Top 10 unusual mistakes candidates make at interviews

What is the most unusual thing a candidate did in a job interview? Fall asleep? Disappear? Show up a day late?

CareerBuilder.co.uk released its survey of the most outrageous interview mistakes candidates have made, according to hiring managers and HR professionals across the United Kingdom. This year’s Top Ten list includes:



  1. When interviewer asked candidate why he wanted to work for the company, he replied, “Because I fancy the girl who works in reception.”

  2. Candidate turned on a CD player to play the song “I feel good” during the interview.

  3. Candidate performed magic tricks for the interviewer.

  4. Candidate showed up for the wrong job interview with the wrong company.

  5. Candidate gave the interviewer the impression that she had murdered her husband.

  6. Candidate kept checking his mobile which was in his hand under the desk during the interview.

  7. Candidate told interviewer, “I don’t have any particular ambitions for advancement, as long as I am paid a lot more in five years time.”

  8. Candidate told interviewer that he would not be able to travel for work when his football team was playing at home.

  9. Candidate told interviewer he would wrestle clients to the ground rather than trying to diffuse difficult situations.

  10. Candidate tried to pick up the interviewer.

In addition to the most unusual blunders, employers were also asked about the most common and detrimental mistakes candidates have made during an interview.

Sixty-two per cent of hiring managers cited appearing disinterested as the most detrimental mistake a candidate can make in an interview.

Appearing arrogant came in second at 49 per cent and speaking negatively about a current or previous employer ranked third at 44 per cent. Other mistakes included dressing inappropriately (42 per cent), not providing specific answers (35 per cent) and not asking good questions (25 per cent).

“Interviews give employers an opportunity to see what it is really like to work with a candidate – how they respond when under pressure, what motivates them and how they relate to others,” said Tony Roy, Managing Director of CareerBuilder.co.uk.

“If a candidate is too negative, is not prepared for the interview or is easily flustered, it usually reflects poorly on the candidate’s abilities. Be well-informed about the company, practice answers to potential questions and always maintain a professional demeanor.”

CareerBuilder.co.uk offers the following tips for successful interviews: Do your homework: Nothing says “I am not that interested in this job” like someone who has done no research and knows little about a company. It is easier than ever to find information about a company and its activities – candidates who don’t could be perceived as lazy, unmotivated or disinterested.

Don’t get too personal: The last thing an employer wants to do is to hire someone who brings personal drama to the office. Even if the interview seems casual, always keep it professional and avoid sharing unnecessary personal information.

Be honest: Interviewers don’t expect you to have all the answers. Often they are testing your reaction to “tough questions” to see how you respond under pressure. It is much worse to get caught in a lie than to admit you do not know something. If you are unsure of an answer, it is ok to say you don’t know but then outline the steps you would take to find out – this will demonstrate you are a problem solver.

Prepare for these common questions: “Tell me about yourself?” “Why do you want to work here?” “What motivates you?” These questions may seem simple, but because they are so broad, candidates can get tripped up by them if they don’t know where to start or when to end.

Do not be negative: No matter how tempting it is to share woes from prior jobs or how much an interviewer is pushing you to do so, it is never a good idea to say negative things about a previous employer. The interviewer will assume you will also be likely to bad mouth their company in the future.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the UK by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder UK among 281 hiring managers and human resource professionals (employed full-time; not self-employed; with at least significant involvement in hiring decisions; ) within the UK between November 14 and December 3, 2007, respectively.

Figures for age, sex, and education were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.


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