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8 interview don’ts that deter job candidates


We tend to see job interviews as one-sided affairs, with hiring managers taking the lead to evaluate job seekers. But they’re not. While you’re checking out your candidates’ qualifications, they’re checking you out as well. And first impressions are key. Candidates are looking for clues about your company, its culture and how company leaders, like you, treat employees. To put your best foot forward, avoid making these common interview don’ts.

1. Don’t forget to do your homework.

You likely expect job candidates to prepare for the interview, and to know at least a little about your company. Show them the same courtesy, and learn what you can about their background.

Before the interview, take a minute to review the resume, bio or LinkedIn profile of your candidates, so you can ask quality questions. But…

2. Don’t ask too many personal questions.

Questions such as “Tell me about yourself?” or “What do you like to do in your spare time?” are fine as ice breakers. But they don’t add much value to the hiring process. They don’t tell you how the candidate will fare in the position for which you are hiring. And you run the risk of following them up with off-limit questions that could at best, make your job candidates feel uneasy, and at worst, could open your company to legal action.

3. Don’t oversell the positives.

Of course, you’ll want to highlight all the good things your company has to offer — a great benefit package, vibrant culture, the trendy new coffee maker in your break room. But be honest and realistic about the challenges facing your organization, and the challenges of the role. For example, “We’re experiencing a lot of growth right now, and are busy trying to keep up with the pace.” Give candidates an honest, balanced portrayal. So-called “perfect” companies raise a red flag.

4. Don’t discount dress and body language.

This is one of the interview don’ts that applies to both you and your job candidate. Mirror what you expect from the candidate in terms of dress and body language. If you expect job candidates to dress professionally for the interview, do the same.

Also pay attention to your posture, and make eye contact throughout the interview. These non-verbal cues signal respect, or lack of respect. Job candidates notice, and hear your message, whether intended or not, loud and clear.

5. Don’t be distracted.

Give the interview your full attention. That means not focusing on the next deadline, or appointment, or incoming call.

Before you start the interview, put your phone on “do not disturb,” and close out your email. Admittedly, this is a tall order for many tech-dependent professionals. But unless there’s a true emergency, interruptions can wait for 30 minutes. For that brief moment, your job candidate needs to feel that he or she is your top priority.

6. Don’t waste time.

Start the interview on time and try to keep it within the time limits you had discussed when you set up the interview. Your candidate may be interviewing on his or her lunch break, and needs to get back to the office on time.

If you show up to the interview late, or go over the time allocated for the interview, it shows you have little regard for the candidate’s schedule.

7. Don’t meet in a crowded or noisy place.

Nothing is worse than trying to answer questions about your career goals over the deafening screech of an espresso machine, or raucous laughter of the happy hour crowd. When you need to conduct an interview offsite, choose a reasonably professional environment that’s low on noise, so you can hear each other comfortably. A nice, quiet restaurant or coffee shop works great.

Try to schedule the interview after the morning coffee rush, and before or after the lunch and dinner rushes.

8. Don’t put on an act.

Interviewing brings out the method actor in many hiring managers. Some become tough-as-nails task masters, in an attempt to scare off the weak candidates, and identify the strong. Others style themselves as investigators — firing off so many questions they quickly exhaust candidates.

There’s no need to put on an extreme interviewing personality. This approach scares off potentially promising job candidates. Just be professional and be yourself. 

This is a long list of interview don’ts to consider. But you really only need to remember one “do” to successfully navigate your next interview: Follow the golden rule. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Or to put it another way, hold yourself to the same standards you have for the person you’re interviewing. When you show job seekers you respect them, they are more likely to respect you and your company — and want to join your team.

For more insights on interviewing don’ts and other tips, download our free e-book, Building a better team: how to attract, recruit and hire top talent.