10 unprofessional habits that could cost you a job

Finding new employment can be a nerve racking and stressful experience, and whether it is through your CV, an interview or a phone call with your recruiter, there are many situations where you can make fatal mistakes.

To help you navigate your job search, here are 10 unprofessional habits you need to avoid, as these will almost certainly cost you a job.

Being Sloppy

Typos, grammar mistakes and formatting issues are sure-fire way to end up in the “no” pile. Whether the mistakes are on your CV, LinkedIn profile or in an email, if your spelling and grammar is sloppy, recruiters and hiring managers will assume you are too.

Your first communication with a recruiter or hiring manager is often through some sort of written format (email, cover letter, CV), so make sure you proof read and ensure your first impression is a great one!

Trying too hard for attention

There are many ways to gain attention from hiring managers and recruiters, but using coloured paper, multiple fronts and even glitter on your CV is going to attract the wrong attention.

By using these techniques, you appear unprofessional and immature. You want your application to stand out because of its content and professional format, so spend the time to craft a tailored application based on your research of the role and company.

Not doing your research

“As a recruiter it’s obvious when you get an application where the candidate has done their research,” says Chloe Callery, Stafffinders Commercial Consultant.

“Doing research and incorporating your findings into your application demonstrates that you made the decision to apply for the role considering the facts, rather than out of desperation.”

There are a number of things to consider when researching the company, including looking at their:

  • Mission and values
  • Recent achievements and media presence
  • Company culture and community of employees 

Embellishing and exaggerating the truth

Catching a candidate lying about something is an instant deal breaker for many recruiters and hiring managers.

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

It can be easy to give yourself a retrospective promotion for previous employment, but recruiters and hiring managers know when something just doesn’t add up. Elevating a previous title from “Manager” to “Director” just puts your credibility at risk.


Smoking and drinking

To put it simply, never smoke or drink alcohol before an interview. If you smoke before your interview your interviewer will smell it on you. While they may not mind if they are a smoker, it can be uncomfortable sitting in a room with someone smelling of smoke regardless of whether they are a smoker or not.

Drinking alcohol before an interview is also a bad idea. While alcohol can help calm nerves, it dulls your senses in the process and you run the risk of not sounding intelligent.


Simply don’t. Blurting out foul or questionable language is simply unprofessional and demonstrates that you are not able to calmly and thoughtfully deal with a situation.


Another big no-no. Interpreting is rude and shows others that you don’t have respect or patience.

Bringing too much

Your portfolio, copies of your CV, identification and your visa (if appropriate) are all you need to bring to an interview. Everything else is unnecessary.

Leave your water bottle or latte in the car, or if you use public transport, use a recyclable water bottle or latte cup which you can put in a recycling bin before arriving.

Remember to turn your phone off and put it away so you’re free to shake hands.

Being late

Running Late

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

Arriving late tells the hiring manager that you are irresponsible, are not taking this process seriously, and don't respect their time. And this is not the first impression you want to make.

Don’t text 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. Most waiting areas have magazines, and if you see a company brochure, even better. Reading that will reflect your interest in the company.

Alternatively, pop into the restroom for a quick mirror check to make sure you are still looking your best!


To find out how to close your interview on a high, check out our guide to questions you should consider asking during a job interview.

For more interview tips and tricks, please get in touch with one of our expert consultants, or if you’re looking for a new role, please view Stafffinders’ current opportunities.


 Get in touch   Job Search