The (almost) definitive guide to what NOT to do in an executive interview!

Written by: James Dunne
Published on: 27 Apr 2016

    Every executive / director makes mistakes.  Every executive / director is usually interviewed for a new job / promotion several times in their careers.  Interviews are very important, being a two-way process whereby interviewer(s) and interviewee take stock of each other and then the former usually decides not to give the latter a job.  This is not cynicism; it’s just a statement of fact. Only one person can get any one job so the majority of those interviewed are unsuccessful, therefore it’s incumbent on every executive who has made it to the shortlist stage to do their level best to be the one who makes it.

    Recruitment blog writers know this of course and consequently write a lot about how you can be that “one who makes it”.  Usually these articles take the form of “what not to do”.  It’s a lot easier (and often funnier) to describe what you ought not to do in an interview than it is to explain what makes for success, although each should be the other side of the same coin. 

    Unfortunately, there is a huge variation in the things we are told you shouldn’t do in an interview.  In order to investigate this further, I spent an afternoon Googling various search strings on the subject.  The results of these endeavours were interesting and illuminating.  There are several “no-nos” that crop up regularly but they weren’t always the ones I was expecting.

    I looked at 20 different ‘guides’ to interviewing, from a wide range of websites, job-boards, publishers and recruiters, both in the UK and the USA*.  There were some very big names and some much smaller, independent bloggers/recruiters. Some of these were general ‘advice’ articles; others were based on surveys of hundreds of recruiters. I then stuck the whole lot into a spreadsheet and looked for common themes to see if there is any unanimity about what are the really important things to remember when you nervously shuffle into the interview room…

    One of these important things was, in fact, not to shuffle into that interview room, or, as it was more commonly referred to, “being too nervous”.   You would have thought this was a statement of the obvious, but actually not many of the blogs mentioned it. 

    Another thing I notice is that only one of the blogs I looked at made any distinction between different professions and none distinguished between different levels of employee, although all assumed that their readers worked in “professional” jobs.  This strikes me as fundamental, yet it’s seemingly rarely explained.  While the most important things to do are much the same in any interview, there are undoubtedly variations in the approach taken by, for example, financial services and the creative industries.

    Having analysed the various blogs, the No 1 problem identified – by three quarters of the articles – is lack of preparation in its many guises.  This is such a fundamental thing that one wonders why it continually crops up. Bearing in mind that many of the articles I researched were based on surveys of recruiters’ experiences with interviewees, this is staggering.  Why (oh why!), do candidates who have got to interview stage not prepare?  Answers on a postcard please, but if you have an interview pending, then this is the single most important thing you can do (prepare that is!).

    Next time, I’ll tell you what are other key things NOT to do in your next interview (other than not preparing), and then in the final blog on this subject I’ll reveal some of the really outlandish things that people have apparently done in interviews. The mind boggles at some of these but we are assured they happened!  So return to exec-appointments Careers Advice in about two weeks time and all will be revealed.

    James Dunne,

    * These were: Undercover Reporter,,, a Linkedin Pulse article, CheatSheet, Career Builder, Michael Page,, The golden girl blog, The Muse, The Guardian, Prospects, Business Insider, Indeed, Money, JobSearch, Robert Half, Forbes, My World of Work, Monster, another Linkedin Pulse article.