‘I Bombed a Job Interview’: 10 People Reveal the Mistakes That Cost Them a Gig


487362427When it comes to fear-inducing situations, job interviews are right up there with public speaking and first dates.

In fact, a recent survey found that 92% of people feel interview anxiety, citing doubt over their qualifications, whether they’d be able to answer questions correctly—and even if they’d make it to the meeting on time.

Frankly, this stat should come as no surprise. After all, you’re trying to build rapport with strangers in an unfamiliar place, you’re being put on the spot—and there’s a lot at stake from this one encounter.

But in order to really rock that interview, you’ve got to push the fear aside and boost your confidence.

And the way to accomplish that is to make sure you know not only what you should say and do—but also all the ways that you could sabotage yourself.

To clue you in on some of the potential pitfalls of the interviewing process, we asked people to fess up to their biggest blunders and subsequent lessons learned, so you won’t fall victim to the same snafus.

Interview Mistake #1: Dressing for the Part—but Not the Culture

“I had just graduated and was interviewing for an analyst position at a small financial firm. I was dressed in a black skirt suit and I was carrying a black briefcase. It was my only nice, professional outfit, so I wore it to all of my interviews.

Lo and behold, my interviewer was wearing cutoff shorts and a T-shirt. Even though it was a corporate job, I realized that I should have looked into the company’s dress code. In the middle of the interview, the hiring manager even told me that I seemed too ’professional’ for the position and that my qualifications were too high.

I believe he came to that conclusion because I was dressed ‘incorrectly.’ That taught me to drive by an office a few days prior to an interview to see what people who are walking in and out of the building are wearing.”

—Michelle Schroeder, 25, content manager, St. Louis

RELATED: The Job-Hunting Iron Curtain: What You Need to Know to Make It Past the Recruiter

  • http://www.makingsenseofcents.com/ Michelle

    Thank you so much for the inclusion in this article. I still cringe when I think about that interview and how badly it went!

    • flours

      Sounds like you might not have wanted to work there anyway…Even if I worked where the culture was super casual, I would want an interviewee who took the time to dress for an interview. To me it shows they care about the position as well as themselves. Just my opinion…

      • paganheart

        Agreed. I once showed up for an interview dressed to the nines in a classic, navy-blue business suit, only to have the hiring manager walk in wearing jeans, Birkenstocks and a Grateful Dead t-shirt. Turned out the company let various departments set their own dress codes, and this department was (obviously) very casual. I felt seriously overdressed, but I got the job anyway. Later I told that manager (who became my boss) how out-of-place I felt, and she told me that, frankly, she might not have hired me had I shown up in casual clothing, because in her experience, dressing up for an interview shows that you are professional and will take the job seriously. Growing up my Dad taught me that even if you are applying for a job washing dishes, you should at least show up in nice pants and a collared shirt. I have kept that advice. Obviously there are degrees, but dressing a bit nicer than the dress code allows for an interview shows professionalism and respect.

  • Marian

    In addition to writing down people’s names, I also write down what they’re wearing and key convo topics to include in a thank-you note. After the interview, I stop at a coffee shop / bench and transfer all the information for each relevant person to their business card while it’s still fresh, so I can refer to it later. Even the little things – like what someone was wearing can spark my memory regarding what we talked about!

  • IBikeNYC

    These are all great, but I have never been able to wrap my arms around the idea that all these kinds of things really tell any interviewer is that you are “smart enough” to read and follow directions about how to go on an interview.

    I also still don’t (and never will) get it about what the point is of interviewing for a job without knowing at least the minimum it pays! It could be the best fit in history, but if I can’t (or won’t) live on what you wanna give me. . .

    (It reminds me of used cars with “For Sale” signs in their windows that tell you everything about them except their price!)

    • Frank Martin

      When I send my resume I always put in my salary expectations. This weeds out the cheapos!

      • IBikeNYC

        What a great idea!

  • kgal1298

    The trick with the salary thing is to let them bring it up first. I’ve probably been on multiple interviews where they ask me what I’m expecting, though sometimes that can be a downer because then they may offer you less than they are allowed to offer you because you tend to under mind yourself in that situation. That’s why I now always check for similar salaries in the area and if they don’t ask right off and I get a call back that’s when you ask because they’re obviously interested in you.

  • Faith Dugan

    Telling job interviewers to not ask about salary is horrible advice. Why would an interviewer not hire an applicant that asked about salary? Many interviewers will ask about salary expectations to make sure the salary fits with the applicant; but the interviewee is not allowed to ask? I believe it’s most people’s limiting beliefs about money…they are afraid to talk about money or even ask about money. This is why many women do not make as much as men because women feel guilty or uncomfortable asking for money.

    I think it’s best for an applicant to ask about salary ranges for the position before the interview…so as not to waste the interviewer and the interviewee’s time if it’s not acceptable to them.

  • Ketina

    Michelle, they gave you two excuses not to hire you. You did right in dressing professionally.

  • beth98

    There was nothing wrong with how you dressed Michelle. It was an interview; you weren’t coming to work dressed “professionally.” Since when is a suit inappropriate for an interview? I think that interviewer either needed an excuse to not hire you or got intimidated. It may have had nothing to do with how you were dressed.

    • http://www.makingsenseofcents.com/ Michelle

      Thanks! I think it was mainly that I was overqualified for the position, and my outfit showed that as well. They made the position (and company) sound much better in the job posting, but it was clearly not true when I arrived at the office.

  • MEH

    I had a similar experience as Michelle. I think an employer that penalizes someone for showing up to the interview looking “too professional” ends up being their loss. It say s more about them than it does you. You can only tell so much about a company by driving by it and I would always air on the side of professionalism. I think it shows that the candidate is professional and cares about making a good impression. You can always adapt to the corporate culture and dress code later but I wouldn’t want to make assumptions from the get go.

  • Lara Rosenblum

    These are pretty much all interviewing ’101s’ that most people should know by the time they get to having had a few high profile internships or jobs. I was surprised to see that some of the experienced professionals on here made the types of mistakes and bloopers that they did because quite honesty, I have only had 2 jobs and all of these seemed very apparent to me. I also disagree completely with post #1, which is that you dress for the role but not the culture. It’s a job interview, and yes, you can come off ‘stiff’ – but it likely won’t be due to your attire and will be determined first and foremost by your demeanor. A professional and put together applicant who is interviewing with senior folks at a legitimate company that takes itself seriously will NEVER lose an interview because they are dressed ‘too nicely.’

  • Jeff

    I’ve had enough interviews to realize when I have no chance, despite the HR robot’s assurance that “we will be contacting you soon” etc. One sign is when, at the end of the interview, they say something to the effect of “so, is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and why you’d be a good fit for this position?”. That means, they either weren’t listening when you already answered this question earlier in the interview, or they don’t think you made a strong enough case on why they should hire you.
    Another sure sign is the old “we’ve got more interviews to do and will be letting everyone know soon”. That is basically their way of saying “you weren’t the person we were looking for” without coming right out and saying it.

  • Guest987

    I’ve been on a few search committees lately and it never ceases to amaze me when people come in to interview without knowing anything about the organization! Do your homework-show me that you put the time and energy into learning about the place where you want to work!!!

  • shaheen42

    The most pertinent thing is to be a mentally emancipated person from biases,prejudices and fixations of all types that gives you capacity for objective thinking and effective communication skills.

  • Pokemon

    Michelle, you didn’t get the job because they couldn’t afford you. You did nothing wrong. As an employer myself I’ve come across this so many times. When interviewees dress better than the employer, it gives us the impression that “you’re high maintenance” and we usually don’t want to risk paying big money until we know we can trust you. Of course we can’t tell you that we can’t afford you, so we find a better excuse to let you down gently.