How to Flunk a Job Interview

These common mistakes will ruin your chances of getting just about any job.

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at

Finding reliable, loyal, and competent employees is at the top of most entrepreneurs’ minds. You deal with this as a start-up founder, and it continues to plague your management team through the mid-size stage and beyond.

Our company has recently expanded significantly, opening up a number of critical positions. That’s pressed us to spend most of our time recruiting–and to learn a lot about the common mistakes that job applicants make.

Using a salary-driven approach to selecting your first job

Opting for a salary-driven approach to the job search–especially when you have little or no experience behind your expectations–is probably not the best long-term strategy. Those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to gain experience in a coveted field come when you’re young and fresh, and the reality is that learning jobs don’t pay that well. Being aware of this fact will help you gauge the opportunity better.

As an entry-level candidate, you want to show your prospective employer that you value the experience–and the potential opportunity for growth–more than your initial paycheck.

Using unlikely stories to justify past slip-ups

I frequently find myself speaking with applicants that look great on paper and turn out to be quite different during the interview. If you have unexplained breaks in employment, don’t use some crazy excuse in an attempt to make yourself look better. Instead of crafting a sad tale portraying you as the martyr, try using a good old-fashioned truth: “I made some mistakes in the past. Now I realize that I didn’t have my priorities properly in mind, and I’m clear on where I’d like my journey to go.” It sounds better.

Confusing your employer with a misleading resume

If you acted as director of marketing for your previous employer, but you still haven’t graduated from college, don’t omit the expected graduation date from your resume. Even if it might get you more interviews, it misleads your potential employer into believing you have more experience than you actually do. This will come clear during the interview, by which time you will have changed from being an interesting prospect to a potentially shady candidate.

Employers are looking for candidates that are capable, reliable, and willing to go the extra mile. My advice: Check your ego at the door, and write a kickass cover letter about why you would be great for the job. Explain your capabilities, and why the company interests you. Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for the next hidden treasure. That could be you.

In 2007, Mayra Jimenez and her husband founded The Orchid Boutique, which specializes in designer swimwear made in their native Colombia. Today, Orchid Boutique is a multimillion-dollar business with both online and brick-and-mortar stores.

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