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10 interview no-no’s that could stop you getting hired

Posted on 2/07/2019 by Gemma Hannington


Everyone knows interviews can be stressful and difficult, so hiring managers will usually give you the benefit of the doubt if you seem nervous or trip over your words a bit. However, there are some behaviours and actions that are not so forgivable and may have an impact on the successful outcome of your application.

Here are 10 of the easiest ways to get taken of the shortlist:

  1. Arriving late

Turning up late for an interview, whatever the reason, makes you look disorganised and like you don’t really care about being hired. Even if there were unexpected transport delays, the interviewer will assume you can’t plan your time properly. Arriving late and hurrying can also leave you panting and flustered and puts you at an immediate disadvantage when the interview starts.

Make sure you plan your route and timings carefully prior to the interview and leave yourself plenty of spare time in case of delays. Then when you arrive early, you can use that spare time to de-stress, combat any interview nerves and make your final preparations.

  1. Looking scruffy

Most interviewers will expect you to be formally dressed, neat and groomed. Turning up in casual clothes or looking dishevelled will make it look like you don’t care enough about the role to put any effort into appearing smart.

Make sure you shower, brush your teeth and hair, polish your shoes and iron your clothes. Dress to match the office environment and culture. If in doubt, remember that you can’t be too formal. If you are unsure about the employer’s dress code, ask your Consultant or the organisation directly.

  1. Being unprepared

A potential employer will expect all interviewees to have done some basic homework prior to the interview. You should look at the organisation’s website and social media and read up on their sector/industry. It’s also a good idea to look up your interviewer’s profile on LinkedIn.

You’ll be expected to understand:

  • The organisation’s mission and work – how they help their beneficiaries
  • Any recent news or events regarding the organisation
  • What similar organisations are doing and any trends in the sector

You should also run through typical interview questions to prepare, particularly competency-based interview questions. Go through the job description with a fine-tooth comb and think about how they are likely to assess each skill or trait mentioned. You’re then much less likely to be caught out by an unexpected question.

  1. Sounding negative

However you feel about your last role, it’s very important that you don’t complain about previous employers or colleagues in an interview. A potential employer will be looking for loyalty from their new employee, and criticising previous managers can suggest you’ll treat new ones with the same contempt.

It’s also never a good idea to lay down rules about what you will and won’t do in an interview or to focus too much on what you don’t like doing. Employers want workers who are flexible and positive, able to handle whatever needs undertaking.

  1. Appearing uninterested

When you’re in the interview, always turn off your mobile phone (or set it to flight mode) and give the interviewer your full attention. No employer wants to feel that their interview isn’t your top priority.

You should always have some questions prepared to ask at the end of the interview. Not only does it make you look interested and eager, it’s also a great way to end the interview, leaving the interviewer with a positive impression of you. However, don’t ask a question that could be answered simply by looking at the organisation’s website or searching on Google – the interviewer will expect you to already know that information.

Some example questions include:

  • What do you see as the key challenges / opportunities in this role?
  • What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this role?
  • What would you expect a new employee to do to make a success of their first 6 months?
  • Can you tell me more about the organisation’s working environment?
  • What’s the best thing about working here?
  • What are the next steps in the recruitment process?
  1. Being too money-orientated

Unless the interviewer brings it up, a first interview is not the place to discuss salary or promotion prospects. Charities want to hire people who are passionate about the work they do and the organisation’s mission, not those who are focussed solely on money or status. That might suggest you’ll be likely to leave as soon as a better offer comes along.

Similarly, however important it is to you, it’s best to leave discussions around work-life balance and flexible working options for a later date.

  1. Lying

Lying in an interview is obviously a huge no-no, and one that could come back to haunt you in your later career. It may seem innocent enough to embroider a bit on your previous work history or to give yourself the responsibilities you feel you should have had, but it is likely to backfire.

Employers can and do check what you say by corroborating against your social media profiles, by talking to referees and by checking qualifications and certifications. And even if they miss finding out the truth at the recruitment stage, if it comes out at a later date, you’re very likely to lose your job.

  1. Avoiding difficult questions

Side-stepping or beating around the bush when asked difficult questions is a favoured tactic of politicians, but doesn’t go down well in a job interview. If you were let go by a previous employer, or there’s an unexplained break in your CV, it’s likely to be brought up at interview. Make sure you have a pre-prepared answer and keep your reply short and to the point.

If a question comes up that you don’t know how to answer, don’t lie or pretend you know. Instead, it’s best to admit that you don’t know right now but go through how you would go about finding a solution. Or promise to get back to the interviewer with an answer later on. Not only does this prove your resourcefulness and focus on solving problems, but it also provides you with a good excuse to contact the interviewer again.

  1. Act politely to everyone

It’s becoming increasingly common for employers to assess how an interviewee behaves outside of the interview room. After all, everyone’s on the best behaviour in an interview, but some candidates may treat people very differently when they are not aware that they’re being assessed.

Make sure you always smile and speak politely to receptionists and other staff members, however stressed you may be feeling. You never know if they will be asked about their first impressions.

  1. Thanking the interviewer

There’s been quite a bit of debate online recently on whether it’s really necessary to send a thank-you email after an interview. It might sound a bit old-fashioned but it’s always best to err on the side of caution with these things. After all 80% of hiring managers find think these messages are helpful when reviewing candidates.

All you need to do is drop the interviewer a quick email to thank them for their time and reiterate your enthusiasm for the role. It can only leave them with a good impression of you.

The goal of any interview is to make sure you stand out from the other candidates and ultimately get the job, but it’s crucial to make sure you don’t stand out for the wrong reasons.

If you steer clear of the actions and behaviours above, you’re well on your way to making a good impression and having a successful interview.


TPP Recruitment have lots more useful career advice, including this interview cheat sheet and our guide to preparing for an interview.

If you’re looking for your next move in the not for profit sector and would like some tailored career advice, get in touch on 020 7198 6000 or