How to Not Get Hired

You’ve been called to interview for a position that’s perfect for you; you’re completely qualified and could do the job in your sleep. So it’s a lock, right? Maybe not. The interview is a great way to showcase your strengths and demonstrate how your talents could benefit the company. But too many candidates fail to make the positive impression they think they are, due to a combination of verbal and non-verbal communication gaffes. Here’s a list of eight ways you can persuade an interviewer not to hire you.

1) Come as you are. It’s smart to be yourself during an interview, but if you extend that “take me as I am” attitude to your clothing and grooming, you can kiss the job goodbye. Interviewers make snap judgments about candidates as soon as they set eyes on them: is their hair combed, shoes polished, whiskers shaved? It’s simply human nature to do so. There’s no such thing as looking too professional, so put some effort into your appearance, and don’t leave the house thinking, “Eh, good enough.” An added bonus: When you look good, you feel more confident. And confidence is always a good thing during an interview.
2) Arrive late. Most people don’t intend to arrive late to an interview. It’s usually the result of poor planning (not having a shirt ironed), horrible traffic, etc. Solve these issues before they arise: Do a practice run to the interview the day before at the same time as your meeting, for example. Arriving late for any reason sends the message that you don’t care about the job, you’re unmotivated, and you don’t respect other people’s time. Not exactly the first impression you want to make.
3) Don’t complete the application fully. It’s common for candidates to fill out an application during the interview process—even if they’ve already submitted a resume. In the rush to complete the application and get on with the interview process, many people fail to review the application for blanks they may have missed or incorrect information. Take your time, and write legibly. Tip: Have a copy of your resume handy so you can fill in hard-to-remember details like dates of employment at various jobs.
4) Be vague about your goals. Especially in a tough economy, lots of job seekers have an “I’ll take anything” attitude that doesn’t translate well in an interview. Hiring managers don’t care that you need a job—stat—in order to pay the rent. They want to feel your enthusiasm for a particular job. If you’re interviewing with a company that has several openings for which you may be qualified, be clear about your goals: “I want to use my accounting experience to streamline the company’s financial processes,” for example. It’s also good to discuss your future goals, such as earning an advanced degree that will help you perform your job more effectively.
5) Use poor non-verbal skills. Sometimes what you don’t say is as important as what you do. Non-verbal communication—like eye contact and facial expressions—speak volumes, so be sure you’re saying the right things. When it comes to eye contact, it’s easy to go to extremes, either avoiding it altogether or staring without blinking for half an hour. Strike a happy balance by maintaining good eye contact when the interviewer is speaking but taking occasional breaks during your responses. Make sure your facial expression is always pleasant and interested. 
6) Let your mind wander. Sometimes an interview will drag on longer than you had anticipated and/or be full of details about the company that either don’t make sense to you yet or don’t exactly grab your attention. But it’s crucial to always be engaged in the conversation because you never know when you’ll be asked a question in the middle of a monologue. Getting lots of sleep the night before an interview helps you tune into the conversation better.
7) Don’t prepare. You’ll be talking about yourself during the interview, so you might think you’re prepared. After all, who knows you better than you? The problem is that you may be asked questions about experiences and dates that are well in the past and hard to recall during a high-pressure interview. If you’re asked about your job responsibilities from that six-month temp position 10 years ago, will you be able to rattle them off easily? Go back over everything you’ve listed on your resume and familiarize yourself with dates, job progression, educational details, and anything else that can help you sell your experience and skills.
8) Forget about references. If your interview goes well, you’ll be asked for several references. Sometimes you’ll be given a few days to get them together, but you’ll often need to submit them during or immediately following the interview. Make it easy on yourself by putting together a list of three great references (including contact information, their job title, and the company where they work), and then bring that list with you. Remember to get permission from your references before submitting their names. Employers can always tell when their phone calls are a surprise to references.