Most job applicants work hard to make a great first impression during their initial interview. They're polished, polite, well-versed in the company and the role, and have excellent answers for common (and not-so-common) interview questions.
Unfortunately, some candidates begin to show their true colors as they get to the second- or third-round interview. They get comfortable and assume that, because they've made it this far, they're a shoe-in for the job -- and this overconfidence can lead to some obvious slip-ups.
We asked 12 members of Young Entrepreneur Council about their biggest interview turnoffs as a candidate progresses through the hiring process. From revealing lies to boasting about other offers, here are some faux pas that anyone should avoid if they want to get an offer.
These entrepreneurs share interview mistakes that could cost you the job.
1. Bad-Mouthing A Former Employer
As surprising as it might seem, there is no dearth of potential candidates who don’t think twice before bad-mouthing their previous employers. Think of it as an unwritten rule -- you should never bad-mouth a previous or existing employer during an interview. This may well be the only reason you fail in an otherwise great interview. Even if what you plan to say is true, refrain from saying it to a prospective employer. When asked why you want to quit your last job or are looking for a change, make sure you come up with a tactful reason that explains your move. Otherwise, your interviewer will view you as not being mature enough or someone who might speak ill of the company at a later stage. Bad-mouthing your ex-colleagues comes across as being unprofessional as well. - Derek Robinson, Top Notch Dezigns
2. Exaggerating Or Misrepresenting Their Expertise
When I'm hiring for a technical position, I want to know about the interviewee's experience and their problem-solving skills. Experience with a particular programming language, application or hardware system is often important. It's a huge red flag when it becomes clear that the interviewee exaggerated in their resume. In the later stages of the hiring process, we have in-depth discussions about specific technologies, and it's obvious when people have misrepresented their expertise. It's also counterproductive because I'm really more interested in their problem-solving abilities. I'd rather hire a less-experienced person with the capacity to learn than someone who is dishonest. - Justin Blanchard, ServerMania Inc.
3. Not Taking Responsibility For Past Shortcomings
When I look for the perfect candidate for a position at my company, I'm looking for someone who not only can do the job, but who will be a positive addition to the culture. One of my biggest interview turnoffs in later rounds is when the candidate doesn't take accountability when reviewing past unsuccessful outcomes. It's OK to miss a number or have a short stint at a past job, but be honest about it and be mindful of how you share those experiences. Putting others down shows me you'll bring a negative attitude to the organization, which is an immediate pass from me. Plus, if you forget to send a thank-you note, the hiring managers notice -- trust me! That goes such a long way in staying top of mind when it comes to making that final decision. - Suneera Madhani, Fattmerchant
4. Lack Of Ambition
We like to hire hungry and aggressive team members. Most candidates seem aggressive in the first interview but they will shy away toward the end. I've spoken to many entrepreneurs who notice the same thing. My advice for candidates would be to stay in contact with the employer, follow up thoroughly, continue to do research about the company and improve your skills for the position. You will have a much better chance of getting hired, especially in a startup. - Brandon Stapper, Nonstop Signs
5. Not Following Up On A Promise
We recently went through a lengthy interview process to hire a VP at our company. We interviewed several highly qualified candidates who each had impressive resumes. All were well-spoken, organized and brought tremendous experience to our small company. It was difficult to compare the finalists to each other because they were both excellent in their own ways. One candidate, however, during early interviews offered to deliver a one-page summary of what they could bring to our company. We never followed up and waited to see if it would be produced. The candidate never came forward with such a document and thankfully, gave us a reason to set the finalists apart from each other. If this candidate was not able to follow up now, we were alerted of what to expect in the future. - Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors
6. No Change From Earlier Rounds
When you bring someone in for an interview, that's an important kick-off point in their relationship with your company. You get a feel for them and they get a feel for you -- but that's just a start. If you're bringing them back for later rounds, they should know more about your company, have more deeply insightful questions about the role and have refined their thinking about how and why they'd be a good fit. If that hasn't happened, it shows a lack of curiosity and enthusiasm. If their development at the company is static during the hugely pivotal interview process, it's almost certainly going to stay that way once they've settled in. - Tim Chaves, ZipBooks Accounting Software
7. Responding With Indifference
Candidates often believe that playing it cool will make them more attractive to employers. In reality, it is a terrible strategy. Interview processes are long and arduous. Hiring managers want a quick and enthusiastic "yes" from their top candidate once they have reached the final stage. But when an offer is met with indifference (think comments such as, "I need a few days to think it over" and/or "I have other offers on the table"), it is a massive turnoff. From the employer's perspective, extending a job offer is kind of like proposing marriage. Imagine being down on one knee, presenting a ring, only to be told by the potential spouse that they can't accept right away because they have other suitors out there and they need to think about it. It sounds silly, but it's true. - Jackie Ducci, Ducci & Associates
8. Asking About Work-Life Balance
I understand that work-life balance is a necessary component to having a happy team. However, the overemphasis of work-life balance from the interviewee tends to portend a negative outcome. When we hear mentions of that in the interview process it becomes a memorable sticking point. Instead of the interviewee making generalizations about work-life balance or drawing indirect boundaries, specific questions or statements have a much better perception. The statement, "Work-life balance is important to me" in our interview committees is often interpreted as, "I don't want to work too much." A question like, "How often are employees expected to work on a project at night or on a weekend?" is a better way of approaching the topic. - Stephen Hetzel, BidPrime
9. Not Following Up After Each Interview Round
Proper follow-up after an interview is critical. While multiple follow-ups are not necessary, a brief email, phone call or, in some cases, a text are really necessary for our company to consider a candidate. It is not simply manners but genuine interest in the position that this gesture displays. An interview without a follow-up to discuss items left unsaid or even just to check if we need sample work or additional materials does not bode well for the future performance of any position. We value highly the follow-up on all tasks in our business, and if candidates do not follow up on an interview, it speaks to their future performance value. - Matthew Capala, Alphametic
10. Lack Of Engagement With The Outside World
I'm wary of a candidate who doesn't seem curious about people. I always ask about hobbies or the last book they read. These questions give me a sense of what's important to them and how they're engaging with the outside world. I want to make sure I'm not bringing an automaton to the team. Our company is about helping regular people -- I need folks on my team who can relate to our customers and draw on their own life experiences to solve problems we haven't considered yet. - Sean Harper, Kin Insurance
11. Simply Answering Questions, Rather Than Having A Conversation
One big faux pas for me is when an interviewee answers my questions and just keeps waiting for the next question to roll up. I frankly don't like one-sided interviews and I don't like the feeling of pulling teeth to have a normal conversation -- I want the candidates to interview us as a company as well. By not doing so, it tells me that they're only interested in getting a job and getting paid, rather than joining a company for its culture and how they can contribute to the bigger goal. When I don't feel like we're getting interviewed, I lose interest in the candidate immediately because I question their true motives for wanting to work at WANDR. - Jinny Hyojin Oh, WANDR
12. Mentioning Competing Offers
Interviews are a sales function and every good candidate will be running a parallel process with other companies. But they should not be touting it, and especially not stating overtly that they're being offered a specific competing package. Just as the interviewer is seeing other candidates, an employer wouldn't quote functional differences between the candidates to the candidates themselves. A prospective employee doing this shows bad judgment and a lack of passion for your company mission. - Fan Bi, Menswear Reviewed
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of the world's most successful entrepreneurs 40 and younger. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year and have created tens of thous... MORE