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Bad behavior during interviews

Texting during an interview
Texting during an interview
Example of bad behavior

Interviewing is a two-way street; both parties need to be attentive and prepared.

When training manager Erin Coffey interviewed for an e-learning position in Columbus in April, she was turned off by the lack of professionalism demonstrated by her two interviewers, both men in their mid-30s. One interviewer showed up late with McDonald’s french-fries, which he ate throughout the interview. Both interviewers took turn asking questions, which didn’t’ seem to be prepared. When one was asking questions, the other was texting. One of the interviewers even took a phone call and left the room without excusing himself.

Shortly after the interview, Coffey went home and launched a preemptive strike via email. “The position is not a good fit for me,” she told them. “I am withdrawing my name from consideration. You are looking for the best candidate. I am looking for the best fit.”

Often, it is the interviewee with the bad behavior, attests Diane Kennedy, a central Ohio Senior Professional in Human Resources. Most of Kennedy’s interviewing pet peeves have to do with questionable attire, including long, dangling earrings, chipped nails, and unpolished shoes. She even had to take a transgender employee shopping for new clothes shortly after she was hired because of her risqué clothing. One thing that drives Kennedy crazy is when candidates bring their kids to run loose in the lobby.

When Kennedy was working for The Limited’s Credit Division, her Employment Supervisor came to her after interviewing an applicant who had done well on the phone screen and was expected to be passed on to the department. When the applicant came in for a face-to-face interview, though, she had a big wad of chewing gum tangled in her hair. Apparently, she had spit out her gum while driving to the interview and it landed in her hair. “The supervisor told me that all she wanted to do during the whole interview was cut it out,” says Kennedy. “She didn’t get the job.”

Sometimes, the bad behavior comes from neither the interviewer nor the interviewee. Kennedy recalls another occasion at The Limited when a recruiter was not impressed with an applicant’s telephone interview skills. The applicant seemed to be stressed and her short responses didn’t answer the questions. As later confirmed on the news, the applicant – a 7-Eleven employee – was being held at knifepoint during a robbery. “So I said, ‘we probably should give her another chance,’” says Kennedy.

Not everybody gets a second chance, especially in this economy. As you prepare for your interview, prepare as if you have skin in the game.


  • Christian Paulsen 5 years ago

    Interesting article. We have probably all seen bad behavior by the interviewer as well as the interviewee if we have spent much time on either side of the table. One thing that I have learned while interviewing for new positions, any bad vibes picked up on during the interview will almost certainly be an issue when you start the new job. In fact, the issue is likely to be worse than your first impression so you can't afford to overlook the bad vibes with a prospective employer. You need to consider the bad vibe as part of the package when you decide if you want to accept an offer.

    Chris Paulsen

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