Seven Ways to Wreck Your Interview

This month marks seventeen years in hospitality recruiting and, like Farmers Insurance, “we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” We have seen talented candidates – Executives, Chefs, and Managers – lose an opportunity because of one slip. Whether you’re the CEO or the Sous Chef, you have equal opportunity to wreck your candidacy.

So, for both your edification and enjoyment, here’s a partial list of the ways we have seen candidates self-sabotage over the years. Learn from their mistakes, friends.

1. Arrive Drunk

Yes. I had a highly-regarded San Francisco Executive Chef deplane in San Diego inebriated, and looking to continue the party with the Assistant Director of Operations. He was still buzzed in the morning when the ADO picked him up. The interview lasted zero minutes. He was sent packing.

2. Smell of Something Other Than “Clean”

Onions. Cigarettes. Body Odor. The expectation is that you have excellent personal hygiene and a wholesome work ethic when you have a career in hospitality. Take a shower before the interview!

3. Use Speech That is Vulgar or Offensive

Politeness is a cornerstone of hospitality. Even if you slip once in a while behind closed doors, the interview is the place where your “filters” are cranked up to the max. Guess how far candidates advanced after they dropped an f-bomb or told one of our celebrity Chef clients “It has been a wet dream meeting you.”

4. Use Poor Grammar and Spelling in Written Communication

The emails and notes you send during the interview process are part of the interview process. This includes formal elements of the process such as cover letters, thank you notes, and anything you are asked to write by the employer as well as emails and texts while setting up interviews and meetings. Here a few gaffes from our highlight reel:

  • Poor capitalization: “i had a great time meeting you in boston.”
  • Run-on rambling sentences: “I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me and explain the position for which my candidacy is an excellent fit given my education and experience that can add great value to your organization which is growing and becoming more successful for many factors including your excellent quality, innovation and commitment to sustainability…”
  • Goofy spacing and general neglect: “I can meet you at the h otel lobby between 1:00 and two if u can make it at then.”
  • Misspelling the hiring authority’s name always earns respect. Not.

You’re an adult. You can’t blame Siri. If you write like a seventh grader texting his buddy, you’ll be treated as such.

5. Criticize the Employer

The employer may introduce you to people within their organization, and they may make you feel very comfortable. You need to answer the “What areas do you see where we can improve as a company?” question with great tact. Even if the company is in a turn-around situation, your assessments of their weaknesses must be expressed in a positive, “we can turn things around” manner. “You guys stink at _________!” isn’t going to earn you any points.

6. Look at Your Watch or Your Phone

Nothing says “I’m bored” more than frequent glances at your watch or your phone to check the time. Resist the temptation. If you want a real fast track out the door, return a text, check your Insta, or answer a call.

7. Be Unrefined

Pick your teeth (with your fingernail or a matchbook). Pick your nose. Belch. Scratch that itch. Spit an ice cube back into your water glass during lunch.

It’s an interview. You’re on stage. That means everyone is watching and reporting back to the boss on what you said and what you did. You have to be on your very best, most respectful, polite behavior. Always.

Joseph D’Alessandro

About Joseph D’Alessandro

Joseph spent 15 years in leadership positions in hospitality operations before becoming a full-time executive recruiter in 2000. Joseph founded SHS in 2002 and has grown the business from a one-person outfit to a full team of dedicated experts.


View most recent events here.