How to fail a job interview
Jane McGuire

How to fail a job interview

Our top interview tips

First published date May 20 2014 Amended date July 09 2014

Sweaty palms, heart racing and feeling like you have forgotten everything – we’ve all got that job interview we would rather forget. Whether you are a fresh faced graduate taking your first steps into the big wide world of work, or embarking on a new career, learning what not to do in an interview is a good place to start. So let Hotcourses come to the rescue! We have talked all things recruitment and put together our top interview tips.

Yet our interview tips must begin before you even get to the interview room. Firstly, to obtain the face-to-face meeting, you will need to shine through your cover letter and CV. Both should be concise and informative – if you present the employer with a ten page biography they are unlikely to read on, so only include the edited highlights. Once you have got the interview check and check again when and where it is – no interviewer takes kindly to being stood up. Finally, planning is everything, so sit back and read what NOT to do here.


Turn up unprepared – it’s an interview not a quiz.

Make sure you do your homework before you arrive. There is nothing worse than a candidate not knowing anything about the company or what they do.


Wear jeans and converse, the office looks smart-casual on the website.

A job interview is not a fashion show, but future employers will not be impressed by scruffy attire. Even if the office is smart-casual when you get there it is better to be overdressed, so invest in that interview outfit now. 


Don’t ask any questions.

The interview is nearly over, your nerves have calmed and you have sold yourself well and then you are asked if you ‘have any questions?’ Saying no and running from the room can often set off alarm bells, leaving the interviewer with the impression you have no interest in the position. Prepare a minimum of five enquiries, asking for more information about the job and company.

On the other hand, it is important to remember what not to ask at stage one, this is not the time to discuss the salary, holiday and probation period at any depth – you do not have the job yet!


Panic, freeze and panic some more.

Feeling apprehensive is normal, but freezing and stumbling over words does not give a best first impression. If you cannot handle the pressure of the interview, you are unlikely to convince your future employer you can cope with the stress of the job. Stay calm and keep a cool head, even if your stomach is doing back flips.


Arrive 30 minutes late – they will be too busy to notice right?

Wrong. Plan your route, if it involves driving through town in rush hour set off early, or if commuting on the underground do not rely solely on one line and make sure you have back up options. It is better to be sat waiting in reception than sprinting through the doors five minutes late.


Waffle on – the longer the answers the better.

Like most formal situations, in a job interview it is vital you think before you speak – it is far better to ask for a minute to plan your answer than waffle on for too long. An interview is not the time to tell irrelevant stories so keep answers concise and collect your thoughts before you open your mouth. This is equally as important if the interview occurs over the phone. Without facial clues suggesting when the interviewer is moving on, you must listen carefully and stop in time – answers can often drag when you are not face to face.


Tell the interviewer about every job you’ve ever had – it’s all relevant.

It really, really isn’t – the editor of your dream magazine is unlikely to be interested in the different elements of your bar work at the student union. Only bring up and talk about skills relevant to the role.


Avoid eye contact and lean on your hand – this interview feels never ending so let them know you’re getting tired.

Remember it’s not what you say but how you say it! According to body language experts folding your arms, leaning back, slouching on your chair and looking at the floor are all massive interview no-nos. As awkward as you may find it, holding eye contact and using your hands when you speak are important in the quest to impress.


White lies – the perfect way to sell yourself, they will never find out will they?

Anyone who has watched The Apprentice will know this is not true. Do not turn your unpaid internship to a fully fledged job, or claim to be fluent in a language you have spoken for a week on a holiday five years ago. Employers will often follow up and get references and will never take kindly to being lied too.


Weaknesses, what weaknesses?

No one wants to employ a superhero, so have some answers for this question. At the same time don’t sell yourself short, so try and turn your weaknesses into positives.


You can never be too confident.

Whilst being the unforgettable candidate who blended in with the wallpaper is never advisable, over confidence can often be mistaken for arrogance. Personality is important so make sure you practise your interview technique and conversation.


Don’t ever ask for feedback – it was their loss.

Nobody likes hearing the truth, but if you are failing job interview after job interview it is time to step back and ask why. Phoning up or emailing and asking for feedback could save you another batch of rejections. Find out where you are going wrong and act on the advice.

In addition, following up immediately after the interview often goes down well. Do not hound the interviewer or add them on Facebook, but an email saying thanks and asking if they need any more information leaves them with a good impression.


Don’t bring a portfolio of work with you unless you are asked – no one wants to seem too keen.

Relevant examples of your work will never be turned away. Make sure your portfolio is neat and organised and have photocopies of your work to leave behind.


Rest assured that every job hunt involves rejection and although it can seem never ending you will get there in the end. Our final top interview tip is to embrace Pharrell’s infectious words of wisdom and stay happy, smile and walk into the interview with your head held high. Still need more help? Why not take a short job interview or career planning workshop? You might be thanking us later. 

Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire received her BA (English) from the University of Loughborough. A yoga enthusiast with a sweet tooth, in her spare time you will probably find Jane in the gym or online shopping.