10 of the biggest interview #fails

Attending interviews is a nerve wracking experience and a situation where a number of things can go wrong. Sometimes interview mistakes are embarrassing, often they could have been prevented, and some are funny later – even if they weren”t funny at the time! At AdMore recruitment we have nearly 70 years of experience between us and have certainly seen and heard of our fair share of mistakes and blunders. Below are some examples and the names of course have been changed to protect the innocent…

  • Don’t hug the interviewer: – At a previous employer my boss at the time was interviewing for someone to join our team. Having interviewed a number of candidates he selected his preferred individual and organised for them to meet our Managing Director.  At the end of a grueling 90 minute interview, the MD gave the candidate some positive feedback in reception and went to say his goodbyes. Feeling warm and exited about joining the company the candidate shook the MD’s hand and decided to embrace him with a giant man hug! I am glad to say that despite the faux par, the individual was offered a job and did join the business. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t the last time he heard the story at work though!  If the interview is going well and you are getting a good “vibe” you need to make sure you don’t let your emotions get the better of you, maintaining your composure is key. It can be easy to feel comfortable in that situation, lower your guard and perhaps say something you otherwise may not have done.


  • Don’t walk out… One of my colleagues was running an assessment centre on behalf of a client when one of the candidates asked to excuse himself to use the toilet. The candidate failed to reappear after 5 minutes, after another 5 minutes it was agreed someone should go in to check he was ok. Upon entering the toilet the window was open and the candidate was no where to be seen! The shame was that he was actually doing okay. Interviews and assessments are designed to be challenging, to put you through you paces and assess your capability for the role. This means at times it may feel uncomfortable and difficult but you should always try and stay the course. In reality it may not be as bad as you think and unless you stick with it you will never really know.


  • Was that a toilet I heard flushing? –One of my colleagues shared a story from when they were working as an in-house recruiter and were conducting telephone interviews for a mid/senior role in Europe. Towards the end of the interview where they were providing the candidate with some information on the role, they were most disturbed to hear a loud flushing of a toilet in the background, raising some serious questions about what the candidate had just been doing! So make sure you get the environment right! Telephone interviews I think are often difficult and as we have written in a previous blog click here it is all about making sure you have the right environment, free of distractions and interruptions. But please be aware the person on the other end of the phone can hear more than perhaps you realise.


  • Sorry, what did you say your name was? – there is no excuse for getting the interviewers name wrong. With Adams as a surname on more that one occasion I have been referred to throughout the interview as Adam. It really isn’t difficult but you must make sure that you know the person you are meeting. If you are meeting more than one person then you should know all the names. As part of your interview research you should find out as much as you can about that person.


  • Why is no one else wearing a suit?  unfortunately this is probably one of the most common fails. In today’s business world company cultures have a big impact on dress code and it is no longer safe to assume that you should always go in your best suit and tie. Many businesses may have a more casual dress code and failure to wear the appropriate attire may be interpreted as a lack of understanding of their culture. So make sure you find out in advance. The other point of course, is making sure that the standard of dress is correct. You don’t need to go out and buy a new suit every time you have an interview but make sure it is clean and pressed. Unfortunately we received feedback on a candidate recently who arrived at his interview complete with food stains on his tie which again didn’t create the best first impression!


  • I am very sorry but I am calling as I am going to be a little late –The record lateness I have experienced which I hasten to add was based on a legitimate issue on the M25 was 6 hours; fortunately the client had space in her diary to accommodate the candidate. Before you ask, yes she did get the job, her determination clearly impressed! But unfortunately this is also probably one of the most common mistakes. If, for what ever reason, you are held up it is really important that you ring ahead to let the interviewer know. This should be in advance and not 1 minute before you are due to arrive.  Planning and leaving plenty of time will reduce the chance of being caught up in traffic.


  • Sorry but you are a day early – we recently had a candidate who managed to show up a day early despite written confirmation and a call. Sadly it is not that unusual so please remember to check and check again to make sure where you are supposed to be and when.


  • Sorry I forgot to switch my phone off – this happens far more often than it should but let’s face it we have all done it.  But it won’t go down well when the interview is interrupted with your favorite anthem blaring out or your novelty ringtone. I know it is basic but just make sure it doesn’t happen to you.


  • That was in very poor taste – Be very Careful with Humour. A lot of humour is based around taste and what might be funny and acceptable to you may be offensive to the person you are with. So definitely steer clear of anything controversial, it is easy sometimes to ruin a great interview with a throw away comment. I have a few stories on this one but none repeatable here! Some things are best left for the pub.


  • Hey you, that is my parking space –One of my colleagues had an incident where the candidate who was running late ended up cutting up the interviewer who was also running tight for the time in the car park outside of the office. This ended up with the candidate making a rude gesture to an individual unaware that they were the person about to interview them… and no they didn’t get the job.  So don’t forget to be polite and treat everyone in the company as you would the interviewer. Whether that be the receptionist or security guard. These people may be asked for their opinion or make comment to the interviewer on how you have conducted themselves. It is just courteous and polite and your overall behaviour will be noted.



1 thought on “10 of the biggest interview #fails”

  1. Following my blog, I was forwarded this true story which I had to share with you…..just brilliant
    My friend’s office is small-ish and easily accessible, not a
    big office tower with security guards and receptionists.
    So my friend, who was the CEO and founder of his company, was trying to fill a
    mid-level position and had a bunch of interviews set up one after another. Just
    as he was ushering in his next candidate, a golden retriever that had a collar
    but no leash walked in alongside the candidate.
    He was naturally quite bemused but rolled with the punches like a true
    entrepreneur. Interview begins, dog saunters around, doesn’t really bother
    anyone, lies down under the table for a bit and then leaves the room out the
    same door it entered.
    The interview isn’t over yet.
    My friend can’t take it any more. He likes the candidate and the interview was
    otherwise normal so now he bursts out, not angrily but very curiously, with,
    “Why did you think it was normal to bring your dog to an interview?”
    The candidate’s reply was, “My dog? I thought it was your dog! I wanted to
    ask you the same question!”
    Turns out the dog had just been out for a loiter and decided on a whim to
    traipse in an opening door.

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