The Position Has Been Filled:
20 Ways to BOMB an Interview

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Ways to Bomb an Interview


Although I would love to be a full-time, country club-patronizing, mimosa-sipping, fashion-blogging debutante, I do have a day job. A very mentally-taxing day job. My wealth management firm is recruiting, expanding to multiple satellite offices, and presenting more and more professional growth opportunities for me, which is absolutely wonderful… except for the fact that quality help is really hard to find these days.

I never realized the notion that individual levels of integrity and earnest diligence could vary, ummm, dramatically until our previous employment experimentation (aka failure). Since then, I’ve been put in charge of spearheading all hiring procedures and HR policies. From posting the position on various job sites to filtering through thousands of resumes to conducting preliminary and final interviews, I’ve witnessed just about every cardinal mistake a candidate or temporary hire can make. Instead of trying to verbalize an imaginary sure-fire formula for getting every job you apply for, it’s much more entertaining to outline what won’t work– and yes, all of these interview-bombing no-no’s have been witnessed personally.

Here is a guaranteed list of 20 ways to bomb an interview and definitely not get hired for the job you want:


1. Keep your middle school email.

If your email is [email protected], I’ll give you $5 if you get a positive email response from any business that has a decent score with the Better Business Bureau and/or doesn’t deal in adult entertainment. Not upgrading to a grown-up email address reflects negatively upon your maturity, business acumen, and overall intelligence, and it’s one of the most needless ways to bomb an interview.

2. Don’t bother proofreading, revising, or updating your resume and/or cover letter.

If you really want a position, you need to transform yourself as closely as possible into their ideal candidate. Using myself as an example, I taught preschool all throughout college. I genuinely cherished my time in education, and I even strongly considered changing my major from Actuarial Science to Early Childhood Education and Research. However, I now work in the risk management and operations department of finance, and competing financial firms looking to a hire another version of me just don’t care about Genesis Christian Preschool. They want to hear about my experience with statistical programming at UCF and my previous position with MetLife Securities. Highlight your relevant experience and eliminate anything that could potentially muddle such relevant experience.

Another common mistake is mentioning any experience in bartending, promo modeling, or any other stereotypical non-academic, college aged-affiliated job. Sorry, although customer service is technically a component of your previous stretch of employment, that doesn’t seem to impress anyone when you’re entering a professional office environment– and the fact that you think that it does is a deterrent.

3. Dress for the job you have, not the job you want.

Yes, this well-known “dress for success” adage was intentionally flipped. First impressions are everything, plain and simple, and of all the ways to bomb an interview, this is the easiest mistake to control. If you’re coming to any interview in sandals with a low-cut top and jeans, you’re not dressing for the job you supposedly want. When in doubt, always over-dress. Black is a great neutral color, so assemble an ensemble of black dress pants, flats, and a semi-formal top to ensure you’re not offensively neglecting their dress code. If you feel in the slightest bit under-dressed in your first interview, make it a point to come over-dressed for your follow-up interview.

4. Call the interviewer “bae” and tell them you LOL-ed so hard when Crazy Eyes went HAM on OITNB.

Watch your language, and don’t call people “bae.” There are literally 3 people in the universe who can provoke a response from me personally using such greeting, and I can assure you, a job candidate isn’t one of them. No ebonics, no internet abbreviations, ever. You need to present yourself as an articulate, well-mannered professional, and improper grammar and speech don’t fit the mold. The only exception is if you’re using professionally appropriate acronyms or terminology, which can actually be impressive.

5. Have no idea what position you’re interviewing for.

Do your research. Know the company, know the position, and be prepared to ask questions when prompted to (and if you’re not prompted to, your interviewer has poor interviewing skills). Insider tip– two of my personal favorite questions are “What do you know about our firm?” and “What do you think will challenge you most in this position?” Asking these designated homework questions is the best way to gauge how interested and prepared a candidate really is.

6. Avoid eye contact.

This is the ultimate pet peeve of one of my bosses, who prides himself on assessing the non-verbal. Avoiding eye contact shows a lack of confidence, personality, and communication skills. If you have more than one interviewer, be sure to address everyone in the room when you speak or answer a question. This is something that took me multiple 5-to-7 person panel pageant interviews to master– but it’s easy once you get the hang of it. Begin to answer the question directly to whomever asked it and then, as you expound on your answer, gradually pan and acknowledge the other participants, as well, eventually returning to the original speaker. You’ll keep the entire room engaged and eager to ask more questions.

7. Cry.

Appearing desperate and/or emotionally unstable isn’t really a plus on a candidate scoring rubric. Avoid discussing topics which could be sensitive– and avoid immediately labeling yourself as the “dramatic candidate.” Although your emotion could be completely genuine and heartfelt, a standard HR Department will associate your tears with instability, and unless their candidate pool is slim pickens, you’ll be out of the running.

8. Play on your cell phone mid-interview.

There are two very important components to this mistake. 1. Playing on your phone implies that you’re bored. It’s not cool that you’re bored, and it’s an unfavorable indication of how often you’ll be chit chatting or Facebook stalking while you’re at work. 2. You don’t have the wherewithal to wear a watch to a professional interview. I often get criticized for being so strict about this particular grievance of mine, but in my opinion the absence of a watch is a potential warning of technological dependency. When you’re in front of clients, pulling out a phone, even to check the time, is not acceptable, nor should it ever be.

9. Ask if and when there will be a drug test.

And now for some legal ways to bomb an interview… don’t ask if there will be a drug test. I feel like an explanation shouldn’t be necessary. Also, Google yourself to make sure your mug shot doesn’t come up. If it does, get yourself an attorney. Stat.

10. Lie about virtually all of your past employment history.

Sure, it’s tempting to embellish accomplishments and milestones on your resume, and I’m not saying I’ve never been guilty of it myself. Just be prepared for an HR officer to do their due diligence and fact check. While I rely on professional references to substantiate professional claims, one of my bosses will actually take it a step further to Google you, ask for silent feedback via your connections on LinkedIn, and verify the state’s recognition of the businesses you’ve allegedly worked for through He doesn’t play, and one recognized falsification will lead to the immediate File 13-ing of your resume.

11. Tell them you can’t think of any questions and you’ll be awaiting their call.

Not being proactive shows a serious lack of initiative and is the worst possible way to conduct your job search. You don’t have to obnoxiously call every day for a hiring update, but a Thank You card and follow-up email within one week of your initial interview go a very long way . These gestures say a lot about your desire factor and tenacity, and they can only lead to a more positive and lasting impression of  you. After a week has passed, it’s absolutely appropriate to call to politely inquire about the position and any potential next steps.

12. Smack talk your current or previous co-workers.

If you openly bad mouth the people you currently or have previously worked with, odds are you’ll do the same in your prospective work environment. Even if you’re asked something like, “Describe a conflict you’ve had with a coworker,” still tread lightly. Those questions are asked primarily to see how diplomatic you can be and how well–or poorly– you deal with competition and conflict resolution.

13. Apply for an entry-level retail position with imminent plans to obtain your PhD in Physics.

It’s not that ambition is a bad thing, but most employers are looking for loyalty and longevity to improve employee retention. If  you make it blatantly obvious that you have bigger and better opportunities in your immediate sights, why would a company waste the time and resources training you, knowing full well you’ll jump at the next best opportunity? Either refrain from interviewing for positions that aren’t satisfying or commit to being open and honest about your time line. Although the likelihood of getting hired will drop, at least you’ll still have your integrity (and potential new professional references) in tact.

14. Apply for a senior-level position with your top reference clearly being one of your parents.

If you’re going to falsify professional references, make sure their last name doesn’t match yours. Better yet, don’t falsify professional references. Surely you can list your academic advisor or a former professor instead, and even if you’re unsure of what they’ll say if contacted, at least you’re preventing one of the quickest pre-interview ways to bomb an interview.

15. Never, under any circumstances, smile.

Dwight Schrute said it best– smiling is a sign of weakness. Well, FALSE. 9 times out of 10, if you make it to an in-person interview, the company is really looking forward to meeting and getting to know you! Don’t take yourself too seriously. Smile, be yourself, and laugh when something is funny. Even a nervous giggle or cackle is better than no signs of emotion or personality at all.

16. Show up an hour late. or early.

I feel like being late is one of the most obvious ways to bomb an interview before it even starts, but most people don’t realize that showing up awkwardly early is equally as frustrating. The pressure of knowing someone is waiting for you in the lobby induces stress, and that’s the last thing you want to do to a potential interviewer who’s about to assess your ability to contribute constructively to a team. If you’re anything like me, being late scares the heck out of you, so show up as early as you want; collect your thoughts, review what you’d like to say, and sit in your car until 5-10 minutes before your scheduled interview time.

17. Ask your interviewer personal probing questions.

I’ve been with my firm for over 5 years– essentially right out of college, so my personal interview tribulations are primarily pageant-related. One time I asked about my feelings about youth and volunteering, and I clearly offended my interviewer by responding with something along the lines of, “Of course I think our society is severely devoid of community outreach! I mean, isn’t that one of the core values of this organization? What programs are you involved with?” I’m not sure what prompted me to ask him what he was involved with (probably nerves, who knows), but he didn’t like it. He went on for 45+ seconds of my 9-minute interview about how family time is more important to him than anything else, and some people just don’t have the time in their schedules to volunteer as much as others, since quality family time is also devoid in modern society. Yea, awko. If at all possible, avoid asking about people’s personal lives and hobbies until you’ve established some sort of personal bond with them. Keep it professional until you reach that affable threshold.

18. Initiate salary negotiations in your first interview.

Confidence is a wonderful thing; cockiness is not. Don’t ever assume you’re getting the position by talking compensation or bonuses prematurely. In the preliminary interview stages, the company wants to get to know you– not engage in salary negotiations. It’s tacky and uncomfortable, especially when an interviewer hasn’t even begun to discuss your prior work experience, priorities, and/or the possibility of scheduling a follow-up interview. In the second or third interviews, it’s definitely okay to plant seeds about your salary expectations or needs, but ultimately you should wait until the company presents you with a formal offer before demanding the details of your potential employment contract. Otherwise, it’s just kind of rude and indicative of a lack of self-awareness, which is one of the most valuable facets of leadership competency and qualifies as one of the Class A ways to bomb an interview.

19. Chew gum.

Although some intellectual progressives will say this rule is antiquated, you should’ve learned and adopted this guideline in speech class. Chewing gum distracts your audience from listening to how awesome you are. Plus, it’s just a well-known inappropriate professional behavior for an interview, and if you don’t have the sense to not chew gum in an interview, there’s a 100% change you’d have no issue smacking your gum and blowing bubbles in front of clients or prospects, too.

20. Keep your phone on high volume.

Probably the funniest thing that I encountered during our latest hiring adventure involved a candidate who forgot to turn her phone on silent. I think having “F*ckin’ Problems” as your musical ringtone is downright hilarious, but I can guarantee anyone over 40 wouldn’t share my amusement. Be polite and show respect for the peacefulness and professionalism of their work environment by ensuring your phone is turned off, on silent, or on vibrate.


If you’re no stranger to job searches or hiring adventures, please don’t hesitate to let me know any valuable and/or comical information I left out. From any interviewer’s perspective, I’d like to know the hilariously wide spectrum– personal anecdotes encouraged– of interview bombing experiences witnessed first hand. Also, interviewers have their own set of unique ways to bomb an interview and turn candidates off, like, say, hitting on your interviewee, so I’m obviously eager to hear those, as well!





5 thoughts on “The Position Has Been Filled:
20 Ways to BOMB an Interview

  1. Beeb

    Once upon a time, I received a resume to review where the applicant had misspelled the name of the position they were applying for. Yes, proofreading counts! The ringtone story is cracking me up!

  2. Layne

    I love this list! I laughed out loud at number one. Such a simple thing can make job hunting so much harder!


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