How To Botch An Interview

One of the many unintended consequences of a free and open internet is the unbelievable amount of bad advice out there. When the litmus test for value boils down to clicks and streams, quantity (not quality) reigns supreme. This ecosystem encourages, even rewards, bad behavior. Personally, I loathe every “5 tips for ____” post or article that makes its way into my inbox or feed. More often than not, instead of providing practical wisdom or insight, these articles are unnecessarily disconcerting, provocative, or bombastic leaving the reader more afraid and confused than anything else. Or, they are so soft and fluffy that while the reader may enjoy thirty minutes of comfort or peace of mind, they rarely provide any discernible next steps. 

For jobseekers trying to figure out which companies to apply to, which jobs to apply for, and how to write a compelling resume and cover letter there is no shortage of terrible advice available. A quick google search on resume writing will provide you with 10 bad articles and little that will actually help you secure a new opportunity. 

My team interviews thousands of candidates each year and out of that batch hundreds will interview with our clients. Out of the hundreds that interview with our clients, maybe 100 will actually end up with a job. Needless to say, we have seen our fair share of great interviewees and our fair share of terrible ones. 

These days with the rise of behavioral psychology and growing awareness around the importance of emotional intelligence, interviews can be quite the experience. Gone are the days of walking through your resume highlighting successes and minimizing failures. Companies understand that they have a limited window to get to know a candidate and relevant experience alone doesn’t get you a ticket to the dance anymore. I could give you a list of how to’s but a few pointers on what not to do would be more fun. Here are five surefire ways to botch an interview. 

  1. Overdress or Show Up Too Casual: It takes 1 minute to ask the recruiter or individual scheduling the interview what the office dress code is. It used to be impossible to show up dressed too casually, but these days with the rise of office happy hours and ping pong tournaments you never know. Don’t wear a suit if the CEO is going to be in flip flops. Don’t wear flip flops if the CEO is in a suit. It’s pretty simple.

  1. Interrupt The Interviewer: Usually, this can be chalked up to anxious energy but nevertheless, nothing will derail the natural flow of conversation in an interview like the candidate interrupting. 90% of an interview is trying to sniff out whether or not a candidate will fit within the culture of the company. If you are interrupting the hiring manager they are not going to be excited about putting their name behind you. 

  1. Walk In Knowing Next To Nothing About the Opportunity: I get it. You like shooting from the hip. You care about natural chemistry. Yada-yada-yada. Good candidates have AT A MINIMUM done a deep dive on the company website. They have consumed every available piece of public information about the company--how it started, what it does, core values, culture, leadership, etc. Great candidates have connected with a current employee and pressed them for insider knowledge. Walk in clueless and you can count on a rejection letter. 

  1. Cry: Don’t do it. There is never a scenario where it’s not awkward. No matter how genuine the tears are. 

  1. Throw Your Previous Employer Under The Bus: You would think this one is obvious but it seems like folks can’t help themselves. The only person who looks bad when you unload on your previous or current employer is you. It doesn’t matter how horrific your stories are, it’s you that looks like the problem. Speak in generalities, use constructive criticism, but don’t slander anyone. If you do, the hiring manager will wonder how long it will take before you’re trashing them too. 

Even the strongest candidates on paper will be passed on if they do any of the five things listed above. That’s because the best candidates are emotionally intelligent, they know who they are and are comfortable in their own skin. Confident, self-aware, and humble? Match that with relevant experience and you’ll be signing an offer letter in no time. Go get ‘em.