The strangest things people have done in job interviews (and what you should do instead)

Interview mistakes to avoid

It’s game time. You’ve been asked to come in for a face-to-face job interview. Here’s how to ace it.

You’ve just landed a job interview for a position you really want. Congratulations! Now, you get one chance to impress, and you don’t have much time. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, half of employers know within the first five minutes of an interview if a candidate is a good or bad fit for a position, and only 8 percent give the candidate at least a half hour before they make up their mind.

So, what can you do to stand out? For starters, avoid these 10 instant deal breakers, according to employers:

  • Candidate is caught lying about something: 71 percent
  • Candidate answers a cell phone or texts during the interview: 67 percent
  • Candidate appears arrogant or entitled: 59 percent
  • Candidate appears to have a lack of accountability: 52 percent
  • Candidate swears: 51 percent
  • Candidate dresses inappropriately: 50 percent
  • Candidate talks negatively about current or previous employers: 48 percent
  • Candidate knows nothing about the job or company: 45 percent
  • Candidate has unprofessional body language: 43 percent
  • Candidate knows nothing about the industry or competitors: 35 percent

Next, keep an eye on your body language. Sometimes we get so preoccupied with saying the right thing, we forget what our body language might be communicating. When asked to identify the biggest body language mistakes job seekers make during an interview, hiring managers named the following:

  • Failure to make eye contact: 68 percent
  • Failure to smile: 38 percent
  • Playing with something on the table: 36 percent
  • Fidgeting too much in his/her seat: 32 percent
  • Bad posture: 31 percent

Finally, stay away from doing anything too strange, like the folks mentioned below. When asked to share the most unusual things job candidates have done during the interview process, employers and hiring managers recalled the following:

  • Candidate did not have the skills to do the job and stated, “Fake it until you make it” as his personal philosophy.
  • Candidate asked interviewer if she was qualified to be doing her job.
  • Candidate asked for a cocktail.
  • Candidate asked to taste the interviewer’s coffee.
  • Candidate called a government job “something government-y.”
  • Candidate came to interview wearing slippers.
  • Candidate wore a Darth Vader outfit to the interview.
  • Candidate spent a lot of time quoting Dwight D. Eisenhower, which had nothing to do with the position he was interviewing for.
  • Candidate leaned far forward with his head down during the first five minutes of the interview.
  • Candidate offered interviewer pumpkins and said they transfer good energy.
  • Candidate pulled out a bag of drugs with his keys.
  • Candidate broke out in song in the middle of the interview.

How to stand out for the right reasons

Preparing in advance will help you feel calm and confident, and there are a few strategies you can use that are guaranteed to help you stand out from your competition. Here are five easy-to-follow tips to stand out in your next job interview:

  • Rehearse: Preparation is your best defense against disaster. Practice your interview skills ahead of time with friends or family members, and ask them for their feedback on things like posture, handshake and eye contact.
  • Press "Record:" Another helpful exercise is to make a video of yourself answering common interview questions. Watching yourself can help you identify any mistakes you may be making unconsciously.
  • Have your "elevator pitch" ready: An elevator pitch is a 30-second speech summarizing what you do and why you'd be a perfect fit for the role – and it's the perfect answer to that oft-asked question, "Tell me about yourself." Make sure you are also ready to back these claims up later with specific examples that illustrate your skills and experience.
  • Do your homework: Research the company beforehand and come prepared with questions for the interviewer. Employers want to know you're just as interested in them as they are in you.
  • Just breathe: Last but not least, remember to breathe. Taking a few deep breaths prior to the interview can help relieve some of the anxiety that leads to fidgeting or other nervous tics later on.


Ready to practice? Check out these 10 tough practice questions — and sample responses — to nail your next big job interview