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Recruiting & Hiring

The Recruiter Diaries: Interview Mistakes

December 16, 2015
6 min read
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As a recruiter, you get to see the most dreadful, surprising and sometimes hilarious candidate interview mistakes imaginable. The workforce might be evolving, but the mistakes of today pretty much line up with the interview mistakes people have been making for decades. Here’s what some of today’s recruiters have endured throughout their careers in recruiting.

This question was originally featured on Quora. 

Q: What are the worst interview mistakes you’ve seen as a recruiter? 

Ambra Benjamin has worked in recruiting for the past 10 years and currently serves as Facebook’s Tech RecruitingLead.

“I love working at tech companies. You see some of the most ridiculously awesome things that would never fly in say higher education or investment banking. Here are a few of my most favorite instances I've witnessed first hand. You can't make this stuff up and it makes for one awesome work day when it happens. 

Drunken/Hungover Candidates

...Interviewing while drunk happens a lot more than one might think....One story I can think of from very early in my career was when a VP level candidate went a little too aggressive with the hotel minibar, got hungover and missed the entire 4-hourinterview the next morning. I gave him a call...he said he had some "bad Fiesta Chicken" the night before...I totally played along and was super empathetic....We even sent that candidate a gift basket as a nice gesture...and we rescheduled it for another day and extended his trip…

Jet-Lag Is a Beast

Candidates who have to travel a long distance to interview...have a tough time. I once had a receptionist IM me to say that my candidate was asleep, snoring on the couch in the lobby. Thankfully we woke him before the first interviewer came to grab him...here is where I plug the importance of good recruiters and why they are your friend and advocate. Friends don't let friends fall asleep in the lobby prior to an interview.” 

Drunk and asleep? Kinda make your interview gaffes seem small in comparison. Well, actually those are also a big recruiter no-no. Seems like the one thing that really ticks recruiters off are the johnny-come-lately candidates who keep them waiting. Recruiting experts and career coaches, try to be at least 30 minutes early to your interview, or consider yourself late.


CC-Click-ToTweetBird-01.pngFrom the desks of professional recruiters, the worst candidate interview stories:


Chau Nguyen is the CEO and co-founder of Hirewire and previously worked as VP of Sales and Recruiting for GTD Inc. and President and CEO of Campus Special.

“In 3 words: Don't be late.

In 4 words: Don't ever be late.

In 5 words: Don't ever, ever, be late. 

...if you're barely on time, you're late.  If you really want to make a good impression, show up at least 15 minutes early and wait patiently…”

Matthew Lancey is a Project Manager for Australia-based CRM software provider, Bullhorn. Lancy previously worked as a recruiter for over 10 years.

“...not knowing when to stop talking. Either at the end of your current answer or - possibly worse - at the end of the interview itself...here are couple of examples of real-life feedback I can recall from hiring managers following interviews that I'd arranged for candidates when I was a recruiter: 

1) The candidate displayed some great technical knowledge during her answers, but spoiled them by not quitting while she was ahead... 

2) The candidate...brought a big thick portfolio of work with him to the interview, which...wasn't requested; that would have been OK but at the end, after the interviewer had wrapped up and thanked him, he said, "Can I just show you some examples of my work?" and wouldn't take no for an answer... 

In both cases, the candidates spoiled an initial good impression by not taking a hint and letting their nerves get the better of them. Neither of them got the job, unfortunately…” 

In fact, being self-absorbed, so self-absorbed that you miss obvious social cues, is listed as a major red flag by many recruiters, including this one.

Kory Ferbet is a technical recruiter at Fuel Talent, a recruiting agency based out of Seattle, Washington.

“The worst mistake I've had a candidate do during an interview was having an engineer doing an onsite interview loop...his phone rang, not putting his phone on silent was a flag, he then answered his phone...proceeded to have a conversation with the person on the line instead of just telling them he couldn't talk.

He...left the interview room and proceeded to talk to another recruiter about a different job, and then went back in to finish theinterview...I asked him after the interview how it went and he told me that he was hoping to get an offer as it was his first choice. 

That one will continue to confuse me as long as I'm in this business.”

No matter how badly the interview is going, always finish strong. It’s important to make a good impression despite feeling the job you’re interviewing isn’t for you. Turn the phone off, sit up straight and even when the interview goes terribly, pursue the job. At the very least it’s practice for your next one and that recruiter or hiring manager may remember you favorably.


CC-Click-ToTweetBird-01.pngNo matter how badly the interview is going, always finish strong.


Some of these interview mistakes will continue to haunt recruiters year after year, but as technology advances and strategies evolve, the job of recruiting gets a little bit easier. And with the candidate-driven market, maybe it’s time recruiters reconsidered some of their standards and cut job seekers a little slack. Want to streamline your recruiting efforts? Check out ClearCompany’s talent management software solutions! 


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