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Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: The 5 biggest interview flops

March 22. 2014 12:29AM

OVER THE COURSE of my career, I've conducted my fair share of interviews. While I never really kept track of exactly how many people I've interviewed, it's easily in the hundreds.

From this experience comes a lot of interesting stories, as well as valuable lessons that people can learn from and increase their interviewing effectiveness and likelihood of landing the job they want.

If you do some research on interview advice, you'll find an endless supply of articles and opinions on how to ace the big interview. From doing your homework on the company, to refining your LinkedIn profile, to dressing for success, there is a lot of great advice out there if you take the time to look for it.

Instead of giving you advice on how to improve your interview skills, I'm going to share what I consider to be the five biggest interview flops that I've witnessed in my career. All of these flops really happened, and I promise I'm not exaggerating.

It's my hope that you can learn from the tragic mistakes these individuals made.Showing Up Late. This has happened more times than I would expect. I have an interview scheduled with someone, and they send me an email or call me to let me know they are running late. Granted, things happen, like getting stuck in a traffic jam. But there is really no excuse for being late for an interview. Prepare and give yourself enough time in case something happens. Showing up late will be a guaranteed fail.Overconfidence. There is a fine line between cocky and confident. Coming across as cocky and arrogant can really derail the interview. A few years ago, I was interviewing someone for a sales position, and I asked the routine question, "In 30 seconds or less, tell me why we should hire you." The candidate chose not to answer the question and instead asked me why he would want to work for me. That did it for me. I went from being very engaged to shutting down the interview early.Foul language. I think it goes without saying that there is no place for foul language in an interview. Interestingly, it happens. People slip and think they are talking to their friends and drop words that would make the average parent cringe. This is a surefire way to fail in an interview. I remember one interview where the candidate was exactly what we were looking for. The first part of the interview went well, and the interview team was very impressed. That was until he described his current employer's inability to execute using a very colorful word. Which brings me to my next point.Bashing Current or Past Employers. Nothing is worse than a candidate ripping apart their previous or current employer. Regardless of what you think, stay away from saying anything negative about companies you have worked for. It's unnecessary, and makes you look like a victim. Every time I hear someone speak negatively about their employer, I immediately picture that person being a cancer within our company. If you're willing to speak negatively about a past employer in an interview, there's a good chance you'll have no problem doing the same at your new company and be detrimental to the team dynamics and culture.No Follow Up. I've been in countless interviews that go extremely well and both the interview team and the candidate leave the interview feeling very optimistic. And then nothing happens. The candidate doesn't follow up or do anything and just sits and waits for a phone call or email. I personally look for follow up skills, especially with sales candidates. If you don't make the effort and take the time to follow up after the interview, it makes me question your commitment and - most importantly - your sales skills.


Christopher Thompson ( writes Closing the Deal weekly for the Sunday News. Thompson is the vice president of sales and services for Leadership Solutions at Skillsoft, a Nashua-based provider of learning solutions. Visit Skillsoft on the web at

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