Human Resources News & Insights

From cocktail requests to naps: The 10 worst job-interview performances

With half of employers making their minds up about candidates within the first five minutes of the interview, both parties know how important it is to make a good first impression.

Nevertheless, there are countless mistakes job candidates make in their interviews, both common and downright strange.

A recent survey from CareerBuilder asked HR pros about their biggest interview deal-breakers, and also some completely off-the-wall ways candidates have ruined their chances at the job.

Common errors

It’s no surprise that the worst mistake a candidate can make in an interview is getting caught in a lie — 71% of HR pros said this ruins the candidate’s chances immediately.

Some more instant turn-offs were:

  • answering a call or text (67%)
  • acting entitled or arrogant (59%), and
  • swearing (51%).

An interviewee’s body language can make a bad impression as well. Hiring managers were less likely to give a candidate the job if they:

  • didn’t make eye contact (68%)
  • were fiddling with something (36%), or
  • had a weak handshake (22%).

What were they thinking?

This survey also uncovered some pretty unique ways job seekers ruined their interviews. Here are 10 of the craziest things HR pros have seen:

  1. One candidate was missing essential skills needed for the job. When asked about this, he replied that “Fake it until you make it” was his personal philosophy.
  2. A woman asked the interviewer if she was qualified to be conducting it.
  3. When asked if he wanted a refreshment, one candidate requested a cocktail.
  4. Clearly needing a caffeine fix, one woman asked if she could have a sip of her interviewer’s coffee.
  5. A woman brought some pumpkins into her interview and offered them to the hiring manager, saying they transfer good energy.
  6. One candidate was a little too relaxed, and came in wearing slippers.
  7. We’ve all heard of a power suit, but one candidate took that a step further and came dressed in a full Darth Vader costume.
  8. A candidate was feeling a little sleepy, and five minutes into the interview rested his head on the table for a nap.
  9. When a candidate reached into his pocket to pull out his keys, a bag of drugs fell out instead.
  10. One candidate broke out in song in the middle of her interview.


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  1. Greg Cochran says:

    Had a friend interview this prospective employee, after the interview she requested to use the interviewers phone. She called her current employer to report that she would not be in that afternoon because she did not feel well. Nothing was wrong with her.

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