Interviewing Tips

By Sharon Naylor

June 3, 2013 5 min read

When you arrive for a job interview, you want to make a good impression. So it goes without saying that you'll wear a business-appropriate outfit, make good eye contact and deliver a solid handshake. You wouldn't hug the interviewer, right? That's a bit of a dramatic example, but inappropriate touching is one of the actions that can turn off an interviewer and cost you the job. That can refer to physical contact such as touching the interviewer's arm or hand to impress your point, as some motivational speakers have advised. On a date, perhaps, that works. During a job interview, it's a big don't.

Something you might not have thought of is showing up with wet or damp hair. You may have come right from the gym or yoga class, or you rushed from home after showering. But when your hair is damp, the interviewer might think, "This person doesn't have good time management skills" or "This person would show up with wet hair to an important client meeting."

Strong perfume or cologne is another turnoff. Be mindful that people's sensitivities to scented products could be so severe that you might trigger an allergic reaction or headache, even if you barely put on any perfume, cologne, aftershave or scented lotion. Hiring managers say that if a client smells strongly of cigarette or cigar smoke, that's a turnoff, as well. So on your way into an interview, leave a wide berth between you and the people smoking outside the office building; you don't want to carry that scent on your clothing and hair. And don't wear an outfit borrowed from a smoker friend.

Other surprising turnoffs: walking into the office while carrying your to-go container of coffee. Making smalltalk about how you can't function without at least four cups of coffee a day; nervous eating from the candy dish or the doughnut platter in the waiting area; and trying too hard to be fun, such as making smalltalk about reality shows, can all put off interviewers.

Some don'ts are basic common sense. According to a recent survey by the jobs advice site CareerBuilder, hiring managers stated the following unsurprising turnoffs:

--Seventy-two percent said not making eye contact during the interview.

--Sixty percent said texting or taking cellphone calls.

--Sixty percent said dressing inappropriately, as in wearing a revealing blouse or too-tight skirt or dressing too casually for the office's style.

--Fifty-eight percent said trash-talking a current or past company or manager.

--Forty-two percent said not smiling.

--Thirty-four percent said not giving specific examples when answering questions posed by the interviewer, being vague or answering with only with a yes or no.

--Twenty-eight percent said a weak handshake.

Other turnoffs cited by hiring managers included mispronouncing the interviewer's name; not knowing what the company does or makes; being too interested in the company's social perks, corporate retreats and happy hours; using social media lingo like LOL, OMG and other vernacular that makes you sound unprofessional; and addressing just one interviewer if you're in a room with two or three hiring managers. Make eye contact with, and speak to, all equally.

One attorney at a prestigious law firm, who regularly interviews candidates for jobs and internships, says it's an immediate turnoff if the candidate has no questions for the interviewer. At the end of an interview, the hiring manager will usually say, "Do you have any questions for me?" Have a few extra questions in mind about the company's current and upcoming projects and goals, so that you don't eliminate yourself from contention by having no curiosity about, or interest in, the company itself.

And don't forget initial phone interviews as a potential minefield. Turn off the television, music or video games in the room you're in while giving the interview, lest the hiring manager hear the immature noise in the background. Have a good cellphone with a clear connection for pristine. Don't eat while on the phone with the interviewer. And if you get a call on the other line, don't take it. The interviewer might not be on the line when you click back.

The basic rule is, "Don't give them a reason to reject you." So keep these turnoffs, both common and unexpected, in mind when you interview for a job.

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