Hiring teams have likely had more experience interacting with job candidates than the other way around. Through these interactions they’ve built both positive and negative impressions of the job seekers they interact with. I’m interested in hearing from those involved in the hiring process, whether HR pros, recruiters, hiring managers or members of the interview team. What should you know about the things that job candidates do to turn them off? Here’s a list of 10 hiring team turnoffs during the interview process.
Job candidates obviously want to put their best feet forward during the interview process. But there can be too much of a good thing! Emily Cheng, an engineering manager at Logo.com has done a lot of interviewing throughout her career in tech and says: “Nothing is a bigger hiring turnoff than a candidate who believes they know everything already and don’t have anything to learn.” It’s a huge turnoff, she says, “when people focus entirely on what they know, rather than on what they want to learn, what challenges them, and what they find difficult.”
There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, says Nick Kamboj, CEO of Aston & James, LLC. “An interviewee should be confident and empathetic, not arrogant,” he says. “While I or the interviewing committee values confidence, when a candidate proceeds to tell me that they know more about my company or the industry then I do, it is a red flag.” Regardless of the amount of knowledge a candidate may have about the company, position or industry, there is always so much more to learn, says Kamboj.
Closely related to know-it-alls are candidates that attempt to take over the interview. “This is a very bad tactic, especially during a group interview,” says Kamboj. “I have had situations where the interviewee was so over the top that I, or the hiring team, actually stopped the interview mid-stride and thanked the candidate for their time. Needless to say, disruptive and controlling candidates received the ‘ding’ letter or email very soon after their interview.”
Early-birds and late arrivals
You’ve likely heard it pays to be prompt when it comes to interviewing but, says Brenda Della Casa, founder of BDC Digital Media, it’s possible to be too prompt. “We know lateness is a no-no, but when you arrive 30 minutes early you place pressure on the team to speed up what they are doing so that you are not sitting in the lobby too long,” says Della Casa. Her recommendation: don’t arrive more than 10 minutes prior to your interview time.
Also read: Video Interview Tips: 11 Dos and Don’ts
Showing up without a printed resume
Della Casa admits that she may be “old-fashioned,” but recommends candidates show up with several copies of their resume. “It shows the interviewer that you thought ahead and that you’re organized,” she says. “It’s also a great asset if a C-level exec decides to pop in and say ‘hi’ during your interview.”
Lack of Poise and Self-Awareness
“Whether it’s showing up in sloppy clothing or with unkempt hair, not thinking about your body language—or actual language, such as the woman who cursed in her interview—you need to think about your personal brand and what messages you’re sending across the table,” says Della Casa.
Body language may also send signals that candidates may not have intended. Crossing their arms over their chests, frowning, or shaking their head while interviewers are asking questions, send negative signals says Kamboj. He also recommends that candidates watch their language. “I have interviewed many candidates who quite simply use either archaic terminology, who use culturally insensitive verbiage or who demonstrate gender bias,” he says. “This immediately sends red flags to me.”
It’s never a good idea to bad mouth former managers, colleagues, or companies, says Lars Herrem, group executive director at Nigel Wright Group, a recruitment agency in Europe. “Candidates using interviews as a platform to badmouth their previous or current employer is unlikely to go down well,” says Herrem. “It’s only likely to raise concerns for the hiring manager around the candidate’s attitude and the unspoken intention behind why they’re looking for a new role.” Instead, Herrem recommends, candidates should “focus their attention on describing the positive aspects of the new position that drove them to apply.”
Asking questions that are too self-serving
It’s a good idea to have questions prepared to ask interviewers once the formal interview is over. But some questions are better than others. John Light, a partner with Evolving TalentGroup, says: “Early in my recruiting career I had several candidates get passed on simply for asking about work-life balance. It is not an invalid question by any means, but interviewers have often shared that it hits them as if the candidate is not interested in working beyond a 40-hour work week or going the extra mile.” Instead, he suggests, ask what “a day in the life” of a person in that position might look like. That will get you the information you’re seeking in a much less self-centered way.
Not recognizing that everything is part of the interview
Rich Franklin is founder and president of KBC Staffing. Candidates need to understand that everything is part of the interview process, he says. “I once finished interviewing a candidate who nailed the interview. I was ready to hire her,” Franklin recalls. Unfortunately for that candidate, after the interview the secretary mentioned that she had been rude before starting the formal interview process. “I let her know later that day that we were pursuing other candidates,” says Franklin.
Failure to follow up
“I am shocked when someone does not send a follow-up email,” says Della Casa. “It’s just lazy.”
While it’s no longer a complete turn-off when candidates follow up using email rather than snail-mailing a traditional thank-you note, not following up at all is a definite no-no—even if you’re no longer interested in the job. There may be other jobs down the road that are a better fit. It always pays to make a good impression.
It’s a growing trend, but ghosting is not something candidates should do—ever. Ghosting, which initially referred to dating practices where one of the parties would suddenly simply fail to respond to any communications, has made its way to the hiring process. Candidates simply fade away at some point in the process—even after an offer has been made!
“We often have candidates interview over the p[hone and then do a no-show for an in-person interview, even if they have previously stated that they would attend,” says Dana Case, director of operations with MyCorporation.com. It’s not an uncommon occurrence, she says. But, when it happens, it’s the end of the road for that candidate. “We move on because we are still conducting interviews with other candidates,” says Case.