"This can be make or break." 8 bosses on their biggest turn-offs during a job interview.

When it comes to job interviews, we pour over every detail available – our resumes, cover letters, and of course most importantly,  what to say during the hiring process

Not to mention, the effort we go to ask the right questions, so we can impress the future employer. 

But have you ever wondered what not to say in a job interview? 

Because according to some of the many business executives and managers we've spoken to, there are a few key things to steer clear from. According to research, three of the key reasonings behind job rejections are the following:

1. A lack of relevant professional experience.

2. Candidates not displaying enough knowledge about the company they are interviewing with.

3. Candidates not realising their social media platforms are looked at carefully by the company they are interviewing with. 

Watch MM Confessions: Our job interview horror stories. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

With this in mind, we asked some bosses and business owners in Australia to share with us what their biggest turn-off is during a job interview.

Here's what they had to say.

Elle Ferguson, founder of ELEFFECT.

For Elle, she told Mamamia that research is key – and to know how to pronounce the name of the company you are interviewing for!

"The biggest turn-off for me, as a boss is when people haven't done their research. You need to know the brand. Google is your best friend, watch videos of the brand so you pronounce the name correctly (yes believe it or not I have had people in interviews actually pronounce the brand incorrectly). Take notes of milestones in the business and what YOU love about the business. It's the biggest turn-off when people sit in an interview and know nothing about the brand. I think to myself, 'why are you here?'"


Mai Aristoteli, the General Manager of Elevate Communication

According to Mai, not asking any questions is a big no-no.

"At the end of every interview, I ask 'What questions do you have for me?' I deliberately keep the question open, to encourage questions – any questions! When someone says they don't have any, this tells me that they aren't truly interested in the role, or they find it hard to connect and engage with others," Mai said to Mamamia.

"If you can't think of a question about the role, you can simply ask them 'What do you love most about working here?' This gives you an insight into their values and the company – and added bonus, people love talking about themselves so they'll look back on the interview more positively!"

Some examples you could go with include:

  • What is the culture like at this workplace?
  • What trends are you noticing in the industry?
  • What does a regular 'day in the life' look like for this role?
  • What does success in the role look like?
  • What do you see as the greatest challenges for the business at the moment?

Laura Thompson, founder of The Koori Circle and co-founder of The Clothing Gaps.

"We love getting a chance to meet and get to know new people throughout the interview process. We do our best to make people feel comfy while we try figure out if they are the right fit but, sometimes we raise a few eyebrows," Laura said to Mamamia.

Listen to this episode of Lady Startup Stories with Laura Thompson. Post continues after audio.


"One question we ask to all the people we interview is about their connection to the local Victorian Aboriginal Community because we are based on Wurundjeri Country in Melbourne. It's a bit of a turn-off when they miss the specific reference to 'local' and go on to tell us about their time working or visiting remote Aboriginal communities up north."

Laura also said that when hiring for Clothing The Gaps, it's imperative that people be immersed and engaged with Indigenous issues and causes. Because if the candidate is not, it shows. 

"NAIDOC week is such an important time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So, it's also another turn off when a candidate can't correctly pronounce the word NAIDOC (NAY-DOC) and say 'NAR-DOC' instead. It makes you question their level of engagement and exposure to mob."

A food and beverage manager in the hospitality industry in NT.

"The hospitality industry is hard - no doubt about it. Given the challenges the industry is currently facing, with multiple job vacancies and not enough staff to fill them, it's been a tough slog for all. But a red flag for me is when the person I'm interviewing s**t talks their previous employer.


"I've conducted lots of interviews where I ask the candidate 'why are you leaving your current position?' or 'why did you leave your last job?' And their response is often make or break. What I would suggest people say is something along the lines of 'I decided to leave to pursue different career opportunities' or 'it was the right time' etc. Respect and professionalism is key."

Holly Wainwright, Head of Content at Mamamia.

"There is only one thing someone can do in an interview that completely puts me off – knowing nothing about the place you're applying to," Holly said.

"Obviously, I don't expect a depth of knowledge or for someone to have done three weeks of unpaid research before they come in, but when I worked in magazines, it would amaze me how many people would come in for an interview having never read the magazine, and it's the same these days with anyone who doesn't have a very basic understanding of Mamamia's content.

"For me it tells me two things: They just want a job, not necessarily this job, and while there is NO shame wanting any job to pay your bills of course, most employers are looking for people who actively want to work with them. And the other thing it tells me is that there is a lack of natural curiosity. And I'm employing content people, so curiosity is key. On almost everything else, my mind is wide open. But please do just the teeniest bit of research..."


A registered nurse/manager in QLD.

"A red flag for me in the hiring process is if people begin to spin the truth with their responses or work experience. It's not only a hindrance for them and their future in the job, but also for us as an employer. Because if they say they have had X amount of years of experience doing a certain job in nursing, when really it was only a short amount of time, that white lie will affect our training plans and make for an awkward working environment if they're hired!"

Michelle Hu, founder and CEO of Etoile Collective.

"I love to hire people who I can sense are genuinely passionate, interested and motivated in firstly the role, and secondly the company. So it turns me off when candidates don't know the basics (product range, markets we're active in, who our customer would be etc.) or worse, when they say this is their dream role and then when asked why, provide incorrect details about the business. For example, one person we interviewed said they would love to work for a makeup business when we don't have any cosmetics," Michelle said to Mamamia.

"When I interview anyone and they give off this sense of insincerity, I find it really difficult to progress the application, even if everything else is great!"


Shelley Johnson, HR consultant at Boldside and a podcast co-host of My Millennial Career.

Shelley said to Mamamia that it's crucial for candidates not to overlook the 'get to know you' questions.

"Ahhhh, the dreaded 'tell me about yourself' question. It's one of the most overlooked parts of an interview process. Most people prepare for the technical, job-specific questions, but they forget about the 'get to know you' questions," Shelley said.

"The tell me about yourself question isn't a warm-up before the main event. It's a chance to stand out and build rapport and connection. Think of interviews as public speaking. The opening few minutes can be make or break. Your response is just as important as the technical questions."

Some tips that Shelley provided include:

  • Keep it simple. You don't need to share your full career story. Give a snapshot of why you love what you do.
  • Give it personality! It is not all business. Do you love reading sci-fi novels in your spare time? Are you into baking? (Trust me, hiring managers love this one!) Share about who you are, not just what you do for work.  
  • Share one of your big career goals. Could be something like "I'm hoping to move into a leadership role one day." Show them you've been active in planning your career moves – they love to see people looking for opportunities.

Feature Image: Instagram @elle_ferguson @wainwrightholly, @clothingthegaps.

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