15 ways to make sure I will NOT hire you

15 ways to make sure I will NOT hire you

This is not ‘career advice’. I am no ‘job search guru’. This is not scientific, empirical or out of your latest HR manual.

But I have interviewed more people for jobs than you have*, and I am acutely aware of what annoys me, frustrates me, and inclines me to think negatively about a candidate.

This is simply a list of what ticks me off. And I like to hire people who do not tick me off. So, in that sense, these are facts. I suspect it is a very similar list for most interviewers.

  • Arrive late.
  • Dress like you going to a rave, the beach, or the cricket.
  • Bring your coffee, diet coke, or whatever else into the interview room.
  • Put your phone, your folder, or your keys on my desk, without asking.
  • Call me ‘mate’, ‘buddy’.. or… no… I can’t write this… but I must… ‘dude’!
  • Talk, and talk, and talk… and talk.
  • Not answer the question put to you.
  • Have no questions for me.
  • Interrupt me and second-guess what I am about to say.
  • Answer a question with “It’s in my résumé”.
  • Answer your phone. In fact don’t touch it or even look at it. Actually, I don’t want to see it.
  • Tell me what an idiot your previous boss was.
  • Swear.
  • Not laugh at my jokes. (That one was a joke. But, just checking, are you laughing?)
  • Not thank me for my time. Especially as I will have thanked you for yours.

Now before anyone gets overexcited about the outrage of not hiring someone just because of just one minor misdemeanour, take a chill pill. I know better than most how to overcome the inbuilt discrimination we all bring to every assessment situation. I would never really disqualify someone on the basis of one random irritation. Or even two. I know how to assess and hire. But it won’t help you if you do these things. Not with me, not with most interviewers.

*Except maybe for Graham Whelan and Alan Allebone 🙂

Do you have any interview pet peeves? Let’s hear them please, in the comments below.


News for UK readers of  The Savage Truth. REC have invited me to speak in Manchester (20th) and London( 21st) in October 2015. Sessions for Consultants and Owners/Managers. Please keep an eye on my ‘Events Page’ for details.


About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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54 Responses to 15 ways to make sure I will NOT hire you

  1. Kara February 24, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    Hi Greg,

    My pet peeve is candidates who arrive incredibly early without any warning…
    And I’m ok with the coffee – as long as there’s one for me too!



    • Charles February 24, 2015 at 11:29 am #

      Solid list Greg, I also must agree with Kara, arriving more than 15 minutes early is almost as bad as arriving late…

      • Abi February 25, 2015 at 3:58 am #

        I always end up arriving incredibly early for interviews as I have usually given myself so much time to get there – just. in. case….

        I spend that extra time sat in my car, reading through the presentation I have prepared, notes on the company etc. and then will go into to reception about 15-10 minutes early

  2. Freyja February 24, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Greg – well done once again. Your blog arrives in the late afternoon here and always gives me a smile.
    Wanted to tell you about a TV ad that cracks the Recruiter in me up whenever I see it. A new “crime detective” show. Young clean cut preppy new detective teams up with detective who looks his opposite.
    They are driving in a car – the new detective looks over and says – I think when you trust people – they trust you back. The slouching unshaven detective riding with him looks over and says – “Have you met…People?”
    Maybe I’ve been in the business too long….it makes me laugh.
    Thanks again for your column.

  3. Rebecca February 24, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Bringing partner or family into the interview or to the place of interview and have them ask how long it will take.

    Not removing sunglasses.

    Answering the question – “what are you looking for” – with “anything going!”

  4. Rebecca February 24, 2015 at 11:23 am #

    Hi Greg,

    I totally agreed with the coffee/water etc and other elements. This is not a chat, it is an opportunity to present yourself in the best light.


    1. leaving sunglasses on top of the head
    2. answering a question about work history with – I didn’t think you would ask me questions like that, or that was too long ago, I cannot remember.


  5. Francesca February 24, 2015 at 11:25 am #

    …. and smelling of cigarettes!

  6. Brett February 24, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    Completely agree, Greg. NO-ONE got a job with my company if they took a call on their phone in an interview.

    How rude were they going to be to my other employees, suppliers and customers?

    It was the one mistake I would not tolerate.

    Regards, Brett

  7. Brett February 24, 2015 at 11:30 am #

    Also a mistake I guess, is those who do not interview well but would make excellent employees. The trick is to see through the nerves and it’s not easy.



  8. Lisa B February 24, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    Instant switch off for me is when a candidate wont divulge their salary because its confidential or even worse their current place of employment…. what the???

    • Tristan February 25, 2015 at 12:58 am #

      Any recruiter worth their salt can assess a candidates value based on their qualifications and experience. The only reason you ask for their current salary is that you want to get away with paying less that the going rate for the job. This information is confidential, and it doesnt have any bearing on the job being applied for. It may be a very different role. The candidate may be underpaid in their current role etc etc. Agreed however that if they wont name their current employer, that it is strange. However, if there is a gap of several years on their CV, why did you even invite them to interview!

      • Lisa B February 25, 2015 at 8:15 am #

        Oh dear Tristan you obviously havent dealt with a “real” consultant who genuinely cares about the candidates career move. The salary structure is required in my market due to the massive differences in base, coms, bonuses, car component, sign on bonus, phone, laptop, share incentives etc etc. If my clients have a definitive salary structure thats not negotiable for a particular role, I need to discuss openly with the candidate and understand what they are on currently and what their expecations are to move… Any candidate “worth their salt” will trust me and my clients process and the real opportunity for advancement. There has been many many times I have gained a 20% or more increase in a candidates salary as they were being under paid. Trusting your recruiter and being entirely open and honest at both ends is paramount to a successful outcome for all.

    • tristan February 25, 2015 at 8:32 am #

      Hi lisa,
      Thanks for your reply.
      I dont disagree with what you say re disclosing salary requirements, but that isnt at all the same thing as disclosing their salary!
      Best regards

  9. Jeremy February 24, 2015 at 11:49 am #

    In a previous life I overheard a lot of the conversations between recruiters & hiring managers for contact centre staff at a large financial. Admittedly at entry-level but absolute comedy gold for inappropriate behaviour.

    Amongst the gems:
    “Wearing one earphone in during a phone interview is borderline, but two?” (and no, the candidate was not hearing impaired)

    “He asked: Do you have a pen?”

    “That’s gotta be a career highlight, too hungover to complete a job interview.”

    “I said it’s not usual practice to bring your parents…nah, they came into the meeting room and everything…yeah, they went and waited downstairs in the cafe.”

  10. Deborah February 24, 2015 at 11:55 am #

    Thanks Greg – I did laugh! All so true – what about leaving the water glass on the table?

  11. Paul Hamilton February 24, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    Hi Greg,
    Any visible random body piercings are a no go as well. The tops of ears, tongues etc etc.
    While I’m at it, random rings on your fingers as well.
    Thanks Greg,

    • Scott Brown March 13, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

      Seriously Paul? Piercings are no indicator of the type of person, unless you’re highly stereotyping them. My wife has her nose and top of ear pierced and is an absolute gun admin officer, praised highly wherever she works.

      That generalisation will not work at all.

      • Paul Hamilton March 13, 2015 at 9:00 pm #

        Hi Scott.
        I respect your comment re stereotyping. I’ve been recruiting recruitment consultants for a long time now and 99% of my white collar recruitment clients would not hire someone with visible body piercings (other than an ear lobe piercing for females) – or neck tattoos for that matter. It’s not corporate for a client facing professional recruitment consultant.
        I’ve got no problems with an internal non client facing admin officer having piercings as you describe.In fact I hired a resourcer with dreadlocks to his backside but he wasn’t client or candidate facing. He was a very good resourcer and a great guy.

  12. Priya February 24, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

    Yup, have experienced almost everything listed here. But the worst one was a candidate who turned up late 3 times and did not even apologize! In the end, even though she had great skills & experiences, the constant lateness was the deal breaker. And oh yea, she also did not have any questions for me.

  13. Joy February 24, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    i agree on all of the above….plus

    – not knowing what the role he is being interviewed or considered for
    – having only one question and it says “what is the salary range for this job?”

  14. RM February 24, 2015 at 2:42 pm #

    In 2003 I was recruiting a an office junior. We used to have candidates seated in interview rooms with forms by our front desk staff. I got a call from our front desk advising that the young ladies father had insisted on being in the interview room. Our front desk kindly asked him to sit in reception but he said “no, I won’t leave my daughter.” The young lady was really embarrassed by it all and I did tell the father that he really should not even enter the building where his daughter is interviewing but he was adamant that she was only 17 years old and may need his help…..

  15. Paulette Steele February 24, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

    I had a candidate once come to our office with her baby in tow. She said she couldn’t get a babysitter. She was lucky as the other woman in the office all went ‘clucky’ of this baby and so she got passed around the office while I did the interview with the lady.

    I don’t think she got a position through me!

    • Van March 2, 2015 at 8:26 am #

      Paulette, would you really turn down someone who could be a fantastic resource to an organization because she couldn’t get a sitter? Would you have have rather she cancelled? What if she’s a single mom and new to the area? What if this is her dream job and she’s perfectly qualified (you would not have interviewed her if she wasn’t a fit right?). If bringing a child was her last resort and the other ladies in the office had it covered for the short period of time she was there then why deny her the job, or better yet why interview her anyway if you knew it was a deal breaker?

  16. Louise Rossouw February 24, 2015 at 6:03 pm #

    Being interviewed by the candidate! So how long have you been doing recruitment, where do you live, really!! Grrrrr! Shall we swop seats, have you applied for my job?

    • Yuriy Shevchenko March 2, 2015 at 11:19 pm #

      I think it’s a good idea to interview the interviewer AFTER they’ve interviewed you.

      I got my first ever job in recruitment in 2001. The guy turned up to interview me in a tatty suit wearing Dunlop trainers (sneakers) and there he was telling me how I could be just as successful as he was.

      As it happens he was indeed a “biller” and I ended up working there and becoming a “biller” myself.

  17. Cheryl Mc February 24, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    Advising me that other agencies don’t ask them to supply so much information around employment references so why do we!

    Going – going – GONE!

  18. Ilze Johnston February 24, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    Very funny, thanks Greg.

    My list to add:

    Chewing gum during the interview.
    Serious cleavage.
    Starting the interview by asking about $ and benefits.

  19. vibeke thomsen February 24, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

    ….. last year I interviewed a candidate (recruiter) who came across rather well, however, 45 mins into the interview she told me that she actually had accepted an offer the day before which she was very excited about.
    In answer to my question why she was sitting in front of my, taking my time, she told me she would feel bad for cancelling our appointment…. I think she expected me to thank her!!

  20. Richard Thompson February 24, 2015 at 10:46 pm #

    I think Paul Hamilton is wrong 😉 Piercings are OK these days Paul, along with neck tattoos and Sergio Aguero style hair cuts (Google him if your not into football (soccer if you’re American)) You’ve got to get down with the kids Paul. It is 2015 after all.
    BUT, there’s nothing worse than an interviewee rolling their tongue piercing over their teeth whilst you’re talking to them. Reminds me of a film I saw once.

  21. David Stone February 24, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

    Fibbers – really can’t abide them.
    And people who have done zero prep for the interview. If they can’t be bothered to do some prep on the company & role then I can’t be bothered to hire them.
    Simple world I live in – nice & simple.

  22. RM February 25, 2015 at 8:07 am #

    Walking down the road to the train station I was thinking about your blog…. All very fair points including the one about the joke but the only one I would disagree with is regarding putting something on the desk….that’s just personal preference.

    What I was thinking though is that as interviewers also be very mindful of what puts candidates off. We need to in some ways come to the table recognising that the world is not as hierarchical as it used to be and candidates often view respect as two way street. Especially since so many candidates we recruit have been headhunter, we initiated it…. 90% of interviews I have been to have been cool but there are some that have had alarm bells as a candidate. Sorry, I have bastardised your list but this is what has put me off as a candidate:

    – Arrives more than 10 minutes late after I was a few minutes early.
    – Smells like booze and has hangover swear on his forehead.
    -Not answer the question put to you after I have answered all of yours. If you didn’t want to answer questions about the role, your business and what you are like to for why did you invite me to ask questions?
    – Interrupt me and second-guess what I – am about to say.
    – Remain very high level and refuse to go into detail about what you are prepared to share about your business and the opportunity despite expecting me to go into great detail about what I have done and can bring to the table.
    – Clearly have not read my resume before meeting… Not to say I wiont answer questions about it or my background but you can tell when an interviewer hasn’t bothered to read it and Recruiters are the worst culprits!!
    – Answer your phone. In fact don’t touch it or even look at it. Actually, I don’t want to see it.
    – Tell me what an idiot the previous 5 employees were that left your business
    – Swear.
    – Not thank me for my time. Especially as I will have thanked you for yours.
    – Not smile, complain, have a chip on your shoulder and be grumpy – you may be the recruiter, manager or own your business and be the king of your own little universe but no one wants to work for a grumpy jerk.
    – when discussing the role and working for you, spend more than 20% of your time discussing what you can’t stand your employees doing.
    -Complain about the ethics / results your current employees are getting and how you need better staff.
    -Show me how stressed, scared or tired you are.
    – Make it apparent you are unsuccesful at the moment so are hiring in the hope you can get someone successful onboard.
    – you lack confidence. I am not going to join someone who lacks confidence… A sure recipe for disaster.

    My point is; It’s all about quality and as trainee recruiters, we learnt never to do any of the above…. As recruiters, senior recruiters, managers and business owners what right do we have to expect the best from candidates interview yet not give it back??? I am guilty of doing a lot of the above and am sure lots of my piers are too 🙂

    • Tristan March 4, 2015 at 1:50 am #

      Bravo! Very good post.

      The bottom line is that recruitment is a 2 way street. It is an exchange of services (labour, experience and time), for pay and benefits.

      At interview stage, the exchange should be of equals, so the interviewer certainly cant call all the shots.

    • Shelley Bolds July 26, 2015 at 3:08 am #

      Absolutely! I concur. After preparing for an interview and everything else that goes along with it, I find that recruiters are liars and don’t followup. I am sure that it’s not true with all of them, but that’s my experience.

  23. Andrew Brindley February 27, 2015 at 5:19 am #

    Hi Greg

    Great list.

    I have all of yours plus one rule I never bend which is if they cancel and try to rearrange then I reject them. If at this stage they are not doing everything to try to impress you then they will be a pain in the a** when you higher them.

    I get the thing about the desk its an assumption and a lack of respect for your environment, a bit like when someone comes round your house and leaves their shoes on. I was always taught to remove them no matter what the house rule, so the desk thing is like that its not your so dont use it unless asked.

    Love the blog


    • RM February 27, 2015 at 8:47 am #

      Hi Andrew,

      I get what you are saying but to extend that further, would you then upon attending a client meeting not put your folder / compendium, on their table until they invited you to?

      • andrew March 11, 2015 at 2:55 am #

        I think the relationship with a client is a different one but yes you should be careful what you put on a table/desk. If you came to my house and met my partner and put something on the kitchen table say your briefcase then I guess that would end your chances of a sale.

    • Tristan March 4, 2015 at 2:03 am #

      I think you are approaching this from the wrong angle. You need to meet them to decide if they are the right person for the job. Could be some perfectly reasonable reason for cancelling the appointment, and you could miss the perfect candidate.

      An example from a recent experience to illustrate (though admittedly not directly comparible):
      I recently was invited to an interview. They wanted me to drop everything, and be available in the next couple of days. Im in work, so put them off until the following week.
      The interview went very well, but for some demenstrable reasons I wasnt suitable for the role. They however wanted me to consider a different role, and could I come in to meet the manager the next day.

      The process is ongoing, but Im always amazed when recruiters want you to drop everything to suit them, take 2 days off at unreasonable notice etc etc.

      Pulling a sickie is not morally the right way to go, even though the majority would do this. If a potential employer expects you to treat your current employer in a shabby way, they cant be suprised that they lose out on good candidates, or get treated the same way in turn.

      I dont mean to suggest that you would treat candidates like this, but schedules change, and maybe the best candidate is the one that is most flexible and accomadating to their current employer, even when they wish to move on from that job.

      • andrew March 11, 2015 at 2:58 am #

        Hi Tristan

        The rule for me is when you have agreed, if we haven’t made plans to meet up then that doesn’t count. Say we booked the meeting 7 days in advance then you canceled the day before that’s it in my book you have shot your bolt!!


  24. FB February 27, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    Good list for recruiters. RM had it right, don’t be so self righteous. This list should also apply to recruiters. These should be added to the list. These will get me to turn your offer, positions or opportunity down flat. Not to worry, I have rarely needed a anyone assisting me in getting a job. After an interview, I have offers in record time.

    – Stop asking me what my best salary/rate is when we have already discussed it. Having problem remembering those discussions

    – Stop acting like you know as much or more than I do (it is doubtful you do) in the subject matter of the position you are selling (yes you are sales people)

    – Yes I have 20+ years of experience and so many skills it is not even funny… So why are you calling me with a “junior” anything position

    – Of course you are looking for someone with my skills and experience, no I wont take a x% cut in pay to help you or the company you represent out so don’t even ask.

    -Cant answer my questions in regards to environment and infrastructure, then don’t call or have someone that can call. This ties in with a point above, once you answer one questions a generic answer wont do… You (and the company you represent) too are being interviewed

    Don’t make stupid jokes or cutesy comment to me. I don’t know you, dont want to really know you and we are talking business.

    I have walked out of interviews for some of these being broken. Sales call from recruiters, talent scouts, headhunters (or whatever term is currently being used to describe this function) were promptly ended for some of these being broken. Recruiters and contract agency make money because of me or off of me (and my skills) period which basically makes them “p” words without the muscle. Maybe that should be considered in some conversations. The position I currently have, the contract company ordered to contact me and bring me on. I didn’t contact them nor would I have. I went right to the company. The position I had prior, landed in 12 minutes after interviewing with the actual company. The “recruiters” did know anything. Both are/were just tagged on my back for the ride and to benefit off of me so remember who the asset probably is…

    • Yuriy Shevchenko March 2, 2015 at 11:29 pm #


      Why do you even bother to read this blog and take time to post here if you have nothing but contempt for recruiters?

      I can’t understand for the life of me why anyone who “doesn’t need us” would take the time to write here to “educate” us. The fact that thousands of recruiters exist would, considering the basic tenets of supply and demand, indicate that at least some people out there need us.

      Yes I am a salesman and very proud of it, so what? Aren’t you when you go and pitch yourself for a contract or job?

  25. Cindy February 27, 2015 at 11:34 am #

    Yes and yes to all. How about a thank you for lunch or dinner (though most of mine, to their credit, do say thanks). And don’t get mad when I don’t share a client’s name or refer you to a job you are not qualified for.

    Oh and bragging -bragging really peeves me off. There’s a lot of that going around in the world of CFO’s!

  26. Old OilnGas February 27, 2015 at 11:05 pm #

    And we get sick of the huge egos and endless smoke up our behinds from recruiters, no doubt just to fill your databases to get in quickly on your commissions.
    Remember you don’t actually do the work, you just find someone that does……

    • Greg Savage February 27, 2015 at 11:10 pm #

      hmm sweet remarks Old O&G..very classy..and brave too without using your real name. And as for recruiters “doing no work”..you have no idea mate..none.

  27. Old OilnGas February 27, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

    You’re right, apologies for putting all recruiters in the same basket, but there a lot of you that give the rest a bad name. For those that do a great job (and yes, there are many) guess you don’t have anything to worry about! I’m talking before interview stage and cold calling, all I ask is don’t make it so obvious you’re just collecting resumes. I’ve had some ask questions where it was obvious they knew less about the position then I did, blatant lies re: salary and after more questioning, realize there wasn’t really a position in the first place. Yes, more then a few times this has happened. I guess all the times I’ve been messed about lately by recruiters is starting to outweigh the positive times.

    I went to this link to maybe learn something, but it ended up being a page for recruiters to whinge and feel superior to those actually seeking work. I completely agree with your list by the way (and yes, most people would have thought these were all obvious points), but as for not putting a folder/document on your desk? Really? Yeah no ego there!

  28. Charles February 28, 2015 at 10:36 pm #

    I’ve got one re wearing a tie to an interview.

    Either wear one properly or don’t bother. I absolutely hate someone turning up with a tie on and the top button undone with the tie at half mast. Did you forget or is that the way you dress yourself, near enough good enough.

    Cant do the top button up on your shirt? Buy a shirt that fits!

    Happy recruiting

  29. Don March 12, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Can I just say… if a candidate can make you LOTS and LOTS of money with their skills and attitude, but you judge them based on a handshake or “keys/phone on the table” or “bringing his or her own coffee”? YOU are the one missing out my friend. Although I do agree with some points in your list, most of them are unnecessary judgements that make YOU feel ‘important’ but do not paint a single picture about the candidate’s potential performance.

    • Greg Savage March 12, 2015 at 10:36 am #

      Did you actually read the blog Don? I specifically said that i would NOT judge a candidate on one or two of these factors. I went to to explain that I do my utmost to ensure NO bias effect my judgement, and that i take assessment seriously. As for your lecture on how “candidates can make me money” thanks for that, but I am probably one of the strongest advocates for better treatment of candidates in the recruitment industry, anywhere. I lecture on it, I write on it (read this entire blog) and I act on it in the companies I have built. As for actually “making money” trust me on that point I probably do not need your advice. Very best Greg

  30. Mark Johnson March 12, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    Is it just me or is this article a sad indictment of the world we live in nowadays? It saddens me that this list of simple common courtesy examples needs to be shared at all. What saddens me further is that some people are actually questioning it. What time, place or even planet are these people on if they think it’s OK to excuse, let alone don anything on this list?

    Present-ability, manners and respect are surely your number one priority at any interview? Or have I missed the point in time where it’s OK to effectively be rude by having your phone and even considering answering it in an interview situation?

    Having said the above, I was talking to a colleague from another agency today and I was shocked to find that she is very often finding it difficult to find presentable young candidates at the moment.

  31. bob March 12, 2015 at 4:04 pm #

    All of the above goes without saying – I cant believe you decided to write it, and i cant believe I wasted 2 mins reading it, and another 2 mins writing this.

    • Greg Savage March 12, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

      Hey Bob, not everyone is as smart as you. These mistakes are made EVERY day by people in interviews… so clearly it does not ‘go with out saying”.. in fact it NEEDS to be said .. and thats why I decided to write it.

      PS use your real name next time or we may just think you are an internet coward and not take you seriously..imagine that

  32. Chris G March 25, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    All of Greg’s list plus:

    – Sunglasses on top of the head – nothing starts until I have fixed that
    – Heavy perfume, especially that used to hide a smoking addiction
    – Caps worn inside. Also track suit pants, runners and pants that don’t seem to stay up above their undies
    – Candidates that have just finished a cigarette minutes before coming in to the office.
    – Ties that look like the candidate has never tied one before, or look like footy players making their tribunal appearance.
    Call me old school, but that’s what many employers are too…

  33. Amy May 27, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

    Great post! This doesn’t just help candidates prevent creating a bad impression but also allows employers to understand they’re not the only one with these pet hates!
    First impressions really are everything when it comes to a job interview!

  34. VC Leo September 21, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Loads of fun to read this. Some issues are the same on this side of the pond. Need to share with you, if people bringing their own coffee to an interview is going to annoy you, do NOT try to get work recruiting on the West coast of the USA. It’s considered a courtesy to bring your own instead of expecting the interviewer to provide same. Besides only the high end places even have white chocolate mocha chai. Someone who doesn’t drink fancy coffee around here would be considered suspect….. Just FYI

    • Greg Savage September 21, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

      I understand about the coffee Leo. I drink and fancy coffee too actually. Love it. Also like red wine, jam donuts, rump steak dome medium rare, and lamb on a spit. None of which I would bring INTO the interview. Have your coffee before the meeting is my point. Or after if you wish. Or during if its offered. But as the blog says..these are just my peeves..

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