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The 10 Worst Interview Behaviors

April 25, 2013
by Tim Tolan
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Here are some common sense tips from hiring managers to keep your hat in the ring.
Tim Tolan

Getting bad news following an interview is never what a candidate wants to hear, and most are shocked to hear they have been eliminated from future consideration. In many cases the hiring manager has a reason for not pursuing a candidate any further. After years of post-interview calls with clients, I have compiled a list of the top ten worst interview behaviors (in no particular order) from the eyes of the interviewer, so you can avoid being added to these statistics in the future.

Poor Appearance—This is totally inexcusable. If you are trying to impress your audience you must dress for success. Pressed shirt and slacks or dress, polished shoes and good grooming. First impressions matter. Always.

Egotistical Behavior—This gives your future employer a preview of upcoming attractions. There is no room in any company for ego-centric people that just suck air out of the room. No thanks.

Lack of Interest/Enthusiasm—No interest? It begs the question:  Why are you interviewing? Playing hard to get just isn’t a good plan. Don’t waste your time or theirs if you are not interested. Why bother? Life’s too short.

Lack of Confidence—This is especially troubling if you are interviewing for a leadership position. Displaying confidence conveys a positive message, while lack of confidence sends a totally different message.

Heavy Focus on Compensation—Worst idea ever. The interview is to evaluate your skills and discuss the role in more detail. It’s both presumptuous and out of line to talk money during an interview. You will get your chance when the time is right, and you have an offer in hand. Never bring up salary during the interview.

Inability to Discuss Performance or Employment Gaps—This creates uncertainty about your credibility and your integrity. If you have gaps, be prepared to discuss them openly and with conviction. If you had a role where performance was an issue you should discuss the reasons. If you can’t discuss legitimate reasons, the interviewer will draw their own conclusions, and that’s never a good thing.

Lack of Courtesy/Maturity—This one is tough. Grown adults should not have to be coached on basic communication etiquette or how to act their age. At minimum, the interviewee should listen 75 percent of the time and talk 25 percent of the time. Never the other way around!  

Disparaging Previous Employers/Managers—This is so bad. The future employer is getting a real taste of what it will be like to have someone talk behind their back, and it’s just in poor taste.

Failure to Ask Questions about the Organization or Position—This is where the employer tests your cognitive skills and your ability to communicate. Not having good well thought-out (open-ended) questions will often eliminate a candidate from consideration. Translation: You probably already know all of the answers to all of the questions!

Total Lack of Preparation for the Interview—I hear this one all the time. It’s always baffling to me. In a world where we are wired 24/7, I understand how we can get bogged down and busy. But when you show up to an interview “winging it,” you have just wasted your time and the time of every person who meets with you.

It’s hard to believe, but if you can avoid these ten interview pitfalls you will have a better than average change of making it to the final round in an interview. And, let’s face it—avoiding these mishaps for most of us is just common sense. Of course, that’s for most of us. 

Tim Tolan is senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT practice. He can be reached at or (843) 579-3077 ext. 301. His blog can be found at