Job interview nightmares revealed

Job interview nightmares revealed

When it comes to candidate criteria, what determines interview success is often in the eye of the beholder…

But aside from just turning up late or an obvious lack of preparation, what are the worst things you can do to guarantee rejection?

We’ve already covered 12 things you should never do at an interview, but we asked more than 200 recruiters to share their all-time top interview faux-pas to find out more:


No shirt, no shoes…

When it comes to impressing at an interview, never underestimate the importance of appearance. A big part of how you come across to recruiters is based on what you wear.

Some of our recruiter’s favourite interview fashion faux-pas included:

  • The male candidate arriving to an interview wearing jeans and no top
  • The female candidate offering to change shoes half-way through questioning (and then proceeding to take out the entire contents of her bag to show the extra shoes she had brought)
  • A pyjama party skype interview
  • A one-eyebrowed applicant
  • The candidate who incorporated ‘protection’ into their outfit (saucepan lids stitched into the lining of their overcoat) – we’re confused too.

Our advice? Don’t overdo it. Accessorising is fine. Turning up to an interview wearing a fishing hat full of bait hooks is not (N.B. if applying for a position at a tackle shop, feel free to disregard).


The nervous eaters…

Unfortunately, some people get little peckish when they’re panicking. The sensible thing to do would be to have a well-balanced breakfast before the big day, or to grab a banana on the go. Then there are the less sensible options…

For our recruiters these options included:

  • Someone pulling out a cereal bar from their bag when things got a little too much
  • The liquid lunch interview (‘Am I allowed to order a beer?’)
  • An impromptu interview picnic
  • the interviewee who managed to take in a takeaway before turning up


Bringing the bestie…

Searching for some much needed moral support before meeting with a hiring manager? Well, some people decide to go a little further.

Moral support for certain interviewees included:

  • A candidate’s best friend
  • Extended members of the family (including, but not limited to, aunts and uncles)
  • Spouses (In one case, a man even took his wife into the interview with him. Unfortunately, she proceeded to answer most of the questions for him).

And a word of warning to anyone looking for a pre-interview pep talk: asking your mum for advice is fine. Bringing her to the interview and leaving her in the lobby is not.


You have nothing to fear but fear itself… and ducks.

It’s OK to be scared before an interview. In fact, it’s perfectly natural. What isn’t as natural is running out of an interview screaming half-way through.

Our favourite unusual interview phobia was the poor young lady who applied for a job in a lake-side office but who had make a sharp exit on account of her overwhelming fear of ducks.

Our advice? Two words: Don’t. Panic. And, to avoid awkward situations, always check the area before an interview to ensure your Anatidaephobia* doesn’t get the better of you.


I’ve started, so I’ll…

Finally, some of the most popular gripes included:

  • People asking for a cigarette break during proceedings
  • Applicants arriving with no idea what job they’re being interviewed for
  • People asking their interviewers out on dates

But the best of the bunch may be one keen interviewee in the East Midlands, who completed over half of the interview before rushing out without explanation. It turns out their parking ticket had expired.

At least they managed to avoid a fine.


How to combat your interview nightmares…

Unfortunately, you can’t prepare for every interview nightmare. But you can prepare for every interview question.

Buy James Reed’s new book: Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again to find out how.
Honourable mentions: People with personal space issues (including almost sitting on an interviewers lap by mistake), the candidate who left their headphones in, the candidate who only spoke in rhymes, the candidate who asked to borrow money, the candidate who arrived in a dustbin lorry (no, really).

Although in fairness to the latter, they were only hitchhiking.


The worst thing you can do at an interview? 

OK, so out of all the potential nightmares, which are things you should never do at an interview?

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



*The fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.
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2 comments on “Job interview nightmares revealed

  1. Gemma Gibson - June 29, 2016 at 22:13

    I’m guessing a Gary Larson fan wrote this one.

  2. Amber Eliot - October 14, 2016 at 00:29

    Some of these are so great! People can be so dense.