Jacob Vugrinac, of Players Services, at right, interviews a group of job seekers during the Hollywood Casino Job Fair last month at Owens Community College in Perrysburg Township.
We're often told to make ourselves comfortable during job interviews, but kicking off your shoes is probably taking things a bit too far.
Yes, according to CareerBuilder.com's interview mistakes survey released last week, one job seeker eased into his socks while trying to get his foot in the door. Still, compared to another who showed up wearing a Boy Scout uniform for no apparent reason, giving the dogs some air doesn't seem so bad. Prepared as that scout may have been, it's safe to assume no job offer was tendered.
Though the annual list is good for some chuckles, it highlights common mistakes that can quickly torpedo any chance at landing a gig.
The list contains some items that seem like no-brainers, but the complaints show up again and again. The most common blunder: applicants answering their cell phones or sending and receiving text messages during an interview.
"It's really kind of surprising the number of recruiters reporting people checking their Facebook, their e-mail," said CareerBuilder's Nathan Lippe. "You can make a guess that it's a nervous tick they have."
Mr. Lippe is product director for CareerRookie.com, a site geared toward college students or recent graduates searching for internships or first jobs. But he said it's not just young technophiles tapping away at their smart phones.
"It's everybody," he said. "You might expect an experienced worker to know that's even more of a problem than a student, but everyone should realize you need to focus on the person you're talking to, not things outside the room."
Mr. Lippe suggests tucking the phone in a briefcase or purse so as not to be tempted to sneak a peak from a pocket.
A few of the most memorable or unusual interview experiences reported in a survey of 3,000 hiring managers by CareerBuilder.com:
• Candidate brought a "how to interview" book with him to the interview.
• Candidate put the interviewer on hold during a phone interview. When she came back on the line, she told the interviewer that she had a date set up for Friday.
• When a candidate interviewing for a security position wasn't hired on the spot, he painted graffiti on the building.
• Candidate wore a Boy Scout uniform and never told interviewers why.
• Candidate was arrested by federal authorities during the interview when a background check revealed the person had an outstanding warrant.
• Candidate talked about promptness as one of her strengths after showing up 10 minutes late.
• Candidate referred to himself in the third person.
• Candidate asked for a sip of the interviewer's coffee.
• Candidate told the interviewer she wasn't sure if the job offered was worth "starting the car for."
CareerBuilder's poll, conducted by Harris Interactive, asked 3,000 hiring managers to rate the biggest mistakes candidates make during interviews and to share their weirdest interview memories. After phone use, the most common faux pas were appearing disinterested, dressing inappropriately, appearing arrogant, talking negatively about current or previous employers, and chewing gum.
"I always advise people, when they get dressed beforehand, look in the mirror and ask themselves, 'Would my grandmother approve?' " said Mike Veh, the work-force development manager at The Source of Northwest Ohio.
Mr. Veh said appropriate dress is one of the most important points he makes to job seekers. He recommends people dress professionally for interviews, even if they are sure the workplace has a business-casual dress code.
The key to setting yourself apart isn't flashy clothing or flashy talk. And while asking for a sip of the interviewer's coffee -- as one hiring manager reported -- might make you a legend among human-resource types swapping stories, that's not the kind of notoriety you want.
"Employers I've spoke with in the past year, they're really looking for the good candidate that's confident, enthusiastic, knows what they're talking about, and is ready to start that job. And I think that's the way to stand out in a good way," said Lesa Shouse, the assistant director of the Bowling Green State University Career Center.
Part of knowing what you're talking about comes down to putting in the effort to learn as much as you can about the company with which you're interviewing. That includes reading recent news stories, following the company's stock news if it is publicly traded, and even learning a bit about the person conducting the interview.
Being informed also helps applicants know what questions they want to ask when prompted by the interviewer.
"The worst answer you can give is 'I don't have any,' " Ms. Shouse said. "It's really important to prepare questions ahead of time for recruiters. They want to know genuine questions you have about the job, about the training that's involved."
Other common tips: Maintain eye contact, allow plenty of extra time in case of unforeseen circumstances, and don't be afraid to play up experience that shows your skills and accomplishments, even if they're from college or jobs in different fields.
Oh, and don't get arrested during the interview.
According to CareerBuilder, one manager reported federal authorities arrested an applicant during an interview after a background check found an outstanding warrant.
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6134.
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