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Don't Kill an Interview with These Blunders
By Luke Roney
February 7, 2012

A 2012 survey conducted by York College's Center for Professional Excellence found that professionalism among younger, entry-level employees has decreased over the past five years (we blame rock 'n' roll … or the Internet).

Professionalism, as defined by the annual survey, includes an employee's interpersonal skills, appearance, communication skills, time management, confidence, morals, work ethic, and knowledge. The survey also asked human resources professionals about the mistakes they've witnessed young candidates make during job interviews.

[See our list of the 50 Best Careers.]

Here are some of the findings:

The Top 3 Interview Killers

1. Wearing inappropriate attire: The HR types surveyed listed this as the top interview killer. Sure, "inappropriate" is a subjective term. But remember, we're talking about professional jobs. With that in mind, you should go for a more conservative look. You're trying to impress with your skills and potential, not with your fashion sense (which, we have to remind you, also is subjective). Make sure your clothes match. Avoid looking too flashy. Rein in the cleavage. Conceal the tattoos. Also remember that now is not the time for flip flops—even if they're really comfortable. Wait until after you get the job to test the boundaries of the office dress code.

2. Showing up late: What can we say about this? Make sure you arrive on time. Better yet: Get there early. Plan your route ahead of time—heck, consider even making a test run a day or two beforehand (around the same time of day that the interview will take place). And then, on the actual day, hit the road even 15 minutes earlier (note: if you arrive very early, hang out in your car until 10 minutes or so before the interview is scheduled to start. Early is good—too early is not). If you can't make it to a job interview on time, trust us, you won't have to worry about making it to work on time.

3. Failing to prepare: Looking good and being punctual aren’t going to help you if you aren't prepared. Research the company with which you're interviewing. Practice answers to typical interview questions (you can research those online, too). And have plenty of good questions to ask the interviewer. Your questions should demonstrate that you understand the company and the industry overall, and that you actually care about where you may end up spending eight or more hours a day.

[See 5 Questions to Ask on Your Next Interview.]

3 Honorable Mentions

The following were toward the end of the Center for Professional Excellence's list of interview mistakes, but we thought they deserved honorable mentions:

1. Answering a ringing cell phone: Seriously, if you answer your cell phone during a job interview, you don't deserve the job. Even if the interview is on a Friday afternoon and you're waiting for a call from one of your bros to firm up some evening plans, just turn off the phone. The dude can leave a message.

2. Showing a sense of entitlement: You don't, by virtue of being you, deserve any particular job. So don't swagger into the interview room, put your feet up on the desk, and ask when you start. Sure, you went to college to earn that impressive degree—with honors—but you have to sell yourself to prospective employers just like everybody else. Get yourself into context and practice some humility—it will serve you much more than arrogance.

[See 5 Tips for New Grads Entering the Job Market.]

3. Using inappropriate language: The survey didn't elaborate on what type of language the HR pros deemed inappropriate, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" (go ahead and add the "B" word to that list—especially in reference to a former boss). Also, ditch the annoying verbal fillers, such as "like," "ummm," and "seriously." Seriously.

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