7 Ways to Wreck Your Next Job Interview

A train wreck—a maroon train car laying sideways off the track.

(And what to do instead)

Clint Hankinson,

Director of Marketing,


AFTER SUBMITTING DOZENS of job applications, weaving your way through multiple applicant-tracking systems, and agonizing over too many rejection emails, you’ve landed an interview…with a real person…with one of your top organizations!

Great job! But don’t drop your guard. The exciting work is just beginning.

You now have the opportunity to show why you’re the best candidate for the job. Commit to bringing your best presentation of your passion, skills, and experience to the interview. If you don’t…if you assume the interview will be easy or won’t require your full commitment…you’re likely to turn it into a train wreck!

No one wants that. So here are seven ways you can unintentionally wreck your interview—and what to do instead.

1. Go Unprepared

Failing to research the company (website, LinkedIn, GlassDoor), and/or the job position is a fatal mistake. Your lack of research communicates disinterest or laziness, or both. If you can’t share examples of how your experience directly relates to the position, you’ve clearly chosen not to prepare.


Take your research seriously. Other candidates will take their research very seriously. If you want to stand above them, you need to prepare well! Practice your answers to common interview questions. Research realistic salary expectations. Watch interview help videos from recruiter and coaches.

2. Show Up Late

When you’re late, it shows disrespect for the hiring manager and a perceived lack of interest in the position. On very rare occasions, something unforeseen can legitimately affect your ability to make the interview on time. But the vast majority of time, it’s no one’s fault but yours. Commit to being on time.


Treat the interview with the importance it deserves. Make sure your calendar has the required cushion, and that your interview isn’t squeezed in between other commitments. If it’s scheduled in the early morning, set your alarm clock in order to give you plenty of time to prepare. Account for heavy traffic. Be at the interview location at least 10 minutes prior to the interview time. That will ensure that you have time for parking, security checks, and any other small issues.

3. Criticize or Speak Negatively About Former Employers or Colleagues

Criticizing others, even when you feel it’s justified, is always a terrible idea. It makes you look small, and makes the interviewer wonder if they’ll be the next one on your list—and if maybe you’ve been the cause of the drama you’re complaining about.


Highlight the positive features of your previous roles. Don’t offer additional details if not asked. Show your gratitude for those who gave you work opportunities throughout your career.

4. Demonstrate Low Energy

People want to hire other people who’re excited about the opportunity. If you walk into an interview appearing tired, depressed, or uninterested, you’ve essentially eliminated yourself from consideration. You’re giving the impression that you would take more energy from the team than you’d give to them.


Be excited about the job and the ways that you want to help the company grow. It’s okay if it isn’t your dream job—view this position as one that will sharpen your skills and give you the chance to make a noticeable impact. Do that, and you’ll vastly improve your chances of securing an even greater position in the future.

5. Fail to Ask Questions

Strong questions not only help you to determine if the job is a good fit for you, they also demonstrate your diligence in preparing and your interest in the role itself. Asking no questions—or worse, asking questions that are only self-serving—can shut down your chances of moving on.


List thoughtful questions to present, either during the interview, or at the conclusion. Ask about the organization’s culture, the supervisor’s leadership style, and the performance expectations you would be pursuing in the first 90 days, six months, and first year. Show the interviewer that you’re primarily interested in making a positive contribution to the organization.

6. Be Easily Distracted

Focus on the interviewer and your conversation. If you let yourself get distracted thinking about the to-do list you’ve got to get back to after the interview, or about topics that don’t relate to the position, or about notifications on your cell phone, you’ll show the interviewer that you’re unable to focus on the work at hand. That will no doubt disqualify you from further consideration.


Beforehand, rehearse in your mind how you hope the interview will go. Focus on performing your best in demonstrating your interest and qualifications for the position. And, for heaven’s sake, turn off your phone before walking into the interview!

7. Be Self-Centered

Remember that the hiring company does NOT exist for the purpose of giving you a job. They’re trying to achieve a mission and are paying people to help them achieve it. You certainly have compensation needs that you should look after, but elevating your own needs far above those of the organization will leave a very bad taste in the mouth of the hiring manager.


Review the job description and match each point with a story of how you successfully helped a previous employer achieve the same desired result. Communicate your buy-in to the organization’s mission and how you’re excited to help their team reach their goals.


Congratulations on securing your interview! Prepare well and walk into the interview with energy and enthusiasm. You’ve got this!