10 Bad Habits You Should Never Do in a Job Interview

First impressions count, especially during a job interview. You have roughly 30 seconds or less to make a strong first impression. (Some experts even say you have as little as a tenth of a second.) Don’t ruin your chances of snagging a new job before you even open your mouth. Certain moves might work well on the dance floor, but they won’t help you when you’re one-on-one with a potential boss.
We all have bad habits, but when the stakes are high, such as during a job interview, it matters a lot more. The first step to reducing the impact of these habits is to become aware of them. Fortunately, we’re here to help you recognize some of the ways you may be sabotaging your job hunt.
Are you ruining your chances of getting a new job without even realizing it? Here are 10 bad habits that can kill your chances in a job interview.

1. Fidgeting

nervous stressed young woman
Keep the face touching, hand wringing, and nail biting to a minimum. | iStock.com/SIphotography

Do you typically touch your hair, wring your hands, or tap your feet during a stressful situation? It makes sense if you’re nervous. During an interview, you’re basically being judged in a short amount of time by strangers who hold the future of your career in their hands (at least your future at that company). No one likes to be judged, so this discomfort will likely manifest as nervous energy throughout your body. However, roughly 32% of hiring managers polled for a Career Builder survey said this is one of the top body language mistakes candidates make.
So how can you stop moving around in your seat? For starters, if you’re a coffee drinker (or regularly drink caffeinated beverages), do yourself a favor and lay off the caffeine the day of your interview. Instead, try a soothing decaffeinated cup of tea. You could also try lacing your fingers and resting them in your lap if you tend to be overly animated or have a habit of wringing your hands.

2. Having an ‘unpleasant resting face’

Woman in black jacket
Your resting face could cost you a job. | iStock.com/melanjurga

There’s another name for this face, but we’ll be nice. Be aware of your resting face. Spend time looking in the mirror to see what your countenance looks like when you’re relaxed. Do you look angry? Bored? Seductive? Even better, ask a friend or family member to give you honest feedback on what your resting face looks like. If there’s any possibility that your relaxed faced could be off-putting to an interviewer, work on being mindful of this, and try to have a more pleasant resting face.

3. Exaggerated nodding

group of co-workers in a meeting
Resist the urge to nod at everything — a simple “yes” will do. | iStock.com/Rawpixel Ltd

Excessive nodding is for bobbleheads, not interview candidates. Simply saying “yes” will suffice. It’s not necessary to nod excessively to get your point across during a job interview. If you can’t help your nodding, just visualize yourself nodding without actually doing it. This will take some practice, so ask a friend to help you conduct a mock interview at home to work on restraining your urge to nod uncontrollably.

4. Slouching

man with bad posture
Your posture says a lot about you. | iStock.com

Good posture makes all the difference. If you tend to slouch whenever you sit, it’s time to pay more attention to this. Remember you’re not at home relaxing, so sit up straight and look like you’re paying attention. It’s good to be relaxed, but having the appearance that you’re too relaxed could hurt you. Bad posture often communicates the message that you’re lazy, disinterested, or both.

5. Verbal pauses

young man with hand over mouth
If you don’t know what to say, don’t use verbal pauses. | iStock.com/Pinkypills

If you don’t know what to say, don’t try to fill the space with a verbal pause (“um,” “ah,” or “you know”). It might buy you some time to think, but it makes you look less intelligent when you rely heavily on verbal pauses. It’s OK to have brief breaks in your conversation with an interviewer. Just let him or her know you need a moment to compose a thoughtful answer. Besides, too much “uming” and “ahing” can get annoying after a while.

6. Interrupting

woman talking on phone
Let others speak. | iStock.com

If you often interrupt during a conversation when you’re excited, you’ll need to nip this in the bud. Constant interrupting is rude and can be frustrating for the person who is trying to speak. Your interviewer will likely feel disrespected and might get the impression you don’t know how to listen long enough to follow instructions. This could be the kiss of death. Instead, make eye contact and truly listen to your interviewer. Resist the urge to focus on what you want to say next. As you pause and take a breath, you will likely have a better answer to the next question because you will have fully listened to everything your interviewer had to say.

7. Fast talking

colleagues talking
Slow down when speaking to your interviewer. | iStock.com

Do people often complain that you talk a mile a minute? Is it often difficult to understand what you’re saying? Talking fast is helpful if you’re an auctioneer, but it can be a disadvantage during an interview. If you talk too quickly during an interview, the hiring manager might miss some key information you’re trying to get across. Work on this problem by recording yourself while you speak, so you can hear how fast you’re talking. This will give you an idea of whether you should speed up or slow down your speech.

8. Laughing inappropriately

Kevin from "The Office" laughing
Try not to laugh at the wrong time. | NBC Universal Television

We’ve all had moments when we were overcome with nervous laughter, but this behavior doesn’t usually go over well during an interview. If you feel like you’re about to laugh at an inappropriate moment, take a deep breath and try to hold in your laughter. Imagine inhaling the giggles and watching them float out the door as you exhale. (If that imagery makes you want to laugh even harder, try thinking of something else.) Or think about something serious, so you’ll be able to repress your urge to laugh. Ponder how laughing at the wrong time could cause you to not get the job.

9. Checking text messages

woman worried by what she sees on cellphone
Check your texts after the interview. | iStock.com/nandyphotos

Wait until the interview is done before you start checking your text messages. It’s not only rude to check texts during an interview but also implies you don’t really care whether you get the job. If you just can’t help yourself, your best bet is to turn off your phone as soon as you get to the interview. If you don’t want to shut off your phone, you can put it on silent until you finish meeting with the hiring manager. This way, you won’t be distracted by incoming message alerts.

10. Name dropping

candidate in a job interview
Name dropping can make you look arrogant. | iStock.com

Trying too hard to impress your interviewer could make you appear arrogant. And who wants to work with someone who is self-absorbed? Remember likeability counts in the workplace. If you and the hiring manger know someone in your network, it might be OK to mention it in passing. But don’t go overboard by naming every influential person you know. Refrain from exaggerating your connections or dropping names of industry heavy hitters you’ve only met briefly. Even if you do know influential people well, it’s just poor manners to excessively name drop.
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