Surprising and Shocking Things People Do During Interviews

Below are several examples of mistakes which otherwise good job candidates might make during a professional interview.   When you are preparing for an interview, please don’t follow in the footsteps of these interviewees if you really want the job . . .

Below are several examples of mistakes which otherwise good job candidates might make during a professional interview. When you are preparing for an interview, please don’t follow in the footsteps of these interviewees if you really want the job . . .

Several years ago, we interviewed a woman who was seeking a data entry job. She had excellent skills but came to the interview wearing a black leather vest with jeans - no shirt under the vest. Professional? No.

Another morning, we had an unexpected walk-in. This young man chose to sit with his legs criss-crossed in a chair during the entire application and interview process.

Creating Bad First Impressions

  • Showing up early or late for an interview

It is a simple thing to do, yet sometimes candidates will not write down the confirmed interview date and time. Then, excited about the first interview opportunity they’ve had in weeks, they will show up the wrong day and wrong time. This is not the first impression anyone wants to make! Plus, it happens more often than you can imagine.

  • Dressing too casually for an interview

blue jean shorts for men
gray leggings and tennis shoes
ripped blue jeans

When interviewing for a professional position, many ladies somehow tend to think it is okay to dress all cute and stylish in leggings and flip-flops. But it isn’t and never will be – even if you somehow manage to get the job. Candidates have also showed up to professional interviews wearing jogging pants, ripped jeans, shorts, tennis shoes, and even combat boots. No, no!

  • Using slang or poor grammar

Another bad habit of candidates is using too much slang or less than perfect grammar when interviewing. Interviewers ask you to talk and answer questions for many reasons, but one of those reasons is to listen to how well you communicate when you relax a little. Regardless of any positive emotional connection you make with the employer, be sure to guard your grammar!

  • Overdoing the perfume or cologne

We've had a number of both men and women to overwhelm us with the smell of their cologne. The consequences have varied: shortened interviews, open doors, and headaches. Please heed this advice: If someone is able to get a "whiff" of your fragrance as you pass by, that is an acceptable amount of perfume. However, if the smell of your cologne permeates an entire small room or bathroom, it is too much, and you need to wash it off before going to a business office. It's not a bad smell; it is simply overwhelming and makes many people feel light-headed and fairly dysfunctional. While wearing too much cologne may not prevent you from getting a job, to say that it may inhibit your chances with a potential employer should be obvious. 

Making False Assumptions

woman holding cell phone - checking messages
  • Looking at your cellphone

To the complete dismay of HR managers, job candidates continue to refuse to silence their cellphones during interviews. After all, cell phones are necessary in this digital world. So, they choose to LOOK at their texts (sometimes even ANSWER their calls) as the interview continues like it is an acceptable thing to do, but no, they won’t get the job.

  • Coming across assuming and demanding

Job candidates sometimes talk and act like they are the best candidate for a position long before they are fully aware of the company’s needs, the job/skill requirements, or of the other candidates with whom they are in competition.

Just because you are good at data entry does not mean that a staffing agency is required to submit your resume or that a hiring manager will automatically assume you are the perfect fit for their open Data Entry position. There is sometimes more to it than just data entry. Take the time to ask good questions and see if your interviewer really believes you could be a good fit for the company.  

  • Being overly confident


Without regard for what might get back to the hiring manager, a happy, self-confident job candidate will tell a friendly employee they meet during their interview process that they will see them tomorrow – assuming they will get the job! Instead, stay humble, hopeful and quietly confident. In other words, don’t flaunt your confidence.

Focusing on the Wrong Things

  • Focusing more on money than the work

Don't ever let your only question for an employer be, "How much does this job pay?"

Don't ever let your only question for an employer be, "How much does this job pay?"

The interviewee listens, not that intently, as the interviewer explains the job. Then when the interview is over and the employer asks if they have any questions, the only one they have any interest in is, “How much will this job pay?” 

At this point, the interviewer is finished and highly unlikely to pursue the candidate any longer. They want to see legitimate interest and curiosity in the actual work required for the job.

  • Dragging negative experiences with you to the interview

Sometimes a person will go on and on about how unfair their most recent boss or job loss was, and then later announce that they may not be able to provide the employer with 3 references.  No matter how well an interview goes, what is a potential employer to think about this?  Nothing positive! Instead, focus on your successes and what you learned from your past negative experience, and have those good references ready.

  • Telling completely inappropriate or irrelevant stories

When interviewing, staying focused and professional is imperative. Some interviewees like to share in excessive detail what happened at home that morning or why their hair is such a mess, etc. But don't do it! Your interviewer is a busy person, so keep your words focused and professional.

Thinking Wrongly About the Job and the Interviewer's Questions

woman on phone in office
  • Thinking wrongly about a receptionist position

Someone will interview for a receptionist position but keep their tongue ring in place, flashing it throughout the interview. It is true that piercings have gained greater acceptance in some workplaces over time; however, preparing for interviews may require a few wise adjustments.

A good rule of thumb regarding piercings is this: If it can be easily removed, then remove it for the interview. And regarding tattoos: If they can be easily covered, cover them. Interviews are a time to showcase your strong communication skills and most professional presentation, nothing less. As a gentle reminder, the person in the front office receptionist position is the first face company guests will see when they visit. Companies have every right to expect professionalism that aligns well with their image, especially within a corporate setting.

Don't make the interviewer ask, "Are you willing to remove your tongue ring and cover your tattoos if company policy requires it?" If you are not aware of company policy before the interview, wait until you are familiar with the policy before revealing all to your (potential) employer. Make your overall professional presentation a priority.

  • Incorrectly thinking the interviewer wants to hear every detail of your job and life experiences

People will misinterpret the “tell me about yourself” question. If you start from the beginning, you’ve probably messed up. The interviewer wants to know your work-related skills, interests, recent jobs, and experiences. They may relish a little personal insight you share, but they usually do not want to hear your complete life story or work history unless it is a brief synopsis.

  • Misunderstanding the focus of the interviewer’s questions

As stated above, if your interviewer asks you to give a brief overview of your job experience, s/he may not be asking for a detailed explanation of every job you’ve ever held. S/he could be wanting to better understand your motivation or even the scope of your exposure to certain types of work, but your answer doesn’t need to be 10-15 minutes long. Think first, then speak, or respectfully ask your interviewer to clarify the specific information s/he is looking for.

Sharing too much information

  • Talking too much


Sometimes a person cannot stop talking long enough to allow the interviewer the opportunity to ask important questions and address any concerns. Who’s interviewing whom?

Interviewers tend to take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour for an interview although 20 to 30 minutes is very common. They will have several questions in mind to ask, so give succinct answers, and be sure they have time to get all their questions answered. Do not let yourself drone on and on, and please do not ever consume an energy drink before an interview.

  • Sharing too much information about your financial goals

If you decide to interview for a job that pays $30,000/year and are then asked by the HR Manager about your salary goals, please don’t say $100,000/year whether you are being witty, serious or just very confident and outspoken about what you really think you’re worth. If the employer is looking to hire someone for the long haul, you probably just lost out. There are better ways to discover the actual salary-potential available with the company by asking a direct question. 

  • Changing the minimum salary required during the app process and interview

Narrowing this salary requirement scenario even more, if you are willing to interview for a $10/hour teller job, please don’t write or answer the minimum salary requirement question on an application with any amount other than $10/hour. If you say even $11 or $12, in many cases you will not get the job, especially if you have been told beforehand what the position’s starting pay is. Sometimes the salary rate isn’t about the person but about the company’s budget constraints and/or standard pay for new hires.

Being unprepared

  • Not having all the requested documents completed

You receive an interview confirmation email. You note the time and date of the interview but then fail to read the remainder of the email. There is an application attached which you have been asked to complete and return to the company before the interview. However, you didn’t read the email in its entirety, so you unknowingly go to the interview unprepared. Your potential employer wanted to use your application to ask pertinent questions, but now that isn’t an option unless they are willing to change their schedule and allow you time to complete the application there, which will cause a delay. Not the best first impression!

  • Being unprepared for those standard interview questions

frequently asked questions

Rehearse the basic answers to standard interview questions so that you don’t embarrass yourself. For example, “Why should I hire you over the other candidates?” It's best not to quip, “Because I’m the best one!” Instead, plan a response which focuses on what unique qualities, skills, and strengths you possess.

  • Wrongly conveying your goals

A recent college grad who has been job hunting for months will interview for a temp-to-hire job with a bank but then say to the interviewer, “I really want a position with a healthcare organization.” That may be true, but when responding to questions about your goals, be sure to elaborate on the time frame of said goals.  

Keep your options open. What if the position could be a perfect fit for you and could turn into something great? You just cut yourself off, and you really need some good, solid work experience. Think ahead of time as to why you are interviewing for the job and how this good (though less-than-ideal) opportunity might still potentially benefit you in your career path, then convey that to your interviewer.

hired - employee selection

These are just a few of the real life interview scenarios we've seen played out time and again as recruiters. Furthermore, only ONE of the above-mentioned candidates received a final job offer, and that was due to the client feeling comfortable enough with the candidate's overall answers during the interview to address her concern with the recruiter. 

Next time you're scheduled for an interview, be sure to review these tips.  If you would like Brannon Professionals' assistance in finding a job, please email your resume to our recruiters at