Interviewers’ top-10 turnoffs and how to avoid them

You may feel extremely nervous about interviews, but the more prepared you are the better. The following list will alert you to things that tick interviewers off so you can hopefully avoid them when the time for you to shine comes around!


  1. Making a bad first impression. Remember to dress smartly and appear well-groomed for your interview. Body language is also important, so greet everyone you meet, including the receptionist, with a warm smile. When you meet your interviewer, stand up straight and give a firm handshake, meeting his or her eye in a friendly way. Treat everyone with respect, regardless of their role at the company.
  2. Being underprepared. If you turn up to the interview without doing your research, your interviewer will assume you’re not invested in the role or the company. Avoid asking obvious questions about the firm, and use any knowledge you have at relevant points to show that you’ve done your homework.
  3. Arrogance. It’s great to be confident, but you don’t want to come across as arrogant or, worse still, entitled. You may be highly competent and have made your way up the career ladder easily, but don’t make any assumptions and present yourself in a positive light without boasting.
  4. Dishonesty. Some people exaggerate on their CVs and in interview situations, but honesty is always the best policy! There’s no point lying to get the job as you may find you’re unable to perform well if you get it, and you could find yourself caught out, which would be highly embarrassing. You should get the job based on merit, not on deception.
  5. Lateness. If you can’t get there on time, employers will assume you’re generally unpunctual, which is a big turnoff. If there’s a genuine problem, phone and give as much notice as possible. If you have to reschedule, be clear about the reason and apologise for the inconvenience.
  6. Failure to answer basic interview questions. You should practise answers to common interview questions in advance so you’re not caught off guard. It’s fine to take a short pause if you’re asked to give an example of a particular scenario you might not have been expecting to give, but questions about yourself and your work experience should elicit instant responses.
  7. Criticising previous employers. However bad your past employers have been, criticising them in an interview situation could make you look bitter or paint you as a troublemaker. Focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
  8. Giving long, rambling answers. We all get nervous and ramble a bit, but try to give concise answers and stick to the point. This is particularly important if you’re going for a public speaking or teaching role, where you will need to get your point across succinctly.
  9. Being ‘too honest’. It’s important that you tell the truth, but some things are best left unsaid. Your interviewer doesn’t need to know everything about your private life and defects. If you’re asked about your weaknesses, give an example of something you’ve had to work on but have overcome. Try to avoid citing something that might rule you out of the application process.
  10. Letting technology scupper you. If you’re doing a phone or Skype interview, it’s important that everything is up and running in advance of the interview. Make sure your devices are fully charged so you don’t get cut off. Check that your Skype connection is working and updated. If you’re going to be visible to your interviewer, make sure the room is well lit and clear of clutter, and that you are well-dressed. Take your phone or Skype interview as seriously as you would a traditional interview, even if it’s been pitched as ‘informal’.


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Joy Tibbs is a freelance writer and editor who regularly contributes to Premier. Find out more at and find her on Twitter @joyous25

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