Job Interviewing: 8 Things to Do and 8 Things to Avoid

Looking for work? Look on the bright side. You’re smarter than at least some of the competition.

An annual CareerBuilder survey of more than 3,000 hiring managers highlighted some memorable job-interviewing moments from some candidates we can only assume didn’t get hired. Our favorites…

  • Candidate brought a “how to interview” book with him to the interview.
  • Candidate wore a Boy Scout uniform and never told interviewers why.
  • Candidate was arrested by federal authorities during the interview when the background check revealed the person had an outstanding warrant.
  • On the way to the interview, the candidate passed, cut-off, and flipped his middle finger at a driver who happened to be the interviewer.
  • Candidate told the interviewer she wasn’t sure if the job offered was worth “starting the car for.”

The survey also had hiring managers name what they considered the most damaging interview mistakes, which included ridiculous things like taking a call or texting during the interview (77 percent), seeming disinterested (75 percent), and bashing previous or even current employers (67 percent).

Since you’d never do anything that stupid, here are some practical tips from the CareerBuilder survey…

  1. Research. Before the interview, read the company’s press releases and do a search for recent mentions in the news. Learn what you can about how the company operates and what its goals are, so you sound informed and can ask relevant questions. If the company has a Facebook page, message some of its fans and ask them why they like it. (Just make sure they aren’t employees – you can probably check those on LinkedIn.)
  2. Admit your ignorance. If you hit on a topic your research missed and don’t know how to address it, be honest. Give the best answer you can, and tell the interviewer you’ll read up or talk to the right person about it.
  3. Stay upbeat. What you know may or may not come across, depending on the line of questioning. But your attitude always shows, so be positive (although not fake) during an interview, even if you doubt your odds of landing the job.
  4. Pay attention to detail. Make sure you know the interviewer’s name, and how to say it. (Apologize and ask for the pronunciation rather than guessing.) Pay attention to their body language and facial expressions (without staring) so you know when to say more, shut up, or switch gears.
  5. Smell normal. Obviously shower and wear clean clothes, but skip perfume or cologne. Don’t smoke or eat right before an interview, and make sure you’re done with gum or mints.
  6. Avoid interruptions. Hit the bathroom before you start (another reason to show up early) and turn off your cell phone. Don’t talk over the interviewer.
  7. Offer examples. Be prepared to explain how you would handle hypothetical situations – preferably with similar experiences rather than your own hypotheticals.
  8. Be memorable in a good way. Show up early. In fact, if there’s enough time and it’s not suspicious to do so, visit the business the day before so you feel comfortable finding your way. (You might also see other job candidates, so you can dress sharper than them without overdressing.) Offer interesting anecdotes, which you can practice beforehand if necessary. And if you’re going to bring a self-help book, make it an interesting one, like The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zombies.

For more humorous takes on interviewing, check out Stupid Job Interviewing Advice and our story on last year’s survey: 18 Interview No-Nos.

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