10 things job seekers should never do in an interview

kristy hurt
Kristy Hurt has done enough interviews to know what you shouldn’t say or do on them

As an executive recruiter in the fashion and retail industry, candidates often ask me for career advice, and I give a lot of it. Everything from how the resume and LinkedIn profile should look to how you should dress for an interview, what to say about your career history and education to how much preparation and research you should do on the company before going in to meet them. But probably not often enough do I tell people what NOT to say or do! Hopefully these tips will help you from making the same mistakes.

1. Don’t wear anything sheer to an interview. Your outfit might look OK at home but in just the right lighting, you can really see more than what is appropriate for an interview. Panty lines, bra lines, your belly button, or for men, a hairy chest – these are not things you want a recruiter or hiring manager to see. Cover up!

2. While we’re on the topic of appearance, remember to keep make up and nails understated. I always say LESS IS MORE. Don’t come to an interview with cat eyes, 12 layers of mascara, or too much bling on your press on nails. I understand some people like to have fun with fashion, and I can appreciate it when done well, but if we are talking about an interview situation, always be two steps more conservative than you typically are. Be yourself, but be the most conservative version of yourself. I always advise natural make up and nails (get a manicure but get a natural skin tone), keep nails short, wear minimal or no jewelry. And know your brand! Wear something inspired by the company’s latest ad campaign but keep it appropriate.

3. Never ever chew gum in an interview or meeting. I understand gum can help with nerves and everyone wants good breath, so you may be inspired to pop some gum in your mouth before an interview just after downing a latte. Just don’t forget to take it out BEFORE the interview! Don’t let something like this distract from the main message – YOU! I was told after the fact that one of my candidates chewed gum in her interview and she was eliminated immediately from consideration. Also, mind your Ps & Qs. Don’t ever use foul language in an interview. Ever.

4. I’m a very approachable recruiter, and people feel very comfortable with me. So I guess you could say that people often tell me the truth. Well, guess what? I am assessing you too! Candidates will often say to me, “I would never say that in an interview…. or I would never wear this to an interview….” Well, what do you think this is? Remember that a recruiter, whether 3rd party or not, is hired to find an appropriate candidate for a job. THIS IS AN INTERVIEW! Please behave accordingly. This also goes for friends and anyone you might network with to find your next opportunity (read: every person on the planet).

5. This comes before the interview: Regarding your LinkedIn profile, please DO add a picture and please DO make sure it is a picture of your smiling face! People do the strangest things with their LinkedIn photos, which I do not understand. Do not crop someone out of a snapshot so there is this floating hand around your shoulder and don’t post an extreme close up where I can literally see a pimple on your nose. I’m also not a fan of the very far away moody shot where I can barely see you as you ride a horse into the sunset. Recruiters want to see what you look like. The photo should be waist up, of you and only you, showing a nice smile, your aesthetic and sense of style, and hopefully looking somewhat fun to work with. I give advice on profile pics all the time. Feel free to email me yours (khurt [AT] In America, we never put pictures on our resumes, but with social media and LinkedIn, recruiters now have a back door way into seeing you before you walk in the door for that interview. Make sure your picture gets you that interview.

6. Don’t post inappropriate photos on social media. Anywhere. One of the first things a recruiter might do is type your name into a search engine and see what pops up. They might go right over to images and just scan through all your pictures. Make sure your pictures reflect that person that any company would want to hire. And then conduct yourself in life accordingly. Just pretend you might run for President one day.

7. With respect to scheduling, when you make a commitment, do make every effort to keep that commitment. Mark it in your calendar, follow up the day before, confirm the day of the appointment, and then be there on time. These are some basic things that everyone should do, but we all get overwhelmed sometimes and things fall through the cracks. It is understandable to make one mistake, one time. But I have had candidates reschedule interviews 4 or 5 times, miss them entirely or show up more than a half hour late without warning. Inexcusable. If you do one thing right, be organized, and be on time. It matters. Oh, and while we are on the topic, don’t be too early either. If your appointment is at 10am, show up at 9:55 am. No one wants someone sitting in their waiting area 45 minutes early. It’s almost as bad as being there 20 minutes late. And bring extra copies of your resume and/or portfolio.

8. If an interviewer asks you a question about your current job, do not EVER say anything negative. Don’t complain about your supervisor or the product or the company. You can be truthful without being flat out inappropriate. Let’s pretend you can’t stand your boss and you hate the product. When someone asks why you are looking to leave, you say it has been an incredible learning experience, but you are so passionate about this brand (the one you are meeting with) and you are looking for growth and a change of environment after 3 years with your current company. There is no reason to bad mouth anyone.

9. Most companies want to hire someone who can bring value to their business. Make sure you give both qualitative and quantitative responses to any question. If the interviewer asks you what you did well in your current job in the last year, tell them something like, “My team and I increased total sales by 12% year over year and worked with merchandising and design to bring a more focused collection to market, which was well received by the buyers at our top targeted accounts.” Don’t waste a good opportunity to sell yourself. A bad answer would be something like, “We had a great year, but I’m just really looking for something new.” Be specific. Don’t be vague. Show that you are on top of your business and you have awareness beyond your own department and responsibilities.

10. One of the last things a recruiter or hiring manager will likely ask you if the interview went well is how much money you are currently making. Don’t lie or give a vague answer or ask what the job pays. Be honest and specific and mention every single part of your package. If it is the right fit, your salary will likely be in the right range. You can also express your desired salary if you were to accept a new position so think about that now. The best answer is to say something like this, “Currently I make $75k with a $5k clothing allowance and bonus potential of 10% annually. Bonuses have been paid out in full for the last 2 years as business has been strong. Therefore, my total earnings this last year was $87,500 and I am up for a promotion soon. I would like to increase that by at least 10% in my next job so I am looking for something close to $100k if possible plus bonus. My employer also pays 80% of our medical plan, and has a 4% match on our 401k program. We also get to buy as much product as we want at cost so these are all things I will need to take into consideration when evaluating a potential offer.” Be aware of your full compensation package.

Kristy Hurt is an independent luxury/retail recruiter and human resources consultant, specializing in the retail, fashion and luxury goods industries. You can find more from her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter

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