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Interviewing is an unpleasant but necessary part of searching for a job. You may be confident or completely unsure when it comes to interviewing. There is plenty of advice floating around when it comes to what you should do in an interview, but what are the things you should absolutely avoid at any cost? 

Being Late

Walking into an interview five minutes late absolutely annihilates your chances at being offered the job. You may as well not have shown up at all. Coming to an interview late tells your potential employer that you do not value their time or your own. The interview, in their eyes, is clearly not your priority. Why should they offer someone a job who is clearly not invested in the opportunity? It is disrespectful and makes you appear extremely unreliable. 

Always leave a cushion of time around an interview. If it takes you 10 minutes to get there, leave 20 minutes early. In the event that some completely unexpected catastrophe is going to make you late, call ahead and let your interviewer know. Also, “bad traffic” does not count as an unexpected catastrophe. A four car pileup shutting down a bridge for an hour does. 

Forget the Interviewer or Company’s Name

Some people are terrible with names. That is simply the reality of it. If you are unable to remember a handful of important names and the name of one company, however, you need to see your doctor because there is likely something wrong. Forgetting your interviewer’s name makes you look like you either have a horrible memory, are unreliable or simply do not care enough about other people to even bother remembering their names. None of these are qualities that a boss wants in an employee. If you are really awful with names, surreptitiously write the name or names of your interviewers down on the notepad you should have with you. If you worry about forgetting the company name, have the name written on the same notepad. That way, you can glance at it quickly and subtly if need be.  

Dress Inappropriately

Whether anyone likes it or not, the first impression and judgement anyone makes about you is going to be based on your appearance. If you dress sloppily, you are going to look like you are not invested in the interview. Your interviewer might be concerned as well about whether or not you will dress appropriately for your job. This is especially true if you are interviewing for a job that requires you to interact with clients such as a sales job. 

Dressing inappropriately for a job interview does not simply mean underdressing. It is also possible to overdress for an interview. Wearing a bespoke suit to a company where employees dress in cargo shorts and flip flops is not a great idea. You want to dress nicer than necessary for an interview, but overdressing could make your interviewer think you are a poor fit for the culture. 

Bringing Up Controversial Topics

It is completely understandable that you have an opinion on controversial and hot button issues. It makes sense that you might want to discuss those opinions. A job interview is not the place to do it. Avoid brining up any sort of controversial issue during the interview yourself and redirect the conversation if your interviewer somehow brings it up. It is one thing if a brief mention of it comes up with regards to your skills, mentioning you organized a huge pro-life rally makes sense if you are interviewing for a job as an event planner, but keep even those mentions focused on your skills rather than your opinions. If you worry that the organization you are interviewing for swings too far to the left or right for your comfort, ask about the culture rather than testing the waters by launching an ideological depth charge at your interviewer.
You are likely to come across as obnoxious and potentially even aggressive. 

Ramble, Especially on Topics That Have Nothing to Do With the Job

Interviews make people nervous. Everyone knows this. Nervous people tend to ramble. Most people are also aware of this. That does not mean you have free license to ramble on during an interview. Your interviewers only have so much time to talk to you, and if you spend that entire time answering two of their questions, they are not going to have a very complete or flattering picture of you and your skills. Keep your answers concise, and be sure to stay on topic. Telling a brief funny story while you wait for everyone to arrive can break the ice. Once the interview begins, however, respect both your time and the time of your interviewers by staying on topic. 

Checking Your Watch

Once you step into the interview, you need to be all about the interview. That means staying focused and proving to your potential employers that you will be a good, reliable, hardworking employee. Constantly checking to see how long you have left in the interview is not a good way to give off that impression. You should have known up front about how long the interview would take and been able to plan accordingly if you have to catch a flight or train. If you are concerned you will not be able to keep from checking your watch, do not wear one for the interview. Either go without it entirely that day or take it off when you arrive for the interview and stick it in your pocket or purse so you are not tempted to look at it.

Touch Your Phone in Any Way

In an interview setting, your phone is persona non grata. It has smallpox. It is white hot and will burn your fingers. It has an angry monster living inside the case that will give you green teeth and terrible acne if you disturb it. Touch your phone in an interview and you have just guaranteed you are not going to get the job. Playing with your phone when someone is trying to talk to you or letting it interrupt someone is beyond rude. 

The only possible exception to this rule would be if you were waiting for news about a family emergency or something similarly serious. In that case, be sure to let your interviewer know up front. There is debate over whether it is better to reschedule at the last minute or to go and keep your phone on. Which interviewers would prefer will vary between people and company.

Not Show Up

If you want to sink your chances of getting a job deeper than the Titanic, do not bother to show up to the interview. Your interviewer obviously cannot assess your skills if you are not there, and standing up anyone in a professional setting is a good way to lose any hope of them even picking up the phone when you call.

If you cannot make your interview due to an act of God, call in and let your interviewer know what happened. This is for cases such as airports being shut down due to storms, natural disasters either in your location or theirs and bridges or tunnels being shut down for hours at a time. Most interviewers understand that there is nothing you can do about those events and will be willing to reschedule. If, for whatever reason, they truly cannot reschedule, there will at least be no hard feelings.


There are any number of reasons that could keep an interviewer from offering you a job. Do not shoot yourself in the foot before you even start the interview process. Instead, put your best foot forward, showcase your skills and give yourself the best chance possible of getting the job. After that, it is out of your hands.