10 Candidate Mistakes That Instantly Destroy Their Job Chances

Every hiring manager and HR professional has seen this, and they know it to be true. It’s this: Some job candidates do things that simply destroy all chance of you ever hiring them.

CareerBuilder knows this too, and that’s why they do surveys every year on the many things that people do to ruin their chances for a job. Some of these surveys can start to sound redundant after a few years, but this one always seems to get a lot of attention: the 10 Interview Mistakes That Will Instantly Destroy Your Job Chances.

As the press release on the survey by CareerBuilder notes, “Even if you are the best candidate for the job, you can see a potential offer go up in smoke by making avoidable candidate mistakes.”

10 instant candidate mistakes

That’s sad but true, so here are the 10 instant deal breakers for job candidates, according to employers surveyed by CareerBuilder:

  1. Candidate is caught lying about something: 71 percent;
  2. Candidate answers a cell phone or texts during the interview: 67 percent;
  3. Candidate appears arrogant or entitled: 59 percent;
  4. Candidate appears to have a lack of accountability: 52 percent;
  5. Candidate swears: 51 percent;
  6. Candidate dresses inappropriately: 50 percent;
  7. Candidate talks negatively about current or previous employers: 48 percent;
  8. Candidate knows nothing about the job or company: 45 percent;
  9. Candidate has unprofessional body language: 43 percent; and,
  10. Candidate knows nothing about the industry or competitors: 35 percent.

I’ve encountered some of these candidate mistakes as I have recruited, interviewed and hired people over the course of my career, and the one that always jumped out at me was No. 7 — Candidate talks negatively about current or previous employer.

That’s because as most everyone knows, if a candidate will bad mouth a previous employer in an interview, it makes you wonder what will they say about you and your organization the next time they’re looking for a job.

If you don’t know this by now, you should: It NEVER pays to bad mouth anyone as part of your hiring strategy, and that not only goes for candidates but for hiring professionals as well.

The importance of body language 

One twist to this CareerBuilder survey is that they also asked hiring managers and HR professionals to identify “the biggest body language mistakes job seekers make during an interview.” If you’re big on body language as something that tells you more about a job candidate, these 10 things that hiring professionals identified will be interesting to you.

Here are the 10 candidate mistakes in this area that they identified were:

  1. Failure to make eye contact: 68 percent;
  2. Failure to smile: 38 percent;
  3. Playing with something on the table: 36 percent;
  4. Fidgeting too much in his/her seat: 32 percent;
  5. Bad posture: 31 percent;
  6. Crossing their arms over their chest: 31 percent;
  7. Playing with hair or touching one’s face: 26 percent;
  8. Handshake that is too weak: 22 percent;
  9. Using too many hand gestures: 13 percent;
  10. Handshake is too strong: 8 percent.

“There’s a lot riding on an interview — you have to make a great first impression, have knowledge of your target company and its product, and know exactly how to convey that you’re the perfect fit for the job,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, in a press release about the survey. “The best thing you can do for yourself is to prepare and practice everything from your body language to answers to standard interview questions. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so going in well-prepared is key.”

Isn’t this what we want from job interviews?

Here’s something to remember about job interviews: they are a skill that people get better at over time, just like anything else in life. The more someone interviews, the better they are at it, and, the better they come off to hiring managers when they sit down to talk.

In my own experience, I need two or three interviews to get the rust out of my system when I haven’t been interviewing for awhile. No matter how much prep I do, and how much experience I have in interviewing, I always find that it takes me a few times out to really get back on my game.

Many of the body language candidate mistakes that hiring managers identified for CareerBuilder are probably just nervous ticks by people who haven’t gotten their interview groove going again, and that fact manifests itself in these little body language issues.

Anything job interviewers can do to help candidates feel comfortable and at ease will make for a better interview for both parties. And for the hiring pro, it will help them get to the critical issue — is this person someone who can really do this job and benefit my organization?

Isn’t that what we all want to get out of a candidate interview? The better we can do to get the candidate into a comfort zone to show us that, the better hiring decisions we will make, and that’s a win-win for everyone involved.

And, one more thing: This CareerBuilder survey found that nearly half of all employers (49 percent) “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 make up their mind within a half hour or longer.” That’s why it’s even more important that both candidate and hiring professional do whatever they can to make sure their interview gets off on the right foot from the very start.

When that doesn’t happen, it generally leads to bad things that nobody benefits from, aka, the killer candidate mistake.

This survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll for CareerBuilder from Nov. 28 to Dec. 20, 2017 and included a representative sample of 1,014 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes (of which, 888 are in the U.S. private sector).

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John Hollon

John Hollon is Editor of Recruiting Daily. He’s an award-winning journalist and long-time editor who previously served as Editor of Workforce Management magazine, and, was the founding Editor of the noted talent management website TLNT.com. For the past 10 years. John has also served as an adjunct professor in the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton. He has also recruited, hired, and managed a hell of a lot of people. Find him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter at @johnhollon, or contact him directly at [email protected].




John Hollon is Editor of Recruiting Daily. He’s an award-winning journalist and long-time editor who previously served as Editor of Workforce Management magazine, and, was the founding Editor of the noted talent management website TLNT.com. For the past 10 years. John has also served as an adjunct professor in the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton. He has also recruited, hired, and managed a hell of a lot of people. Find him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter at @johnhollon, or contact him directly at [email protected].

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