Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

13 Stupid Ways to Sabotage an Interview

By Anthony Hughes | Nov 2, 2015 | Candidate Tips

picture of a man in a dunce hatIf you watched our video last week, then you’ll already know everything there is to know about getting your CV through the first stage of the recruitment process…

And becoming one of the three or four lucky candidates who impresses the recruiter and makes it through to the potential employer.

Of course, that’s the easy bit. Now you’ve got the face the interview interrogation!

Try not to sabotage yourself with the following 13 completely avoidable mistakes…

1. Arriving too late.

I am sure you’ve never heard this one before?!

You’d be surprised how many candidates still turn up late to interviews.

Give yourself a good hour before the interview to sit back, relax and regroup.

If you are, for unforeseen circumstances, running late, it’s very important that you are courteous and apologetic to your interviewer.

Ring ahead to let them know you’re running behind and try to collect yourself before entering the interview (looking hot, flustered and confused is not going to help your professional image).

2. Arriving too early

You absolutely should arrive at a job interview a little early…

But there’s a difference between allowing plenty of time and being over-eager, showing up way too early and looking a little bit weird.

I’ve suggested showing up an hour early but that doesn’t mean you have to go inside – chill out in your car or pop to a cafe for a cup of coffee to read through your notes.

Recruiter Pro Tip.

Getting lost is one of the most common causes of interview lateness.

Well-meaning candidates will set off early, give themselves plenty of time to arrive, but then take the wrong turn or their Sat Nav will get confused.

It’s a good idea to test your route to the location prior to the interview or at the very least, give yourself extra time for rerouting!

Arriving about 15 minutes early is just about perfect.

3.  Bringing back-up

We’ve had candidates actually bring friends and family members to interviews…

It’s REALLY weird and a complete no-no!

I realise that this probably goes without saying… but just in case, I’ve said it.

If you need a lift to the interview, or moral support, that’s fine and completely understandable, especially if it’s one of your first jobs.

Just make sure you leave them outside!

4.  Dressing poorly

These days, most offices don’t advocate a strict uniform policy and corporate wear has relaxed considerably, but unfortunately you’re still going to have to dress up for your interview.

Many candidates feel unsure and nervous about what to wear for an interview, fearing ridicule if they dare to turn up in clothes that are too smart (or too casual) but the truth is, it’s always better to go overdressed.

Whether your potential employers have a casual office uniform or not, you need to dress to impress and prove that you’re willing to put in some effort to win them over.

You actually wouldn’t believe some of the weird things candidates have worn to interviews – if you fancy a giggle – check out this blog post.

5.  Smelling bad

I can promise you this… no one wants to hire a smelly staff member.

If you show up with morning or coffee breath, boozy or sweaty body odour, they’ll just want to get rid of you ASAP.

(Have you ever tried to concentrate when someone’s breathing garlic all over you?)

A quick ‘shower in a can’ and a breath-mint before you go into an interview, for extra security is never a bad thing.

Being smelly is one the of 50 most annoying office habits; don’t be that person.

6.  Answering your phone / texting

I know, I know – it sounds bloody obvious.

But you’d be surprised how many HR managers complain about potential recruits not only failing to turn their phone off, but answering calls and messages during an interview.

Turn your phone off before an interview, it’s common sense.

If you forget, which can happen, simply turn it off if it rings.

I interviewed someone once who answered seven calls during her interview. She was very young and we put it down to naivety, put it created a HUGE negative impression.

7. Not knowing names

Have you ever been in that dreadful situation when you turn up at an interview and as you state your name and purpose, the receptionist asks you ‘who’s your interview with?’

You shrink in horror…James, Jack, was it Janine?

This is a rookie error and it really does make you look unprepared and indifferent (and you can bet that word will get back to the interviewer).

Prior to your interview you should (in most cases) receive an email or confirmation along with the interviewer’s full name (if you don’t, it may be worth asking for it). Take note of it, learn it and use it.

8. Double booking

Some candidates (goodness knows why) sabotage their interviews by cutting them short because they have somewhere else to be.

This is as good as saying ‘Hurry up and get it over with. I don’t really care about this job.”

Whatever it is you need to do, cancel it.  An interview can be short, or it can go on for two hours, that’s just the way it is and you’re not in the driving seat.

NEVER arrive and give the interviewer a time window.  There’s literally no point in showing up.

9. A crap handshake

You should always shake hands with your interviewer(s)…but as somewhat of a delicate procedure, it may be worth practising your technique.

Seriously, you would be shocked and appalled by some of the limp-wristed, tight-fisted and even downright aggressive greetings that I’ve suffered during my time in recruitment.

You don’t want to come across as weak and nervous and you definitely don’t want to come across as confrontational and overpowering.

Smile, be firm and don’t hold on for too long and remember, practice makes perfect!

10. Accepting tea

Most recruitment experts will advise you to take the drink, when offered.

It shows that you’re calm and collected, settles your nerves and will also act as a nice little distraction, giving you a quick breather between interview questions.

However, in reality, it depends on the situation; you don’t really want to be stood around awkwardly as your interviewer fumbles to get you a brew.

In general, I’d advise that you opt for a glass of water to quench nervous dry mouth, without becoming an unwanted hassle.

11. Over-sharing

Your old boss might have been an unstable basket case, but telling your new best friend that, is going the set off some serious alarm bells.

Remember this is a professional relationship, so don’t start it off on the wrong foot and always make sure you speak highly of your last employers, no matter what you really think.

Nobody likes a stirrer and if you talk rubbish about your last boss, history will probably repeat itself at some point.

12. Bad body language

One of the most off-putting interview blunders is bad body language.

Your interviewer doesn’t really have that much to go on when they make their final decision.

Chances are that they’ll only get to meet you once or twice before hiring and that means that during the interview they’ll be scrutinising your every move.

Recruiter Pro Tip

  • Do sit up straight and look genuinely interested.
  • Do keep good eye contact.
  • Don’t slouch.
  • Don’t lean forward, towards the interviewer.
  • Don’t point.
  • Don’t cross your arms.
  • Don’t stare for too long.
  • Don’t fidget.
  • Don’t keep looking around the room.

Your body language will betray some of your feelings in the interview, so if you can take control of your body, it could go a long way towards smashing the interview.

If you’d like to read more about how you should be steering away from certain body language behaviours, click here.

13. Lack of preparation

More a matter of common sense than etiquette, you’ll be amazed how well your interviewer will respond to a display of even the most rudimentary knowledge about the company.

We always recommend thorough and detailed preparation before interviews and that includes any questions you’d like to ask them.

It shows that you care enough to go the extra mile, are committed to the job role and that you’re not wasting the interviewer’s time.

Some interviewers will try to catch you off guard with things like brainteasers, normally just to see how you handle the pressure, but if you’re well prepared and ready to improvise, you’re guaranteed to leave a great lasting impression.

For a full rundown of the things you NEED to be researching prior to interview, click here.


Most of the tips above sound really obvious, but they are worth taking note of -because so many people are still making these mistakes – it’s shocking.

If you think you’ve pretty much got this covered, you might want to take a look at some more ‘advanced’ advice on answering interview questions or the best tools to fuel your job search.

If so, click on the respective links OR if you’d prefer to receive a short weekly update with the latest, click here to sign up!

Good luck interviewing!

- Anthony Hughes

Anthony Hughes

Anthony is a recruitment veteran of 18 years and is also one of the original founders of Coburg Banks. He now trains recruitment consultants on the best methods to utilise when sourcing and assessing applicants for their clients. 


> More blog posts by Anthony Hughes

Get in touch with us.

Telephone: 0121 362 2300
Or send us a quick message and we’ll call you.
*These are required fields
Please leave this field empty.