12 things you should never do at an interview

12 things you should never do at an interview

Nobody likes awkward moments, especially not in an interview…

The problem is, when you worry so much about making sure every little thing goes right, it’s easy to forget about the things that could go wrong. So how can you ensure that you have an embarrassment free interview experience?

Here are these 12 things all interviewees hope they don’t do on the big day, and how to avoid them:

  1. Be late

    12 Interview 1

    Let’s face it, turning up late to an interview is never an option. It only leaves you looking unprofessional and unorganised. And/or sweaty.

    Use your trusty GPS device to plan your route in advance, and always add an extra half an hour onto your expected journey time, just in case. After all, the GPS has an extensive history of failing us…

  2. Have your phone on loud

    12 Interview 2

    You know how embarrassing it in when your phone goes off in the cinema? Yeah, this is worse.

    For your own interview safety, always remember to turn everything off before you go in. At the very least, leave it on silent. Especially if you have a questionable ringtone that could potentially cause offence or embarrassment – we’re looking at you, Vanilla Ice.

    Oh, and don’t attempt to check your messages or missed calls on-the-fly either. Recruiters are understanding, but they’re not idiots.

  3. Use excessive slang

    12 Interview 3

    The formality of your speech is partly dependent on the role you’re going for and the type of company they are. But as a general rule, we’d avoid using slang.

    Remember: although you should feel comfortable around your interviewers, they’re not your best friends just yet. Mate’s, bro’s and bae’s are never appropriate.


  4. Be arrogant and over-confident

    12 Interview 4

    Being confident in your abilities and expressing why you’re the right fit for a role is fine, but don’t overdo it. There’s a fine line between wanting the job and seeming entitled to it.

    It’s okay to talk about your previous achievements, and ask about potential promotions within the role, but it’s not okay to tell the interviewer that you want their job.

    Because nobody likes a show-off…

  5. Dress inappropriately

    12 Interview 5

    Interview outfit etiquette isn’t exactly set in stone, but there is one simple rule to remember: it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

    Try your outfit on beforehand, make sure everything fits, sort out any accessories. After all, the last thing you want to do is spend hours before an interview trying to find your other black sock or a pair of tights without a rip in them.

    Interview outfit tip: trackie bottoms are never acceptable.

  6. Moan about your current employer

    12 Interview 6

    OK, so your favourite mug went missing and you’re heartbroken.

    We get it. But even if you’re 100% sure it was probably Tim from Accounts who took it, an interview probably isn’t a good time to start voicing all of the feels.

    Avoid the temptation to express how much you dislike your current boss, or complain about your colleagues, and be as positive as possible. Sound like a team player, not someone who holds a grudge.

  7. Lie

    12 Interview 7

    Everyone tells little white lies and over-exaggerates at interviews, right?

    This might be true, but it’s risky business, and it rarely works out for the best. You’ll only end up stumbling over yourself when asked to elaborate your story, and there’ll be tell-tale signs from your body language that could give it all away.

    So be honest about your genuine achievements and experience, and it will work in your favour. And if not? Get ready for the most awkward first day ever when you eventually get the job and you have to reveal that you can’t actually speak Portuguese.

  8. Slouch/yawn/fall asleep

    12 Interview 8

    Or anything else that implies boredom. You won’t be taken seriously if you’re constantly yawning, sitting so low in your chair that you’re practically on the floor, or generally looking like you’d rather be in bed.

    Be aware of your body language and stay focussed throughout, listening politely to what the interviewer has to say and remaining positive and enthusiastic. Oh, and conscious. That too.

  9. Forget to listen

    12 Interview 9

    It’s important to wait your turn to speak, and not interrupt your interviewers mid-speech. It might seem like a good idea to express your enthusiasm by constantly chatting, but only do this when the ball’s in your court.

    Sit patiently and listen to what they have to say. The last thing you want is to go on to ask a question they’ve already answered, or have absolutely no understanding of the role because you were too busy daydreaming about what you’re going to have for dinner that evening.

  10. Focus on the money

    12 Interview 10

    You want the job because you need money, that’s a given. It’s a life need. But you should also want it for other reasons like, you know, you’d actually be good at and/or enjoy it. These are what will impress the interviewer and make them more likely to consider you.

    Personal financial issues aren’t an interview friendly topic either, so keep it professional, and only mention the M word if your prospective employer asks about salary expectations – and then, be sensible with what you ask for.

  11. Apologise too much

    12 Interview 11

    Don’t apologise for a lack of experience or an inability to answer a question straight away, especially if you’re saying ‘sorry’ repeatedly. This will indicate a lack of confidence and suggest you’re unsure of your capabilities.

    There are some things, however, that do need an apology. N.B. accidently calling your interviewer Mum falls firmly within this category.

  12. Fail to make eye contact

    12 Interview 12

    Wide-eyed enthusiasm is fine. Wide-eyed staring, not so much.

    If you do manage to settle on a non-threatening amount of eye contact, embrace it. It can be a great way to show respect on both sides and lets the interviewer knows you’re listening to them, and are confident in what you have to say.


The worst thing you can do at an interview? 

OK, so out of all the classic interview nightmares, which are the ones that really worry jobseekers the most?

We spoke to a group of university students to find out – and see if recruiters actually agree…


[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI4BNT5qs9c?ecver=1]


Read more interview help & tips 


Still searching for your perfect position? View all of our current vacancies now


20 comments on “12 things you should never do at an interview

  1. Eruvwu Joyce Obuaya - April 21, 2016 at 09:50

    Fun read and so true. Thank you forsharing.

  2. Jonno - June 9, 2016 at 21:39

    Excellent stuff – keep up the great work!

  3. Silent Hunter - December 19, 2016 at 11:39

    “Interview outfit tip: trackie bottoms are never acceptable.”

    This said, I had to do an interview once where I was going from it to do some work where standing around all day in a suit was inappropriate – I was working outside. I explained this… and got the job!

  4. Cas - February 8, 2017 at 17:19

    Talk about current employer…………if you were only with them for a short period of time. It’s NOT your fault. Companies make mistakes and they must accept that. It’s not moaning it’s telling true facts.

  5. Kirstie Brennan - February 25, 2017 at 18:26

    Top tips and an interesting read, thank you Amber Rolfe.

  6. Kyal Mcallister - March 16, 2017 at 18:21

    Sorry Amber but all bar one (number 11) were obvious.

    I would say “don’t wear over powering perfume/after shave/too much deodorant”, “don’t go in chewing gum but do have a mint 30 minutes before the interview”, “don’t wing it, prepare for an interview by thinking of questions, practise the route you’re going to take etc”, “don’t give short answers, explain as much as possible”.

    You have “no slag” but you could have lumped in “don’t swear”.

  7. Mohammad Adil Rizwan Malik - March 17, 2017 at 09:19

    Very good and informative

  8. Malvin Bridgeman - March 17, 2017 at 11:03

    All good points, it never does any harm to be reminded, even of the obvious.

  9. Rhys Lloyd Williams - March 23, 2017 at 17:13

    Hey Amber, maybe not sticking apostrophes in pluralised words unnecessarily should be a top tip for getting a job.

    1. Tony de Kort - February 26, 2018 at 16:23

      Or using made up American words such as ‘pluralised”

  10. Christopher Richards - March 25, 2017 at 16:51

    Interesting you mention “arrogant and over-confident”. Indeed how do you define the two?

    In Credit Control you are expected to be assertive and confident by the nature of the job. So why does an employer feel (apparently) intimidated by your successes?

    Certainly someone who is looking down at their shoes all the time, or speaking very quietly as if they are very insecure is not (in my view) going to make me, as the interviewer believe that the person is going to be confident enough to do the job. As another example, where do you draw the line between assertive and aggressive?

    In fact many interviewers ask : “what was your most memorable case?”, or “name some of your successes”. You are not being arrogant if you can show that you have been successful: why are companies/interviewers so worried about people being “over-qualified”?

    Finally you have the scenario where the person interviewing doesn’t actually understand the job themselves. This is particularly true of interviewers from “Human Resources”. I recall one contract I applied for where the meeting went on for over 90 minuets with one of these types of staff, and clearly had not understanding of the complexity of the issues attached to the project, just working from a stereotyped Job Specification. Indeed she did not understand some of the basic terms of the job that I was doing.

    In fairness she did have the sense to get the Credit Manager in to the interview (which in my view given the nature of the project should have been there in the first place as co-interviewer), The Credit Manager knew exactly what was required, the problems that were actually subject to the project. She asked me a few brief questions, one of which did need a long reply, and then just turned around to the Human Resources woman and told her to start me the following working day (which was a Monday).

    Like this reply, somethings cannot just be answered in a few lines, or over-simplified sentence construction particularly if the job/contract you are doing is going to be complex.

    As for CVs, there is no such thing as a “perfect CV”.

  11. Lucky Makhado - March 25, 2017 at 19:21

    I was asked what kind of a phone I’m using in an interview ,why?

  12. Percy Porcelain - March 25, 2017 at 22:56

    Mostly good but doesn’t address the contradiction of modern job-hunting where it is no longer enough to confine yourself to the facts and everything must be embellished so that you sound like some kind of miracle-working genius. How are you supposed to do this without sounding big-headed/arrogant?

    1. Ken Johnson - January 28, 2019 at 01:30

      Perhaps you can express your performance in your previous jobs in numeric terms? I increased sales by 15% over two years. I wrote five three-day training courses and delivered each of them four times in the last eighteen months. I increased the number of passengers on the express buses from 1,500 per day to 2,000. That sort of thing.

  13. Jon Harris - April 12, 2017 at 10:20

    I did all the right things…and still get the usual nonsense…If you have border line Asperger’s…you are unable to make total eye contact?…that happened to a mate of mine who has that condition, Another thing how do you ‘pimp up’ a real mundane task laden job like a filing clerk with this STAR cobblers?
    like “name some of your successes” how? when your last job did not have any challenges?
    It is a dual piss-take for your self and the potential employer if you start the process of exaggeration.
    What if your previous jobs have been really pedestrian with no real prospects?..It’s that catch 22 situation . Regarding interviews it is if your interests appeal to the employer or if your face fits..bear in mind there are social micro cultures..in which your interests and values fit in with theirs or not.

    1. Penny Simpson - September 23, 2017 at 13:25

      Filing clerk job sounds better if you say ‘client document control’ or ‘office document control’, whatever! Also, you can state that nothing went missing while you were ‘maintaining the department filing system’ (that’s a beef up too) and you can even make yourself look good by saying you found some missing files (not a bad lie either!).

      1. Jon Harris - December 15, 2017 at 22:48

        Thanks for the response..Penny, might use that one…☺

    2. Ken Johnson - January 28, 2019 at 01:32

      Make one up. The window blew in and over 100,000 receipts and copy invoices went flying around the room, along the corridor and through the window onto the street outside. With the help of the company dog Fido, I had the entire set of files in order and ready for use before lunch-time the following day.

  14. Colin M. Taylor - February 1, 2018 at 18:04

    Adding to the list:

    Practise Bungee Jumping through the Office Window
    Eat a five-course meal
    Hold a séance
    Practise Juggling

  15. Juwairiya Abdillahi - March 8, 2019 at 17:47

    I am with Jon Harris, because my job is a care assistant, and have worked in this sector for many years. Now i am looking for a more challenging role that will give me the right skills to apply for example, family support worker. But i find that most employers seem to offer me the same position. And i have been told my CV reads like a “doer” not an ” achiever”.