5 Interview Behaviors That Could Ruin Your Job Chances

In my last post, I wrote about trainer resumes, and some things that I look for as a hiring manager when I am reviewing prospective candidates on paper.

In the highly competitive trainer job market, a great resume stands out and will definitely help you get a foot in the door.

But the next step in hiring—either an in-person or phone or video interview—is truly where jobs can be won or lost.

As a training director, I’m screening for candidates that I will be placing in demanding work environments. The interview helps me assess whether someone can clearly communicate, teach, and problem solve in those environments, while effectively dealing with a range of different personality types. It also helps me assess your passion for teaching others (see my post about the skills I look for in a trainer.)

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I don’t like combative or ‘gotcha’ types of interviews; I prefer a conversation to an interrogation. But you, as a candidate, have to hold up your end of our discussion. I’m paying careful attention to your communication skills, and want you to clearly describe for me how you have effectively managed in varied training scenarios.

At the end of this article, I’ll link you to some great advice for interview prep. But first I want to share my top interview red flags. These are behaviors that should be avoided, but that I have seen or experienced all too often in my hiring career.

1. Late for the interview. This should go without saying, but being on time is really important. If you are late for our phone or in-person interview, you should have a good excuse. If you didn’t plan for traffic or put the wrong interview time on your calendar, then that tells me something. If you don’t even bother to offer an excuse (or apology), that tells me even more. Occasionally, there are valid reasons for tardiness, like the woman whose car got rear-ended, when she was just three blocks away from meeting me. She ended up walking to our interview and profusely apologized for being just five minutes late. You have to appreciate that type of tenacity—I hired her!

2. Can’t recall lessons from past projects.  Believe it or not, I want to hear about times that you or your team failed. I like candidates who can acknowledge mistakes and articulate lessons learned and ways they would do things differently in the future.  If your ego won’t let you admit to a past failure, then I worry about your ability to learn from mistakes, which happen every day in business and in life.

3. Poor speech habits and body language.  If I’m going to hire you to communicate to doctors and senior leaders in a hospital, then your speech patterns and body language must suggest confidence and competence. Red flags here include mumbling, an inability to sustain eye contact, and rambling or incoherent answers to basic questions. I’ve even sat in front of candidates who have cursed repeatedly during an interview. That definitely makes an impression—but not a positive one.

4. Lack of preparedness.  If you’re asking me for a pen and paper to take notes, like one candidate did, then we are not getting off to a good start. If you don’t know what job you are interviewing for, or who you are interviewing with, or you didn’t bring a copy of your resume, then I rightly worry how prepared you will be to deliver training to thousands of end users in an organized fashion. I also expect interviewees to have some talking points about their work history. I’m wary of those who can’t recall details from past projects or who don’t remember employers or accomplishments listed on their own resume.

5. Complaining and demanding. A job interview isn’t a place to air grievances against a previous employer or complain about co-workers. If you left a job because of a disagreement or dissatisfaction, there are tactful ways to explain your departure without trashing the employer. In this same vein, using the interview to present a laundry list of demands seldom serves you well.  If you have prerequisites for hire around your hours or the commute, for example, present those in a pre-interview (or when asked during the interview), but don’t make your demands a focal point of our discussion.

I will say that these behaviors are the exception rather than the rule. Most candidates with experience and who have undergone an initial screen present themselves in a favorable light. Those who really standout, do so because they are well prepared for the interview.

Perhaps I’ll cover interview prep in another post down the road, but meantime, I recommend these articles from our blog, which offer excellent advice for a variety of different interview scenarios. I wish you well in your next interview!

Vicki Davis is Healthcare IT Leaders VP, EHR Activation and Training. She has led large-scale training and delivery teams at Providence Health and Systems and Stanford Health and has overseen classroom-based and online learning programs for tens of thousands of end-users over the past decade.