5 Job Interview Mistakes That Will Instantly Destroy Your Chances

Peter Gibbons sits in an interview with consultants in the movie Office Space
Peter Gibbons sits in an interview with consultants in the movie Office Space | 20th Century Fox

There are a million ways that things can go wrong during a job interview. Fortunately, you can avoid almost all of them with a little planning and practice. Most of us know not to wear a Megadeth T-shirt when meeting with a potential employer, for example. Or to do everything in our power to show up on time. But some people evidently still set traps for themselves, unwittingly removing themselves from contention with a single (or sometimes several) misguided move.
Roughly 90% of job interview preparation is common sense, though. You should be anticipating tough interview questions, and shaping your answers. You should also be preparing some questions of your own. In addition to that, you should have an idea as to what you’re going to wear, be mindful of your body language, and know a bit about the position you’re applying for. The key is to make it obvious that you’re the solution to an employer’s problem, and that they won’t find anyone better.
Even if you are, without a doubt, the most highly qualified candidate, you can see a potential offer go up in smoke by making avoidable mistakes.

The top job interview mistake: Appear anxious or nervous

High-stress situation | iStock.com

To start things off, employers seem to be turned off by anxiety and nervousness. Obviously, this is a part of the interview process — people get nervous. This isn’t an instant interview killer since most interviewers will forgive you to some extent. But if you can’t handle sitting and talking in a room, how can you be expected to fulfill the duties of the position you’re applying for without freaking out? You need to maintain your composure and radiate confidence. At least to the best of your abilities.
But there are other things you can do that will, in the eyes of an employer, be a dealbreaker. A survey from CareerBuilder has identified the worst offenders.
“There aren’t many things more nerve-wracking than walking into a room of people you desperately want to impress. In a new survey from CareerBuilder, employers shared the most memorable job interview mistakes candidates have made and how body language can hinder their chances of moving forward in the interview process,” a press release said.
“According to the nationwide survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from November 16 to December 6, 2016 among more than 2,600 hiring and human resource managers, it doesn’t take long for a hiring manager to make a decision,” the release continued.
From that survey, here are five fatal mistakes that can instantly ruin your shot at getting a job offer.

1. Dressing inappropriately

A Star Wars sweatshirt -- the wrong choice for a job interview
A Star Wars sweatshirt — the wrong choice for a job interview | Amazon

Worried about overdressing? Don’t — it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Unless you have some sort of secret insider information, dress professionally. If you’re wearing a suit and everyone else is in T-shirts, so what? At the very least you’re showing potential employers that you’re taking the process seriously. You can do some research as to what is appropriate and what is not, and even use colors to your advantage.
According to CareerBuilder’s survey, 49% of employers said that dressing inappropriately was an instant dealbreaker.

2. Lying

A woman being grilled during an interview
A woman being grilled during an interview | iStock.com

Don’t lie. Employers hate it. You hate it when employers lie to you. So, just avoid it. If you get caught, an employer will make you pay for it. According to CareerBuilder’s survey, 66% of employers said lying was a dealbreaker. And that’s just during the interview — further research finds that lying on your resume is pretty damning, too.
The worst lie you can put on your resume? Where you went to school. Evidently, that really ruffles some feathers.

3. Messing with your phone

Man taking notes while an interviewee texts
Man taking notes while an interviewee texts | iStock.com/kmatija

Most of us know that we shouldn’t be texting or Snapchatting or anything like that during an interview. But some people clearly don’t, as many employers say that interviewees taking phone calls or sending texts are a common mistake. CareerBuilder’s survey said that 64% employers consider that to be a fatal mistake.
Evidently, it needs to be said: Turn off your phone, leave it somewhere else, or put it on silent. There’s no reason you should look at it during an interview. During the time you’re behind those doors, you may as well be on an airplane.

4. Being arrogant

A self-assured man answers questions
A self-assured man answers questions | iStock.com

The author Ryan Holiday wrote a book about how your ego can be your downfall. And this is exactly the kind of thing that he was talking about: In many cases, ego is the enemy. But it’s tricky during an interview. You need to discuss your accomplishments in a calm and comfortable manner. You need to explain why you’re the best man or woman for the job. But you have to do it with a sense of humility — you can’t come across as an arrogant jerk.
Arrogance or entitlement will ruin your odds for 59% of the employers CareerBuilder surveyed.

5. Showing a lack of accountability

Displeased man passing the buck
Displeased man passing the buck | iStock.com/Alen-D

Refuse to take ownership? Only want the credit and none of the blame? Even if you don’t realize your own lack of accountability, others will. It’s something that drives your bosses and co-workers crazy, and will also reflect poorly on you as a candidate. Things go wrong, sometimes. And you need to own up to your mistakes — just as you should be proud when things go as planned. The survey said 48% of employers consider a lack of accountability to be a dealbreaker.