how to rock your interview but lose the job offer

You had a great interview, the interviewer loved you, and now the employer is signaling that the job is almost yours. But don’t sit back and relax just yet – the actions that you take (or don’t take) during this period can determine whether or not you ever see a job offer. And even when an employer is in the process of preparing offer paperwork, a mistake on your end can short-circuit that and cause them to choose another candidate instead.

Here are five ways that you can ruin a great interview with mistakes afterwards.

1. Don’t follow through on something you said you would do. If you told your interviewer that you would email over a reference list or a writing sample and then don’t do it, you better believe that’s going to be noticed! And not only will your interviewer notice if you follow through, but she’ll notice if you did it in the timeline you offered. That means that if you say in an interview that you’ll forward materials that evening, it really does need to happen that evening. If it’s two days later, you’ll look disorganized or like you lost track of what you committed to.

2. Be unresponsive to attempts to contact you. If your interviewer calls or emails you to schedule another meeting or ask a few more questions, you don’t need to be available on the spot, but you do need to respond within a day or two. Otherwise you’ll look incredibly uninterested (given how enthusiastic interested candidates normally are about moving the hiring process along). And yes, that means that if you’re going out of town and not planning to check voicemail or emails, you should let your interviewer know ahead of time and/or leave an outgoing message explaining when you’ll be back.

3. Be pushy or overly aggressive in your follow-ups. It’s fine to follow up after an interview, particularly if your interviewer told that you they’d be back in touch within a certain amount of time that has now passed. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do follow up. Sending a post-interview thank-you is fine (and appreciated). Politely checking in after a stated timeline has passed is also fine. But checking in after one week when your interviewer told you two weeks, or sending repeated follow-ups trying to get an answer is too aggressive and will reflect badly on you – as well as making you look like you’d be a pain as a colleague. You don’t want that.

4. Mishandle your references. Your references can be the deciding factor in whether you get a job offer or not, so it’s crucial to manage them properly. That means prepping them to expect a call (so they don’t respond with “Jane who?” when your name is mentioned) and ensuring they’ll be available (so you can line up substitutes if they’re out of the country for a month). That also means that if the employer is calling someone who isn’t likely to give you a glowing reference, you should put it in context for them ahead of time. For instance, if your former boss took it badly when you left for another job and the relationship never recovered, that’s worth mentioning before the reference-checker gets on the phone with her – so that you’re proactively providing framing for what they might hear.

5. Post something dumb on social media. You can ruin your chances of a job offer in seconds by posting something unprofessional or ill-advised on social media. Complaints about your current job, snarky commentary about your interview, tasteless jokes about hot-button issues, or anything else that calls your judgment into question is a great way to get struck off a short list of candidates. One example of this made headlines a few years back, when a prospective hire at the networking equipment company Cisco posted this on Twitter: “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” A Cisco employee saw the tweet, and she lost the job offer.Employers do use social media – and it’s not unusual to check out candidates there, both before and after interviews.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 53 comments… read them below }

  1. BRR*

    #2 almost happened to me. I was in the depths of the grocery store and had lost cell reception and when I got it back my phone said I had a voice mail with no missed call alert. I called back immediately and the hr person said, “Oh I’m glad you called back, I got nervous when I didn’t hear back after I called yesterday.” I was unemployed at the time so I almost had a heart attack.

  2. Michele*

    The social media one is huge. I think one of the reasons my sister has struggled with moving into a new position with another company is all the complaining she does on her Facebook page about her current job. Numerous people including myself have told her that she needs to clean up her page and she doesn’t want to listen! We have all told her that it is one thing to say Ugh, what a day but she has said some questionable things that should definitely not be on-line.

    1. Kai*

      Absolutely. Along with that, I’m always surprised by the number of people who post things like “I had a job interview today at XYZ Company! Hoping it went well, I was sooo nervous!” It’s probably not a dealbreaker but I can’t imagine posting anything on Facebook until I had absolute confirmation that I’d be starting a new position.

      1. stellanor*

        My facebook is on super-paranoid lockdown ever since I was a college TA so I kind of post whatever on social media, but I also don’t friend coworkers and know no one involved in a job search can see it — I kept a pretty close eye on my privacy settings both when I was teaching and when I was job-searching.

        Although I STILL wouldn’t slag a company I was applying with on Facebook, out of straight-up paranoia.

        1. en pointe*

          I’m the same. My Facebook is by no means sanitised, but I do monitor the privacy setting changes pretty closely, and don’t friend coworkers. And I agree about not slagging off prospective employers on Facebook, both out of paranoia and the fact that it’s generally kind of a douchey thing to do.

          1. stellanor*

            I feel like if I talked smack about a place I interviewed with the interviewer might sense the disturbance in the force, no matter how locked down my Facebook was.

            Although I definitely talked smack IRL about the interview I had where I’d already had two interviews with the company and was unexpectedly called in for a third with the CEO, who rolled into the room without having read my resume and asked me for a copy, which I provided. She then asked if I had experience in X industry, which I did not, and when I said so she immediately told me I wasn’t getting the job and ended the interview. And then was kind of an asshole about it when I looked slightly shocked/dismayed by this development. (And I can talk smack about that online now because I have a different, better job and have no plans to go within 100 yards of that company ever again.)

      2. Mimmy*

        Yikes, I’ve posted about job interviews on FB before. I don’t think I’ve ever specified the prospective employer, but I can see how it can easily backfire if you include just enough vague details that someone else job-hunting might figure it out and snag the position her/himself.

        1. Kai*

          It’s that, and it’s also just the strangeness of being public about how many jobs you’ve interviewed for and then subsequently don’t get. It becomes very noticeable when the same person is posting statuses about a new prospect every few weeks.

          Then again, these are the same folks who like to let us know what viruses they’ve come down with or who passive-aggressively fight with their SO online…

        2. Anna*

          I don’t see the problem with posting about having just interviewed with Company X and you hope it goes well. It’s a fact. It’s not like they sneaked you in with a hood over your head so you wouldn’t be able to give any details (unless you’re interviewing with the CIA, then that might happen).

      3. Vancouver Reader*

        I don’t even like telling friends and family that I’ve gone for an interview, let alone my FB friends. When I get a job, then they can find out about it.

      4. Mep*

        I absolutely agree! It’s like setting yourself up for failure, should that happen!

        Personally, I rarely ever post on FB for personal reasons…ranging from not wanting to advertise my life to being judged because of my posts. It’s just easier this way, but I do understand that it CAN hurt me. I heard stories from Twitter interviews that they like their candidate to actually use Twitter. If the company doesn’t like the inactivity on any of my accounts, then that company isn’t for me.

      5. Vicki*

        What’s wrong with posting that way? Not saying bad things about the company or the possible job; that’s a fairly positive post.

        Unless, of course, you currently have a job and they don’t know you’re interviewing. Them it’s pretty stupid. :-)

    2. Adam*

      Yeah, I had a habit of posting funny stories about work online, keeping it as clean as possible, but they usually involved me communicating with a customer and them having a “durr…” moment. Since I began the job hunt I’ve resisted the urge to do that, and my Facebook friends are disappointed as those were usually my most interesting posts. :P

  3. Ali*

    I have been guilty of complaining about work on Facebook when I was less mature. I’ve calmed it down since but don’t post about my job search on social media. Mostly because I have coworkers on my networks who don’t know I’m job searching. (I know you can say don’t add coworkers but we have a close company culture and we all have good relationships.)

    1. Michele*

      I am also job searching Ali and am interviewing with one of our largest accounts so I am definitely not sharing anything about it on FB. Before I get the be careful comments this is not a situation that will affect my current companies business with this customer. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be making the move back out to the west coast!

  4. Purr purr purr*

    Or get a job offer and subsequently lose it! I was hedging my bets hoping that I’d get the 2nd job I interviewed for, which had more pay, better benefits, and a better match to my career goals. Unfortunately while I was waiting to hear back about job #2, I ended up losing my offer of job #1 because I waited too long to confirm it, and I also didn’t get job #2 anyway!

    1. Audiophile*

      Did you mention to company 1 that you might need more time? That way you might have had a bit of a buffer.

  5. Once Anon a Time*

    In regards to the social media thing, is it true that employers can “hack” your Facebook profile and see things that you have set to private? I recall reading that no matter how private you make your profile, employers can still use IT to see what you have hidden. Is there any truth to this?

    Sidenote: I barely use my Facebook. When I do, it’s usually to upload photos I have taken at events, such as a wedding, birthday, or graduation party. The photos aren’t inappropriate, so I’m not worried. I keep my profile very clean.

    1. BRR*

      They could log on to your facebook if you used a company owned device since they’re all usually fitted with software to look up any usage.

      They can’t hack into it though from the outside. Some employer did and are still trying to require you to log on to your fb so they can look through it as part of the application process. I believe that is illegal now in some states though.

      1. Once Anon a Time*

        Okay, thanks for the clarification. I know there’s ways to get around a private profile and still see it, but I wasn’t sure to what extent.

        For example, my friend “Anne” told me a story about how she interviewed at a company recently. She and the hiring manager who interviewed her had a mutual friend in common on Facebook. Because Anne’s profile was set to private, the HM actually asked the mutual friend if she could show her Anne’s profile. The mutual friend declined, and told Anne about it. Had the mutual friend complied with the HM’s request, the HM would have seen Anne’s private profile.

        Also worth mentioning that the mutual friend was a personal friend to both Anne and the HM. There was no professional relationship with either of them. The mutual friend declined because she thought it was inappropriate that the HM would ask a personal friend to show her another friend’s Facebook profile for the basis of hiring.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Ahh! That makes more sense, but that isn’t “hacking.” That would be called “social engineering,” but its something to watch for because when your friends comment or or like something you post, doesn’t it usually show up on for their friends to see?

          1. Once Anon a Time*

            I think it only shows up in your News Feed if you are friends with both people involved (the person who wrote the post, and the person who liked/commented on it).

            The only way I’ve seen something a friend liked that was written by someone I don’t know, is if that post was set to Public or Friends of Friends. I’ve never seen anything like that happen with a post that was set to Private.

            1. Mep*

              The HM probably just looked up the candidate on facebook. The “mutual friends” function probably showed up…along with who it is.

              That was very slick on the HM’s side, but I’m glad that the mutual friend is a true friend to the candidate. I’d be very upset if a friend of mine allowed the HM see everything on my fb account. There are reasons to keep certain details for the eyes of friends.

      2. Stephen*

        I don’t know if it would be illegal, but your lawyer would sure advise you against it. If you require an applicant to log in and show you their facebook you can reasonably expect to learn their sexual orientation, politics, religion, whether they/their wife is pregnant, etc. Then if you don’t offer them the job you’ve openned yourself up to accusations of discrimination.

    2. en pointe*

      I guess they could in the sense that you can hack just about any site on the web if you have the skills. I don’t think I’d be worried about anybody bothering though. Are prospective employee’s Facebook profiles really THAT interesting?

      1. SherryD*

        “Are prospective employee’s Facebook profiles really THAT interesting?”

        I would think not interesting enough to hack (not too mention totally unethical!), but maybe interesting enough to spend a few minutes searching! I once had my boss ask me to help find a prospective hire’s Facebook profile. Neither of us could find it. We work in a very social media-friendly industry, so my boss thought that was a red flag. I had to explain that he might have his privacy settings high, he might use a different name on Facebook… and that Facebook’s search engine sucks.

        1. Once Anon a Time*

          What about the possibility that he simply doesn’t have a Facebook?

          My cousin isn’t on any form of social media. If you Google her, her name doesn’t come up at all. I think just on White Pages since she’s listed in the phone book.

          1. SherryD*

            “What about the possibility that he simply doesn’t have a Facebook?”

            I know! Hopefully that wasn’t a factor in the job search. Otherwise, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

            1. Ali*

              I’m doing a social media internship right now and I was basically given the position after a brief phone call. (I met someone through the company on Twitter.) I wasn’t asked about any of my other accounts so the employer could take a look at them. I’ve heard for social media jobs that employers want to see all your accounts, but that didn’t happen with me…yet.

  6. Allison*

    2. I’m always paranoid about missing employer calls or e-mails when I’m job hunting. When I was first looking for summer jobs my dad told me that if I didn’t answer the first time they called, they’d move onto the next candidate without even leaving a message and I would’ve missed my chance. Even now, I know that’s not true for more “professional” jobs but I also know that if you don’t answer the phone, you could end up playing phone tag which can really delay the process and frustrate everyone. Last time I was between jobs, I wanted to use that free time to get some car-related stuff taken care of, but also wanted to make sure I could answer the phone if an employer called.

    5. I’d definitely echo the social media sentiment. Yes yes, we all have free speech and no one should lose out on a job because of what they believe. But it is important to at least act like you have a good head on your shoulders when you’re job searching. Negativity about past employers, prospective employers, or the job search in general can be a huge turnoff at any stage. I certainly wouldn’t want to hire someone who whines about how “the system” is rigged against them and the world is unfair, it’d make me wonder if they might have attitude or authority problems if hired.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Free speech means that the government can’t infringe on your right to free speech, it doesn’t say anything about your employer or potential employers.

      I think mostly people don’t lose jobs because they take a political stand or because they advocate for their personal beliefs. It’s more often that they say dumb stuff like bad mouthing their employers which make potential employers think “they’ll be indiscrete/dumb enought to say the same things about us if we employ them.”

  7. en pointe*

    Yeah well, I guess there’s always the risk of stuff like that, but I think that’s pretty obnoxious behaviour on the hiring manager’s part, and I’m glad Anne’s friend said no. I do think that might be a pretty odd situation though. I can’t imagine most hiring managers would invest more than a couple of minutes in looking for a profile before or after interview.

    Bear in mind though that having mutual friends with someone generally means they can see more of your profile than someone with whom you have none.

  8. Ed*

    I once had an interview that went extremely well. I interviewed with the manager and then was interviewed by the senior sysadmins as a group. I answered everything well and then we spent a while talking about things like on-call rotations, schedules, vacation, etc. The interview was supposed to be 30 minutes and it was 1.5 hours (with no “grilling”; all positive stuff). I said my goodbyes and the manager repeated the ways to contact him twice on the way (which I thought was a little unusual but didn’t give it much consideration at the time).

    I didn’t contact him because a) I had no follow-up questions and b) I was sent in through a staffing company who arranged everything. Maybe I’m wrong but I always assume the rules of contact are a little different when you’re interviewing through a staffing company. I typically ask the recruiter follow-up questions and she gets me the answers because they usually don’t want the candidates inserting themselves into the process. Either way, I didn’t get the job and strongly feel it is because I didn’t contact the hiring manager again (though it obviously could have been other things).

    For the record, I also did not send a thank you letter and maybe that is what he was expecting. I know the general consensus is to send one but I have never sent one when applying through a staffing company and always got offered every job I interviewed for.

    1. nocutename*

      When I worked in HR and we used agencies to help with hiring, about 25% of candidates would send a thank you note for the hiring managed via their agency recruiter, who would simply forward it along. It was always noticed and appreciated!

    2. Maggie*

      From my experience it is different, just as you said. Although times have changed. Maybe he too was new to using that type of service?

  9. Adam*

    That picture on the article is kinda hilarious. The woman looks especially pouty in response to the man’s in your face thumbs down.

    That and the near matching outfits kills it for me.

    1. undercover for this*

      It looks like she’s getting fired for her rumpled shirt! I also love how the dude is slightly smirking, as if he couldn’t wait to give the heave-ho.

  10. Angora*

    Regarding the FB comments. If someone is job searching … do not use the privacy setting “friends of friends”

    There are people out that there that will friend everyone. We all have a friend or two that will “friend” everyone because they view the “high” number of friends as important. Prospective employers can circle around and friend a friend of yours hoping to get access to your page. Some people are just nosy … I made a comment on my FB pages years ago with the “friends of friends” setting and a co-worker saw a comment I made about the giggling idiots at work (she was one). She had to go to my page to see it. They were so loud; when we moved into a new building they seperated them by putting them on opposite ends of the space (at my suggestion) . I had not used names, etc … but she saw what I had posted and figured out she was one of them. You can always go back and change your setting to Friends only if job hunting and it’ll limit who can see what. I highly recommend that.

    I applied for a job two years ago and the on-line application required you to log into your facebook page and log-on. (this was in the Research Triangle, NC) The site captured your password or something … it was really odd so I didn’t complete the application. You couldn’t just decline and go past it and complete the application. Either you did it; or you couldn’t apply for the job. I assume the laws have changed, etc. for NC since than; but I’ll never consider applying for a job at that organization again.

    1. James M*

      No, they weren’t trying to capture your password. The whole “log in with (Facebook/Google/Twitter)” thing is actually a means of accessing your personal information directly, though I don’t know what information or how much they want.

  11. Lamington*

    #1 I had the opposite. I had an internal interview and the manager was interested on seeing a tool that we had just converted to digital. I offered to bring the USB drive the next day and we agreed on the time. When I dropped it off the next day, the manager gave me a WTH look and forgot completely about it :( I didn’t get the job.

  12. Gilby*

    #3 follow up – Quesiton

    I had an interview for Job A. I got a call from corp HR a week later letting me know they are still interviewing and if I was not selected for that position would I consider another one… position B.
    Sure I will.

    I got an auto reply email saying I didn’t get “A.” Big Surpirse. But right after that Email I got another one personally from the same HR gal saying she wanted to personally tell me I didn’t get selected for ” A ” and she was going to keep me posted on job ” B ” that we already discussed.

    I sent a quick short email back thanking her for her reply and to please keep me in mind for other positions, basically confirming I was still ok for other positions like we had verbally discussed.

    I know that the hiring manager is out this week. Do I follow up again by late next week? ( Assuming I hear nothing this week).

    They are being great in their transparency in their process and I guess they liked me enough to think about me for other jobs.

    I am not a bug the manager/HR type of applicant. I am confident they will get back to me as they have already shown they will.

    Just sit tight?

    1. Gilby*

      And yes, I am still searching all the time and sent out 2 in the past week. And I am keeping in touch with my temp place.

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      I’d follow up one more time at the end of next week/beginning of the following (give the manager time to dig himself out after being out!). After that, if they want you, they’ll find you.

  13. Sabrina*

    The best interview I ever had resulted in a rejection because they hired someone internally. I was very upset.

  14. Anx*


    I admit I mishandle my references. What do you do when you’re long-term underemployed and constantly job-searching? My references are years old and I’m applying for jobs every month.

    What should I be doing?

    I’ll be honest, I’m very embarrassed to keep telling my old bosses that I’m still unemployed or underemployed. And I’m afraid it will affect their confidence in my abilities.

  15. Zowayix*

    For the situation in #4, what would be the right time and way to go about telling the interviewer that the relationship between you and your previous boss didn’t work out so well? Literally saying that outright doesn’t seem to sound good, as with saying anything along those lines during an interview, but emailing the hiring manager afterward saying the same thing doesn’t feel right either.

  16. A*

    I’m concerned about mishandling my references, too. The place I currently work at has a policy that higher-ups are not allowed to give information out about employees due to some kind of issues with potential litigation or something, so my managers are not allowed to say anything about me. I’ve circumvented this by requesting former SSAs (former holiday managers, basically, who are now peers but were supervisory) for references. A couple have agreed, but my job is shift work with a lot of long hours, and I know one of my references has another job, too, which means sometimes it can be hard to even contact coworkers. One of my staffing agencies was telling me they were having trouble reaching all of my references. I’ve considered bringing in more substitute references, but I think the shift issue could be present with many. And I feel weird about using much older employers, or people I only temped with briefly.

    I have a second interview tomorrow with a job I was shmoozing on last week; I thought we had a good back-and-forth last week, was told there would be a second interview, and was pleased when the next day I was called in for an interview. I’ve been trying to up my interviewing game recently and thought this was all a good sign, since I’ve never really made it to the second interview round before. Do you have any advice about second interviews, relative to first interviews? I’m a bit nervous, but I really want to impress upon these people that I like their company and want to be a part of it.

    Lastly, is it weird to add people to social networks like LinkedIn if you didn’t get a job with them? Today for instance, I interviewed for a company my staffing agency was trying to pair me with; I didn’t get the job, as they said another candidate had a stronger background in the area I was interviewing for, but they did apparently leave me glowing commentary, and they told me at the interview that they thought I interviewed very well. It was a prestigious company, a Fortune 500 I think, and I would be very interested if another opportunity arises. When an interview goes well, but I don’t get the job, I’d rather not let the people I met fade into the ether, but is it weird to try to put them in a professional network?

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