professionalism. Better to be over dressed than…well, naked.

2. Arrive Unprepared

 You emailed your resume – certainly the hiring manager had time to memorize it, or at least to print it and bring copies with him. Right?

Bring copies of your resume to the interview. And having a quality notebook or leather-bound portfolio in which to take interview notes will add to the impression that you’re a professional. The more you know about the company and industry before the interview, the better. Do your research to learn the company’s history, major competitors, market niche, products, etc.

3. The Weak Handshake

This is a time-honored first impression killer. The interviewer enters the room. They greet you warmly, smiling, and extend their hand to grasp yours…this can be an awkward moment if you over-think it. Will your hands meet correctly? Will they land slightly askew, resulting in that quasi-handshake, half high-five event?

Use a firm handshake to indicate confidence and potential strength of character.  And definitely make solid eye contact with the interviewer! That will display some competence and social ability.

4.  Your Cell Phone Rings 

This is an easy one to forget since most of us are so completely tied to this little electronic second brain. Turn your phone off (completely off!) before the interview.  If you forget and it does ring, DO NOT answer it, or even consider sending a quick text while the interviewer’s head is turned. This is more inappropriate and annoying than couples who hold hands at the gym! The hiring manager will definitely notice your lack of social etiquette.

5. Your Eyes Glaze Over, Your Shoulders Hunch, You Yawn…

Your body language communicates loudly. Maintain eye contact with your interviewer. Sit forward- it shows active interest with your full body. Nod your head at appropriate times and ask questions throughout the interview. An interview should be a two-way conversation. Give your interviewer time to explain the opening and the company culture, but jump in with quality questions. By “quality questions” I don’t mean: “How long is lunch in this office?” or “I have a vacation with my boyfriend coming up soon. Is that ok?”

6. Show Me The Money!

You’re just starting out in your career – you’ve already earned a big salary! You should bring that up right away, right? Wrong.

Discuss the position first and foremost. Sure, being paid for your time and skills is how capitalism works! But focus on the job details first- discuss compensation afterward, once you and the recruiter agree that you’re the right fit.

Before the interview, research your industry’s salary rates and the cost of living for the area.  You’ll be prepared to negotiate a salary that will cover your living expenses and enable you to set aside savings for emergencies. Having a job is only great when you can afford to pay your bills. Being underemployed is just as hard as being unemployed.

7. Be Really Un-Friendly

With the exception of very technical positions, employers interview for skills, but they hire for personality. Most entry level skills can be learned through on the job training. The interview reveals if you will be a good fit with the manager and their team. (I once got a job where the interviewer was a big golf nut. I play golf, so we talked about golf the entire interview).

Don’t use polite manners, smile or have an engaging and articulate conversation with the interviewer – avoid these as they will most certainly encourage the hiring manager to consider you further.

8. The Follow Up

Your best chance of not being hired is to blend in with the tens, or sometimes hundreds of other applicants… like job seeking camouflage! Don’t fall into the forgotten pile- send a follow up letter after the interview; at the very least an email to thank the interviewer for their time and add a few memorable points from your discussion (maybe even a question or two that you thought of after the interview). Better yet, send an old-school hand-written letter.

Most interviewees send resumes and wait… or interview and hope. If you don’t want to get hired… don’t stand out.

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at YouTern.

About the Author: Dave Ellis, is an original member of the YouTern team and instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals.


  1. MW says

    I have just about had it with the rudeness of people. I have sent out thank you notes for phone as well as personal interviews and people cannot even call out of common courtesy to let you know that you weren’t selected. Once I traveled 3 hours, spending about $100 on gas and put myself up in a hotel at almost $100 for the night and the hiring manager with whom I interviewed did not even have the courtesy to call or email me to say that he had hired another candidate – and that’s just one example! It’s bad enough for many resumes to fall into that “black hole”, but to get to the point of a personal interview and people are just too lazy to send an email especially when a candidate has spent money and time to appear is appalling!

  2. TCinTheBigCity says

    You forgot to mention “showing up to an interview as a male over 50″!

  3. Bud says

    I don’t agree with number 6. I do agree that yes you should not be eager to discuss compensation before the recruiter, interviewer, or supervisor gets a feel for you, but isn’t the interview a place for you and the company to feel each other out? Its kinda like a first date. All the cards need to be on the table.

    For instance, If you are applying for jobs in a new city, and the salary at your old job as $50,000 annual, and you get called for an interview with a company you applied to online, whats to say the position pay is not the same or less than your salary? Why would you proceed without the communication? Sure you can search in certain pay ranges, but say the new company has a pay band from $40-60k. wouldn’t you like to be sure that this is the right fit for you before proceeding down the path and wasting your time, and the companies?

    If the compensation is not listed in their job listing, then the appropriate time to ask (no matter how uncomfortable) is when they ask if you have any questions. (typically at the end of an interview). But don’t follow it up with “when do i start”… that’s just stupid.

  4. ChrisB says

    I live and work in Texas, where boots are dam near a staple. When I interview, I typically wear a coat and tie, and I wear boots. Not my fancy ones, but a decent looking pair that fit with either jeans or slacks. My point is to impress with my competencies and ability to fit in well, but also to leave a marker with which I am easily remembered. “The guy with the boots.” The Stetson does get left at home, yes.

  5. Susan Yerington says

    I always find out the salary range before proceeding with the interview as it wastes your time as well as the interviewer’s time. I don’t make them comit to an exact figure – just a range. If they cannot do this then something is wrong.

  6. Kara says

    I absolutely love this article! I am an HR manager for in home health care and the industry ALWAYS has a high turnover rate so I interview a lot of people. If you are interested in a potential employer… Call the office you are interviewing at. It’s ok to “secret” shop. Say you are interested in what they have offer and ask questions about the company. It allows a unique insight on the staff already there. Ask for their website so you can learn about them. One question that is almost always asked is how you learned about the position and what you are looking for in a career long term. Being able to answer that question allows you to tie in what the employer is hiring for whith goals or interests you are seeking. So learn about the company, secret shop them. And at the end of the interview when they ask if you have any other questions… Ask them what THEY love about working for the company. If the employer is passionate about their position and the company… They are usually passionate about their staff as well. I have learned it’s very hard to work for someone who doesn’t love the company they work for.

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