7 Things NOT To Do in an Interview (I Didn’t Think I Had to Tell You)

Other than to say I did NOT make this stuff up, my lips are sealed as to how I came up with this list of things you shouldn’t do in an interview (both to protect the innocent and me). But seriously…when it comes to interviews, did I have to tell you not to do any of this?

What You Should NEVER Do in a Job Interview

  • Please…I beg of you…don’t come to an interview if you haven’t bathed or brushed your teeth! If anyone thinks I’m kidding, I’m not. While this may seem absolutely obvious to almost everyone, I assure you, there are some folks who may not realize this matters. And if you are one of them…it absolutely does! You don’t have to come dressed like a fashion plate – in fact probably a good idea not to unless it’s some snazzy high-fashion job – and even then, less may be more. Tasteful, well-groomed, bathed…I think this pretty much says it.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer! Even if you think you get where they’re going and have the most brilliant answer ever to their interview question, this is one of the most annoying things you can do. Give them a chance to finish. And at least do your best to maintain eye contact and show you are listening intently – and are very interested in and respectful of the person speaking.
  • Don’t take off on your own and answer a question that wasn’t asked. Following up on the previous “don’t”, you may think you know where they’re going, but they may throw you a curve ball. Or, in your nervousness or desire to make all your practiced points, you may in fact miss the point. I’ve seen people going off on tangents that may be interesting enough, but it  showed me they weren’t really listening. Listen carefully and be right there in the moment – and not racing ahead to your answer or thinking of next questions. It’s probably the best thing you can do for yourself in an interview. (Other than bathing.) Of course, if there is a related key strength you want to tell them about, there may be a way to fit that into your answer, as long as you don’t go on and on. But first…answer the question.
  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne. I hope I don’t need to explain this, but if I do…first, some people find perfumes or colognes offensive – worse yet, some people may be allergic.  They don’t belong in an interview…except maybe (once again tastefully done) if you are interviewing at the company that makes the product, I guess. Once again, bathing / showering will pretty much do the trick here.
  • Don’t go heavy on the make-up. (To be gender neutral, this goes for men or women.) The closer to natural you look, the more the real you can shine through.  To be candid, I have to admit now I haven’t used make-up for years, but if you do use it, artfully applied it can be a real asset. But too much and too bold…well, some employers will see it as a sign that you are more about looks and surface things than business. This general “don’t” can be adapted to how you dress, of course.
  • No gum, no candy – nothing in your mouth except teeth (hopefully) and other nature-given stuff.  You’re there to speak and listen – without anything else going on in there. Once again, you want to show you are about the business and not your own comfort or habits. I recently read that maybe you should even think twice about bringing your own coffee. (I’m not sure about that one – unless your choice of coffee sends the wrong message. ;-)  If anyone read that article, I’d love the link.) Of course, if you’re offered coffee, tea or water, by all means feel free to accept. I myself do bring a bottle of water with me and I believe it has never hurt, but I’m open to hearing otherwise if someone wants to chime in here.  Oh…and while you probably shouldn’t bring much of anything in with you (other than anything the employer requested), one thing you SHOULD remember to bring is a few copies of your resume, just in case. (I read some people even bring their relatives with them…ewww. Again I would love the link.)
  • Don’t listen to your iPod, play video games, make cell phone calls, etc. while waiting to be interviewed. Take care of all that before you come in the door of the building.  Or, if you really need to make IMPORTANT calls while you wait, ask if you may use a private area to do so. Just like with dating, impressions form quickly. Watching someone dial a bunch of friends or play video games while waiting, leaves the impression the person will be doing that during their workday too. Since you are there to present yourself as a capable, serious candidate, start your presentation from the moment you walk in.  Impressions you leave can last well beyond the day of the interview. And you never know whom you run into on the elevator or even as you enter the building.  After the interview, maintain your best interview attitude until you are away from the building.

Hope that helps. Of course, there are many more things I could tell you not to do (and pray I don’t have to), but for now I think these are enough.

Please feel free to add your own don’ts as well as any exceptions you can think of; I’m sure they exist. Stories from real interviews would be great!

Some related posts you might find helpful:

10 Impressions You Leave Behind After a Job Interview

18 Practical Tips to Help You Ace that Interview

The Single Most Important Thing in Any Job Interview

15 Things I Look for When I Interview People

10 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job

Job Interviews: Where Do You See Yourself Five Years From Now?

Job Interviews: What’s Your Greatest Weakness?

Job Interviews: What’s Your Greatest Strength?

How to Answer Why You Left Your Last Job When You Actually Quit

=> Browse the Career Dictionary <=


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. When I was a team leader interview for a vacancy I had a lady come in for an interview who smelt & looked like a bag lady complete with bags. I couldn’t believe it.

    I actually had a job interview today & I think I might have interrupted (politely mind) the interviewer a couple of times…. Doh!

    • chandlee says:


      Thanks for sharing your experience in your interview as a team leader — it is a good reminder on the importance of hygiene and professionalism in the job search. One strategy I’ve used when traveling for job interviews is to find a hotel close by where you can check bags.

      As for politely interrupting the interview, sometimes it isn’t all bad — especially if they have misunderstood your experience and you were setting them back on course. When this does happen, it’s even more important to follow-up with a thank you note.

      Good luck,

  2. Hi…quick question… I had an interview… I have no idea what the pay is. When is it appropriate to ask/find out? If they they make an offer?

    • chandlee says:

      Hi Stephanie,

      Yes, the best — and what I suggest is the only time — to ask about pay — is when an offer is extended. (They will tell you). The site Glassdoor.com has information on salaries by company and job title that have been submitted by employees. That site may help you get some gauge on what they may pay.

      Good luck!


  3. Hi Everyone,

    I am very happy found this website. It is great!
    I have not seen anyone with this issue yet, but here it goes.

    Is there anyone, after an interview, next day matter of fact, thinking,
    “Oh did I answer that right?” ” Was I too comfortable?” ” Was I too relaxed?”
    or ” Why didn’t I say that, or this etc..” Oh man only if I can redo this I know I could have…
    Should of, Could of and would have… Too little, too late. Feeling?

    But here is crazy thought too, Right after my interview, I felt really really good , as if I have already got the job feeling.
    I saw five out seven guys in the room smiled, nod and even made a small comments,.

    So all of you who have had this share your thoughts with me, would you? I am having
    like that article, ” After interview OCD” By the way this is the job (Government job) I have wanted for so long.
    I either got too excited and made an ass of my self, or I jsut felt so dang good, but now all those above things sinking in, So what gives…..

    Thanks guys,,


    • Ro,

      Nothing bad with feeling this way. Sometimes it happens like that, and you get the job!

      Keep us posted and let us know what happens.

      All the Best,

      • Thank you Chandlee.

        I am much better and getting over those should of, would of…. OCD
        I thought of how lucky I am at least I got a call for an interview, that others didn’t.

        If this job does come through for me that would be Super, but I will keep try till the right one comes along…

        Thank you again,

  4. Hi, I have an interview coming up and I know that there will be a bunch of us in a room and they will call people in one-by-one, and the wait can be quite long!
    I was just wondering, is it appropriate to bring a book to read while waiting? I am a university student and have a lot of reading to get done! It would be a book for one of my courses.
    The job is for camp counselor by the way.

    • Katrina,

      If the job is for a camp counselor and you are a student, it is certainly appropriate to read a book that you are studying for one of your courses as you wait to interview.

      All the Best,

  5. Hi,
    You said you usually bring a bottle of water, is it okay if you drink it during the interview? I have this problem with my amygdalas and my throat dries when I speak for too long, so i always need to take a zip of drink.

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Hi Sophie,

      It should be OK. If it’s not OK, you probably wouldn’t be happy working there, anyway.

      Good luck with your job search!

  6. should there be eye contact b/w the interviewer nd the candidate?

  7. Had an interview and when it was done I feel that an answer I gave was not taken in right context. What should I do?

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Hi Greg,

      When you send your thank you to that interviewer, clarify the context for your answer very briefly. Try to clear up any confusion without makeing a “big deal” out of it. Like, “By the way, when I mentioned…” or something low key but short and as clear as possible.

      If you’ve already sent your thank you, send this as “a follow up to clarify” your answer to that question.

      Hope this works out for you!

      Good luck with your job search!

  8. Hi,

    I recently had a job interview where my interviewing in general came up. I had been laid off but given a month to stay at the company. This allowed me to apply as an internal candidate until the month’s end. When I interviewed for the job it was after the month ended and the hiring manager wanted to discuss how I could be an internal one moment and an external the next. Of course this led to talking about interviewing and he wanted to know what other places I had been looking at.

    Later in the discussion, we were talking about animation and I had mentioned that I had seen what our animators were doing recently. Since the building the animators are in is locked down to even internals, there would only be two reasons I was there – interviewing or I actually worked with them. Since we both knew this, I was honest that I had been there for interviews. The hiring manager immediately seemed turned off and yet kept pressing me for details. I explained that after 6 interviews, I didn’t get the job and that it was a while ago. I tried to get out of that situation as quickly as possible, but I knew I had stepped into some serious do-do.

    This is the worst interview I have ever been on and I certainly learned from it. However, my question is what do you do when an employer asks you about the places you have been interviewing with? What do you do when they press you for information? When you are laid off they know you are interviewing, so how do you handle this without letting out too much information? And in my specific case, as I interview for more internal jobs as an external employee, how do I best address the situation?

    Any help would be great!

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Hi Tracy,

      I think the best thing to do when asked about previous interviews is to be a vague as possible. It really isn’t the interviewer’s business where you have been interviewing. Hopefully, you won’t be asked this question again, or, if you are, you won’t have this kind of response.

      Check with HR, if you can, to see what information is available to an interviewer or hiring manager. Perhaps ask them what an appropriate response should be.

      I don’t understand the whole situation, obvously, but it’s not clear what you could have done differently.

      Good luck with your job search!

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