You can send in the world’s best CV, provide the best answers the interviewer has ever seen, but you can still blow the interview if you break one of the great unspoken rules of interview etiquette.
Everyone knows the obvious ways to behave in an interview, but there are some less obvious things that can lose you the job just as easily as turning up an hour late stinking of booze.
Here are six things recruiters want you to avoid:
1. Arriving too early
You absolutely should arrive at a job interview slightly early, arriving late is the cardinal sin that we all know about.
But there’s a difference between allowing plenty of time and making everything look just a tiny bit weird.
If you end up sat in reception, playing Candy Crush on your phone for an hour, then there’s a chance it could make a bad first impression as you seem a bit over-eager. In turn, you could make the interviewer will feel guilty and the end result is that everyone feels uncomfortable.
By all means, turn up an hour early for your interview. Anticipate getting stuck in traffic, the bus breaking down or even a natural disaster.
Just don’t go inside. If you are super early, either sit in your car for a bit or go to a cafe and have a drink and go through your prep notes. It might help calm any nerves you could have.
The general consensus is that arriving at the destination 15 minutes before the interview is the perfect time to arrive, so if you do go and have a quick coffee, make sure you factor in any extra travelling time.
2. Arriving with a friend/family member
You’re not going to take your friend or family to work, are you? So don’t take a cheerleading squad to the interview.
In all the years I’ve been interviewing, this has only ever happened to me once, but I’m including it on the list just in case any of you out there are contemplating it.
Taking someone with you to an interview shows a real lack of confidence and a naivity about how the real world works. There’s a good chance that it might also lead a more judgmental interviewer to rule you out straight away.
At best it creates a negative impression and shows that you don’t really understand how job interviews work.
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.
3. Dress / Smell Bad
Office attire is undoubtedly more casual than it was a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean you can turn up to a job interview in jeans and T-shirt.
This is basic etiquette in truth, but some people blow it so spectacularly that it has made this list.
It shows disrespect to turn up to a job interview in a dishevelled state, hungover or stinking like you haven’t been home for days. Just don’t do it.
When considering how to dress, for men, you can’t go wrong with a suit and tie. Keep the shirt white or light coloured, grey or dark suit and appropriate tie (avoid wearing your Mickey Mouse tie if you can). Life is slighly more complicated for women, but an elegant business suit will prove the little black dress of the business world.
For both sexes, even if you find out that the company that’s interviewing you have a dress-down policy, it’s my belief that you should go to your interview looking smart and professional, so I’d never deviate from this position.
My personal belief is that it’s really difficult to be too smart for an interview.
As for the smell, a quick ‘shower in a can’ and a breathmint before you go in to the interview is never a bad thing.
Just do it before you arrive in the company, if the interviewer is outside your cubicle when you douse yourself in Lynx or Impulse, it might look a touch strange.
4. Answering your phone / texting
Again this sounds obvious to rational human beings, but you’d be surprised how many HR managers say that potential recruits create a bad impression by 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 you get a call in the interview.
I interviewed someone once who answered seven calls during her interview. As it happened she was very young and we put it down to naivity, put it created a huge negative impression.
Do not send a message or take a call, no matter how short it will be, unless your wife is in the hospital giving birth, in which case you’ve got to question why you’re at the interview in the first place!
If she is, or there is another call that might come in that is that important or more so, let the interviewer know at the start.
5. Double booking
More than one person has lost the job before the interview has even started by telling the interviewer they have somewhere else to be in 30 minutes. The impression that gives is that the job isn’t that important to you.
No interviewer wants to hear or think that.
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.
If there is simply no way round the problem, try and rearrange the interview, although that isn’t a great look either, unless it’s a very good reason why you can’t attend.
But do not arrive and give the interviewer a time window. You might as well just not go.
Your old boss might have been an unstable basket case, but telling your new best friend about how you walked in on them crying and threatening to cut themselves is not a good way to ingratiate yourself.
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 talked rubbish about your last boss, history will probably repeat itself at some point.
Most of the tips above sound really obvious, but they are worth taking note of. An interviewer wants to work out whether you’re good for the job or not.
But they’re also trying to evaluate your cultural fit for the business, so you need to demonstrate that you’re professional, that you care and that you have some self-awareness.
Always try and look at the situation from the other way around and ask yourself, “what’s the best way I can present myself and give me the best opportunity to grab this job?”
Answer that successfully and you’ll be in the best possible place to secure your next job.