17 unprofessional habits that could cost you a job

Boss meeting coworkersracorn/shutterstockYou may not realise it, but your bad habits could shine through during your job hunt.

Finding a new job is a nerve-wracking experience.

From crafting the ideal résumé to acing the job interview, there are a lot of opportunities to screw things up.

To help you avoid letting bad habits shine through at the worst moments, we asked experts to highlight some of the least professional behaviour you could demonstrate that will almost certainly cost you a job.

Here’s what you could be doing all wrong that makes you look unprofessional in your job search:

Being sloppy

Your résumé is your first contact with HR or recruiters, Rosalinda Oropeza Randall, an etiquette and civility expert and author of '
Don't Burp in the Boardroom,' tells Business Insider. And typos, grammar mistakes, and formatting issues will land it in the no pile within a few seconds. 'If your résumé is sloppy, they will assume you are, too,' she says.

Not doing your homework

'Employers take note of candidates that are educated on the responsibilities of the job opening in question and on the company itself,' Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder, tells Business Insider. 'This demonstrates that you made the decision to apply for the job after considering the facts, rather than out of desperation.'

Trying too hard to garner attention

If you want your résumé to stand out, for instance, 'let it be because of its content and format,' Randall says. 'Using coloured paper, a multitude of fonts, or even including confetti with your resume will attract attention, but not the right kind.'

Practicing poor hygiene

Water shortage or not, if there's one occasion you really want to shower before, it's a job interview.

'Do you want people focusing on the musty odor that surrounds you or your brilliant words?' Randall asks. 'Lack of effort in your appearance can be construed as potentially lacking effort in your work and work area.'

Being late

Frequent tardiness is a common bad habit. But do whatever you can to avoid showing up late to the interview.

It will tell the hiring manager that you're irresponsible, aren't taking this process seriously, and that you don't respect their time. And this is not the first impression you want to make.

Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. If you find yourself running way ahead of schedule, career expert Amanda Augustine and Business Insider's director of talent Stephanie Fogle suggest killing time by ducking into a coffee shop or walking around the neighbourhood, Kathleen Elkins reports. Why? Showing up too early isn't great either. It can be frustrating for the hiring manager, as your early arrival could throw a curveball into their schedule.

Getty Images/Sean Gallup

Texting while waiting

It's a good idea to arrive a little early to your interview, but be careful not to let boredom get the best of you.

Texting while you wait will make you look as if you would rather be elsewhere, Oliver says.

Most waiting areas have magazines, Randall notes, and if you see a company brochure, even better. Reading that will reflect your interest in the company.

Grooming in public

Oliver says it's a good idea to pack a small grooming kit for a quick touch-up before an interview. But rather than apply lipstick or brush your hair in the reception area, you should arrive a few minutes before the interview starts, duck into the restroom, and complete your final grooming before the interview there.

Bringing too much stuff

Your portfolio and copies of your résumé are all you need to bring to your interview -- everything else is superfluous. Randall suggests leaving your latte or water bottle in the car and putting away your cell phone so you're free to shake hands.

Dressing too casually

As they say: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

'Sloppy clothes scream, 'I don't care!' and are a surefire way to put off those around you,' Randall says.

And dressing too formally for an interview can tell an employer you didn't research the company culture and you're not a fit.

Speaking without thinking

This is a terrible habit -- and it can be especially detrimental during a job search.

Saying the wrong thing to the receptionist, for instance, can crush your chances of landing a job. Receptionists are often the first set of eyes and ears a company has, and what you say to them will probably make its way back to hiring managers.

Continually asking the receptionist if she is sure that your interviewer knows you're waiting for her out in the lobby may convey your neuroses, Oliver says. And flip comments like 'Hey, beautiful,' aren't the compliments you may think they are.

Being too informal

'While I'm not promoting a formal, 'How-do-you-do?'-style greeting, you might consider stepping it up a bit when you're introducing yourself to the person who will be determining whether you get the job or not,' Randall says. Leading with, 'Hey, what's up,' probably won't make the best first impression.


'Naturally, the purpose of an interview is to impress the company with your talent and skills,' Randall says. 'But be aware of oversharing; they may learn more about you than they need to.'

To avoid oversharing, she suggests following a few simple rules: Keep it relevant. Leave your childhood out of it. Don't insist on special favours or accommodations. And don't use the term 'deal breaker.'

Instead, listen and give the interviewee an opportunity to ask questions.


'It's rude to interrupt. When you do, it shows others that you don't have any respect, judgment, or patience,' Randall says.

While participation can earn you some brownie points, bad timing can wipe those points away.


You may be really excited to be interviewing with your top choice for employer, but blurting out foul language is a surefire way to cut the interview short.

Swearing demonstrates to others that you aren't able to calmly and thoughtfully deal with a situation, Randall says.

'Using foul words or questionable language is not only a bad habit, but in most places of business, it's still considered unprofessional and can even land you in Human Resources for a little chat,' Randall says.


In a recent CareerBuilder survey, 69% of employers said catching a candidate lying about something is an instant deal breaker, Haefner says.

'Lying or exaggerating during the hiring process can destroy your chances of ever being hired with that employer,' she says. 'And because of extensive background checks and references that are come into play before an offer is made, it's easier to be caught than you might think.'

Poor body language

'What you say in an interview is as important as how you say it, and bad body language takes away from your words,' Haefner says.

In a recent CareerBuilder survey, employers said some of the biggest body language mistakes job seekers make include failing to make eye contact, failing to smile, and bad posture.

Nervous habits like jingling your keys, shaking your leg, and scratching your head can also be construed as boredom, Randall says.

'Interviews are highly stressful, even for those doing the interviewing,' Oliver says. 'Through your body language, try to convey how delighted you are to be given the opportunity to compete for the amazing job.'

Not being gracious

As Business Insider managing editor Jessica Liebman writes, one of the biggest mistakes you can make when competing for a new job is not saying, 'Thank you,' after an interview.

'Whether we spent 30 minutes meeting in the offices, we Skyped because you're abroad for your junior spring semester, or we did a quick first-round phone interview, you should always follow up later that day or the following day to say thanks and reiterate your interest,' Liebman says.

A few things happen when you don't send a thank-you email: The hiring manager assumes you don't want the job, they think you're disorganized and forgot about following up, and there is a much higher chance they will forget about you.

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