Starting a Fire Will Not Win You a Job

January 28, 2014 ( – A new survey documents the worst things that an applicant can do during a job interview, not the least of which is starting a fire.

The results of the survey from CareerBuilder show mistakes by a job applicant, whether extreme or subtle, can quickly sabotage the chances of being hired. Nearly half (49%) of employers say they know within the first five minutes of an interview whether a candidate is a good or bad fit for the position, and 87% know within the first 15 minutes.

The most extreme and memorable mistakes noted by employers include:

  • Warning the interviewer she had “taken too much valium” and didn’t think her interview was indicative of her personality;
  • Acting out a Star Trek role;
  • Answering a phone call for an interview with a competitor;
  • Arriving in a jogging suit because he was going running after the interview;
  • Asking for a hug;
  • Attempting to secretly record the interview;
  • Bringing in personal photo albums;
  • Calling himself his own personal hero;
  • Checking Facebook during the interview;
  • Crashing her car into the building;
  • Popping out his teeth when discussing dental benefits;
  • Keeping her iPod headphones on during the interview;
  • Questioning his daughter’s paternity;
  • Asking for the name and phone number of the receptionist because he “really liked her”; and
  • Setting fire to the interviewer’s newspaper when the interviewer said “impress me.”

The most common blunders candidates make in interviews, according to employers, include:

  • Appearing disinterested (55%);
  • Dressing inappropriately (53%);
  • Appearing arrogant (53%);
  • Talking negatively about current or previous employers (50%);
  • Answering a cell phone or texting during the interview (49%);
  • Appearing uninformed about the company or role (39%);
  • Not providing specific examples (33%);
  • Not asking good questions (32%);
  • Providing too much personal information (20%); and
  • Asking the hiring manager personal questions (17%).

The survey also reveals communication between an applicant and interviewer involves much more than simply words. Employers say forgetting this during an interview can harm your chances for success. When it comes to the worst body language mistakes candidates make in job interviews, employers cite:

  • Failure to make eye contact (70%);
  • Failure to smile (44%);
  • Bad posture (35%);
  • Fidgeting too much in one’s seat (35%);
  • Playing with something on the table (29%);
  • Handshake being too weak (27%);
  • Crossing one’s arms over one’s chest (24%);
  • Playing with one’s hair or touching one’s face (24%);
  • Using too many hand gestures (10%); and
  • Handshake being too strong (5%).

“Employers want to see confidence and genuine interest in the position. The interview is not only an opportunity to showcase your skills, but also to demonstrate that you’re the type of person people will want to work with,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Going over common interview questions, researching the company, and practicing with a friend or family member can help you feel more prepared, give you a boost in confidence, and help calm your nerves.”

The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive, on behalf of CareerBuilder, among 2,201 hiring managers and human resource professionals between November 6 and December 2, 2013.