When it comes to job interviews, common sense isn’t always common practice. Everyone knows that they should conduct themselves professionally in an interview, yet for whatever reason someone will dress too casually, swear like a sailor, gossip about their current (or past) employer, or even get drunk.
You can’t make this stuff up. Every year we have at least one person who completely blows up a great opportunity by doing something along those lines. Don’t be that person; especially if you’re working with a recruiter who is helping you advance your career and is putting their reputation on the line for you.
Here are a few classic interview blunders that we have seen ruin good opportunities for otherwise great candidates:
Dressing too casually:
Every company in every industry is different, but unless you’re interviewing at a high-tech startup where 22 year olds are riding around on motorized skateboards, then a suit and tie is usually your safest bet. If you know that a company’s culture is a little looser, you may be just fine with slacks and a dress shirt (with or without tie). For ladies, slacks or a dress suit with a tailored blouse is always appropriate. Jeans are almost never acceptable, especially not ripped or skinny jeans.
One candidate showed up for an interview with a Fortune 100 company without shaving or ironing his shirt. He didn’t get the job. If it’s questionable, ask the interviewer or your recruiter ahead of time, “Is a suit and tie appropriate for our meeting?”
Saying inappropriate things:
If you’re currently employed and interviewing with other companies, there must be a reason you’re interested in making a move. No matter your reason for seeking a new opportunity, do not bad-mouth your current company, boss, or role. You also shouldn’t bad-mouth any past companies, bosses, or roles either. You can expect your interviewer to ask why you are thinking about leaving, or why you left, so consider in advance how you can answer this question in a respectful, constructive way.
A few months ago, we had a rockstar candidate who thoroughly bad-mouthed the company he was with at the time. According to the hiring manager that was interviewing him, he began ranting about his employer and dropped half a dozen F-Bombs. He was initially my client’s top pick, but after his explosive rant they decided to hire a less qualified applicant instead.
You should never curse during an interview, not even if the interviewer slips in a few colorful words.
Drinking too much:
It is becoming more common, especially for sales or executive level roles, to have at least one of the interviews off-site over lunch or dinner. No matter how casual the meeting, or how well you are getting along with the person you are meeting with, this is still a professional interview.
You do not want to be the first to order alcohol in this type of situation. If the interviewer orders a drink, you can always just get a soda, lemonade, or water. If they insist that you have a drink with them, do not have more than one. This could be a test!
Everyone has common sense, but not everyone practices it consistently. These are more extreme examples, but is there anything you do during interviews that you know you shouldn’t? How well you do during the interview process lays the foundation for the next steps in your career, so brush up on your business etiquette, dress for success, and practice great communication!