Are Employers Being Unreasonable?

What? They want you to be on time, prepared and respectful? That seems like an awful lot to expect in a professional business meeting – which a job interview surely is. Interviewers have clear expectations of job applicants that impact their decision on whom to hire. By the time you’ve landed the interview, the employer is pretty sure you have the skills to do the job. Now, they want to find out if you are the type of person they’d like to have on their team.

To provide the best possible help to my career coaching clients, I speak regularly with recruiters and hiring managers to stay on top of what they are looking for in a candidate and what they like to see on a resume. We also discuss what bothers them and a few common themes stand out. I’m sharing them here to help you avoid these interview mistakes that can cost you that great job.

no phone in your interview

What Really Annoys Interviewers?

Here are the biggest pet peeves that I hear from hiring managers:

  • Poor manners
  • Lack of preparation
  • Not following up

Let’s take a look at each of these.

Be Polite

Studies have shown that you have 5 seconds to make a first impression. Your manners, or lack of, can either impress the interviewer or disqualify you from consideration. According to Certified Etiquette Expert Karen Thomas, the 5 S’s to a proper business introduction can get you off to a positive start: Stand, See (make eye contact), Smile, Say, Shake.

Don’t be late. You were delayed in traffic. You had to wait for the cable guy. The dog ate your resume. No matter what the excuse, if you can’t get to the interview on time, the hiring manager will see you as unreliable. If there is a real emergency, you should call to explain your situation before the interview start time. It’s really quite simple – the best way to be ontime is to leave a few minutes earlier than you think you need to.

Ditch your cell phone. Either turn your cell phone OFF and keep it in your pocket or leave it in the car. It’s just common courtesy. Don’t just turn the volume down or mute it. Turn it completely off. And please don’t put it on the table – that will  just distract you both. Nothing is more annoying to a hiring manager, who is taking valuable time out of his or her busy day to talk to you, than cell phone interruptions. Hopefully they’ll have theirs off and out of sight as well.

Don’t sit down before being offered a chair. When you enter the interview room, don’t sit down until you are invited to do so, or politely ask where you should sit. Furthermore, if you are seated when you are greeted, you should stand up and confidently shake the interviewer’s hand. Here are some quick tips on a proper handshake.

Be attentive and present. During the interview, it is best to make steady eye contact.  You may find it easier to focus your gaze on the interviewer’s face. Try not to look down or let your eyes drift around the room. Do your best not to interrupt your interviewer and answer their questions clearly and to the point. Don’t ramble – which can make you appear unfocused or worse, simply making things up.

Be Thoroughly Prepared

Recruiters’ biggest irritation is an unprepared candidate. Lack of preparation for an interview is seen as an indication of the (sloppy) quality they should expect from your everyday work product. It also implies that you are not serious about the job.

Bring multiple copies of your resume.  Don’t assume that because you submitted your resume with your job application that the interviewer will have it on hand. People get busy, forget to print things out and interviewing you is not the only thing on their to-do list. You may be interviewing with several people, so it is advised that you bring 3-4 copies of your resume to show that you are thorough.

Do your research. This should be obvious, but hiring managers complain about candidates who don’t know anything about the company or the job. They expect you to come in prepared with this information. Before the interview, review the company’s website to learn about its history, products and management team. When the interviewer asks you “Why exactly do you want to work here?” you’ll have several good reasons ready.

Follow Up Every Time

Your interview doesn’t end when you leave the meeting. Managers like proactive and ambitious employees and many dismiss candidates who don’t follow up after the interview. Sitting around waiting for a callback is a big mistake.

It is considerate to immediately send a note or email (both would be great!) thanking the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you. Don’t miss this opportunity to remind the interviewer of your qualifications and add important details that didn’t come up during the interview. Following up a week later with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn is a great soft touch that will keep you “top of mind”.


Employers expect well-mannered, knowledgeable job applicants and they really appreciate receiving thank you notes in the mail. If you want to win a job offer, try to avoid these faux pas so that you can sell yourself as the best candidate. Be polite, friendly, attentive and show your eagerness to excel in the role. Come prepared with copies of your resume, turn off your cell phone and be sure that you’ve done your research.

Interview preparation is critical to your success. Not only do you have to be on your best behavior, but you also must be prepared to answer skills-based, situational and behavioral questions. Learn more about how to prepare for an interview in my blog post Interview Prep 101: Conquer the Fear!. I am also available to help you prepare for your interview through 1:1 interview coaching.

I hope these best practices help you gain the competitive edge and make it through to the next step in the hiring process. Go with confidence!

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A certified career transition coach, Trish (Thomas) McGrath has been helping people develop the tools, strategies and confidence to build satisfying careers since 2009. An experienced LinkedIn trainer, resume expert and job search strategist, she makes sure her clients are well prepared for successful career advancement. Contact Trish at (860) 658-6480 or to see how she can help you gain the competitive EDGE.

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