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What not to say or do in a job interview!

Student Career Placement Consultant

A man in a suit sits in an office, but he's wearing clown shoes.I recently read an article titled “22 things that make you sound rude in a job interview,” and I confess that I was disturbed to think that anyone would say or do the things that the article reported.

The examples included the interviewee complaining about being kept waiting, asking what the company does, and taking a phone call during the interview. You can follow the link and find the other examples, but reading that article got me thinking about the kinds of things that you might inadvertently say or do that could be misinterpreted or make an unfortunate impression, so I’ve put together my own list of a few of the inappropriate behaviors that you will want to avoid.

  • Turn off your phone. Don’t turn down the ringer. Don’t put it on vibrate. Turn it off!

  • Don’t be late, by which I mean arrive at least five minutes before your appointment. A good rule of thumb is to allow 25% more time than you think you will need for travel. If the interview is in a location that’s even vaguely unfamiliar to you, it’s helpful to do a practice run on a weekday at the same time as your appointment to ensure that you’ll allow enough time to arrive relaxed and ready for the interview.

  • Don’t talk or ask about things that are personal - family, relationships, religion, and politics are all subjects that are inappropriate in a job interview.

  • Don’t chew gum. And if you’re a smoker, put on clean clothes and brush your teeth before you leave for the interview, and don’t smoke again until after the interview.

  • Don’t focus on yourself. I know that this sounds counterintuitive, but what you need to accomplish in the interview is to show how you can help the company. Focus on the things that they need, and how your skills and experience can help meet those needs. However…

  • Don’t let them get the impression that you think you already know everything! First of all, if you say “yes” to every question about your skills, the interviewer is unlikely to believe you. No one can do it all! More importantly, every organization has its own way of doing things, and you’re always going to need to be open to learning those processes, so make sure that point gets communicated when you meet.

For a more positive presentation of what you should do in an interview, check out the suggestions on preparing for job interviews in our Resources section.

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