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Stupid Interview Mistakes: 10 Mistakes Job Hunters Make WAY Too Often

Stupid Interview Mistakes: 10 Mistakes Job Hunters Make WAY Too Often

During the early era of American television, one of the most popular tv shows was one hosted by Art Linkletter called, “Kids Say The Darndest Things.” During the show, Linkletter would ask very young grade school children very simple questions like, “What does your Mommy do?” A child actually answered, “She does a little housework, then sits around all day reading the Racing Form.” That was one of the answers that would bring down the house every week.

Young children have an excuse for why they might say such things. Adult job hunters have no excuse for saying and doing so many of the darndest things. Here are a few that I thought I would share.

  1. Oversharing. Sometimes, it is fascinating to debrief candidates after interviews and find out some of the things they say. One was asked about who he works with and described them as “slobs and Indians.” Someone actually thought that it was a good idea to be insulting and racist on an interview. Amazing.
  2. Being Unprepared. I started in recruiting more than 40 years ago before moving into coaching. Back in The Stone Ages, it was hard to research employers. You actually had to go to a library and use microfiche or read original newspapers. Unless you were interviewing with a senior executive with the firm or with the PR head, you could never obtain any information about a person you were meeting with in advance of your interview. LinkedIn and Google make things much easier, don’t they? Yet there are people who arrive unprepared, knowing nothing about their potential employer or the hiring manager(s) they are meeting with. Insane!
  3. Lying. It used to be hard and take time in order to be found out. Your new employer would have to type a letter to your former employer who have to look up information in file cabinets in order to substantiate your previous dates and salary. Now, they start off by comparing what you uploaded to their applicant tracking system the last time you were looking for a job and applied to them to see that you have covered up that previous employer or are lying about your salary. You can be disqualified before speaking with anyone. And it happens all the time and no one will ever tell you.

4. Forgetting/Ignoring the Original Question and Babbling On. When qualifying people or doing mock interviews, job hunters will have done so many interviews that they clairvoyantly believe they know what the interviewer is looking for so they go off on this long monologue about what they’ve done and how they went about doing it in response to the question, “Tell me about yourself.” I remember listening to someone for about 5 minutes,and asking, “By any chance, do you remember my original question?” They didn’t.

5. Seeming Angry. Like a lover scorned, they arrive at their interview ready to complain and moan about their previous manager, co- workers, how they have been mistreated and more. Like a date who is stuck pretending to listen, your interviewer is calculating when the right time is to end their interview.

6. Not Knowing “The Single Best Question You Should Ask on Any Interview” and When To Ask It. Interviews are normally constructed for a hiring manager or HR professional to elicit information from you at their pace in ways that don’t help you. Not knowing the one question that levels the playing field and allows you to talk about what you’ve done that matters to them and not just talk about what you’ve done is a colossal mistake.

7. Saying Different Things to Different People You Interview With. Imagine telling people radically different or subtly things about your role, responsibilities and your level of impact or success. Do you think people don’t compare notes?

8. Arriving Late (or Missing the Interview Altogether) and Not Acknowledging It. Things happen but you acknowledge and apologize for being late. You apologize and explain your (perhaps) confusion that caused you to miss the interview. Trust me. No one will hire you (although they might re-schedule you) unless you acknowledge the previous ) confusion that caused you to miss the interview. Trust me. No one will hire you (although they might re-schedule you) unless you acknowledge the previous “bad behavior.” In just lingers around the relationship stinking things up.

9. Asking Stupid Questions.

“Do you give a drug test?”

“Do you do a background check?“

“Do you have any other jobs available?

These are just a few of the “brilliant questions” people have asked (For more) on job interviews.

10. Creating a Weak First Impression Whether the weak impression is created because you have a soft handshake (shaking hands with a fish), your hands are cold or are sweaty, your body language is poor, you’re dressed poorly by the standards of the firm you’re interviewing with or some other reason, if your first impression is weak it is hard to recover and win the interview.

What stupid interview mistakes have you run into when interviewing someone? Leave a message below.

© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2017    

If you liked this article, read “Who Can Help With a Job Search” at

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life coaching, as well as executive job search coaching and leadership coaching.

Are you interested in executive job search coaching, leadership coaching or life coaching from me? Email me at [email protected] and put the word, “Coaching” in the subject line. offers great advice for job hunters—videos, my books and guides to job hunting, podcasts, articles, PLUS a community for you to ask questions of PLUS the ability to ask me questions where I function as your ally with no conflict of interest answering your questions. 

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