After 11 years and over a thousand interviews with candidates for searches I’ve worked on, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone that should have been great for a position, but either didn’t get presented to the client by me, or didn’t get the job once they interviewed. Has this ever been you?

If it has, you might have committed one of the job killer crimes. OK, so I just came up with that term, but to me it does seem like a crime when a great candidate comes up short because of a trait, a comment, a demeanor, or something else that doesn’t serve them well in the interview. I’ll share a few real-world examples I’ve experienced with candidates over the years that doomed their chances:

  • Casual dress: a candidate comes into the interview dressed inappropriately casual either for the interview with me or with my client. I’ve seen people come in looking like they’re going to Sunday brunch at El Torito, rather than interviewing for their next job. If they’re not going to take it seriously, they shouldn’t have wasted their time or ours. I even had a candidate interview with a client wearing black nail polish, and the client continues to talk about it to this day!
  • Inappropriate posture: a candidate sits too eagerly or too comfortably in the chair or sofa, and gives off the wrong impression. I’ve also seen candidates put their heads in their hands with their elbows on their knees – not the posture for a senior executive. And watch those facial expressions – frowns can turn off a client so if you have a tendency to do this, watch out for it. Patsy Cisneros has a fix for this so check her out at for more tips.
  • Eye contact: a candidate that makes eye contact with me, but no one else in the interview, or with only one person, when there are two or three in the meeting. Make sure to make eye contact with everyone.
  • Talking over the interviewer: I can’t tell you how many times a client would tell me about a candidate that just had to make their point, even when the interviewer was moving on, or was talking themselves. Or about the candidate that continually cut-off the interviewer and never let them finish a thought. Trust me, what you have to say is never so important you need to cut-off or interrupt the interviewer to tell them!
  • Being too casual or familiar: A recent candidate started laughing like they were in a bar on a late Friday night about little quips we made during the interview. When it came to technical aspects of the job, they were great, however these idiosyncrasies kept them from being submitted. They simply were too comfortable and too casual in the interview to be taken seriously as a viable candidate.
  • Trying to be all things to all people: I’ve often used the approach to disqualify a candidate based on certain experiences that might be lacking, to see how they respond. When a candidate responds too energetically and doesn’t address the area of weakness adequately, I take it as they’re too eager and not really the best fit. However, if a candidate affectively addresses the deficiency and then comes up with factors that mitigate it, and make them stronger in other ways, then I can move forward and consider them for the position. No one is perfect, but if you try to be, it will be viewed as disingenuous.
  • Not having done your homework: It amazes me, even today, that candidates that are very interested in an opportunity, do not take the extra time to do their homework on the client, possibly seeing their product or service in action. This doesn’t just mean to do research on their website, but instead means to go to where their product is sold or their service is delivered, and see it first-hand. This homework will go a long way.

With so many candidates interviewing for the available jobs out there, you have to give yourself the best chance of succeeding if you make it to the interview stage, both with the search firm and with the client. Don’t make one of these simple mistakes.

Candidates should consider interview training, role playing, and filming mock interviews so they can review them, much like an executive about to give a major interview or speech would practice, practice, practice.

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