7 Ways to Screw Up a Job Interview

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: November 5, 2012

Don't Sink Your Own Ship

Once you land a job interview, you may feel the hard work is done. You might even allow your enthusiasm to melt your inhibitions during the meeting. Don’t let your excitement rob you of a chance for the job you’ve been waiting for. Arm yourself with these key interview strategies that include practicing restraint as well as excellent preparation.

Here are some things to avoid doing during job interviews.

7. Talking Salary Too Early

Why is it bad?: Simply put, this question shifts the focus to what you want for yourself as opposed to the value you will provide to the company.

What to do instead: While everyone wants to be paid fairly, it usually behooves job seekers to wait as long as possible into the process until salary is discussed. This lets employers know you also care about things like your job description, whether you're the right fit for the company's culture, etc.

6. Demanding to Know When a Decision Will be Made

Why is it bad?: Every candidate wants to know the answer to this question but asking it can make you seem desperate or anxious for results. Most companies look for candidates able to separate personal from professional demands. 

What to do instead: If you do ask politely if you can follow up with someone after the designated amount of time they give you, make sure you get a specific person's contact information. And don't jump the gun. Eager and confident is good, desperate should be avoided.

5. Asking What the Company Does

Why is it bad?: Conducting research on corporate initiatives is easily accomplished online. If you haven't done your homework, you won't impress hiring managers. 

What to do instead: Show off what you've researched about the company prior to the interview by linking your skills and work history to existing corporate projects. Also, if you know who you're interviewing with, do some research on him/her and try to find some common ground so you can form a strong connection during the interview.

4. Asking About Promotions

Why is it bad?: Rushing ahead to promotions may make the interviewer question your judgment and understanding of appropriate business interactions. Advancement opportunities are great, but first you need to get the job.

What to do instead: You have to crawl before you can walk. It's one thing to be confident and ask some broad questions about the possibility of advancement so your potential employer knows you're motivated, but if the interviewer senses you're already looking past the job for which you're interviewing, that could raise some red flags.

3. Asking for Training in Basic Skills

Why is it bad?: Emphasize the skills you bring, not the deficits about which you are concerned. 

What to do instead: Compile a number of job history anecdotes that exemplify your strengths and help you respond readily to interview questions. And while it's certainly not a negative to ask about future training and development opportunities, don't hurt your chances by inquiring about training for skills you should already have. It not only makes you look unqualified, it also shows a disregard for the qualifications listed in the original job listing.

2. Speaking Ill of Former Employees

Why is it bad?: Talking about how much you hated your former workplace or employer is a top interview "don't!" Always and forever.

What to do instead: It can be tempting to bring up negative attributes about employers or co-workers, but this is not the time to identify that as your reason for leaving. Focus on more positive reasons for leaving which might include a need to reach your full potential or to seek out new opportunities for growth.

1. Forgetting Basic Manners

Why is it bad?: Not offering a handshake to "seal the deal" when you leave, or failing to thank the interviewer for their time and express your pleasure in meeting him or her, is always going to leave a sour taste in the mouths of interviewers.

What to do instead: Say something like, "Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you today. My talents and experience represent an asset to your organization and I would be a committed member of your team." 

Be Prepared, Exercise Common Sense

Solid preparation for the interview will help you avoid asking ridiculous questions. Feeling too comfortable in an interview almost never produces good results. Practice how you want to perform in the job interview just as you would for an important sports event and you will find yourself in the winner’s circle!

Recommended Reading

Thank you for reading. As an added bonus, the Salary.com editorial staff has compiled a recommended reading list regarding this topic. Enjoy:

  • Winning Job Interviews
  • Instant Interviews: 101 Ways to Get the Best Job of Your Life
  • Acing the Interview: How to Ask & Answer the Questions That Will Get You the Job
  • The First 60 Seconds: Win the Job Interview Before It Begins