During a job interview, there is a good chance that you will be a bit nervous. Even if you’re not nervous, you may be unaware of certain things you do on a regular basis that could negatively impact your interview. It’s a good idea to be conscious of these things before you enter the room so that you’re better equipped to keep them at bay.

Interviews by nature are done in pretty quiet environments. The interviewer will be spending a lot of time looking at you while you’re talking, and you want to make sure that he doesn’t get distracted by anything you do or say that isn’t related to the interview. To put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes, try to imagine a time that someone interrupted your focus or train of thought through habits that he may not have even been aware of.

Things Not to Do During a Job Interview

There are certain types of fidgety behaviors that can make the interviewer focus on those behaviors more than on what you’re saying. You’ve probably worked hard to prepare yourself for the interview, so you owe it to yourself to make the hiring manager as focused on your words as possible.

  • Avoid touching your mouth or your face, or scratching any part of your body.

  • Don’t play with your hair; bring an extra bobby pin in case you have to push hair away from your face.

  • Dress as lightly layered as possible so you can avoid sweating. If you find yourself overheated, try asking for a glass of water.

  • Don’t smoke before the interview, as the smell will linger no matter how hard you try to make it dissipate.

  • Don’t chew gum even if you think you’re being discreet; this includes chewing tobacco as well.

  • If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs, grab a pencil or pen and try to use it to center you.

  • In the same vein, don’t tap your pencil or pen repeatedly on the tabletop.

  • Avoid stretching or yawning, as these can signal discomfort or boredom.

  • Don’t stare at the interviewer. Try to keep your gaze natural by looking at the bridge of his nose and altering your gaze periodically.

  • Don’t clean your fingernails or other parts of your body; also don’t pop your fingers.

  • Don’t touch things that aren’t yours or haven’t been handed to you; this includes anything belonging to the interviewer.

    • Try not to fidget or twirl in your chair.

    While this may seem like a long list, most people only do one or two of these things. Scan the list and pick out what you think you may do during an interview. Try practicing with a friend and having him or her point out any bad habits. Once you’ve established yours from the list, you can keep them in the back of your mind during the interview.

    Things Not to Say During a Job Interview

    In addition to fidgety behavior, there are certain words and phrases you’ll want to avoid using during the interview. These words, phrases or sounds can shift focus away for the message you are trying to relay to the interviewer. This has the potential to deflect from the quality of your interview and cause the hiring manager to become distracted or annoyed.

    • Avoid saying “um” and “uh” as much as possible.
  • Don’t speak so softly that the interviewer can’t hear you properly.

  • Make sure your words don’t trail off at the end of a sentence.

  • Don’t hum or whistle. (If you have a hum as part of a vocal tic, let your interviewer know, as you will most likely be protected from discrimination under law.)

  • Don’t use profanity. Even if your interviewer happens to use profanity during the interview, keep it professional by not engaging in it yourself.

  • Avoid slang. This includes words like “shoulda,” “dope” and even “like.”

  • Don’t call the interviewer by his or her first name unless directed to do so.

    If you find it difficult to speak professionally, try reading something just before the interview that is written in an appropriate style. What people hear and read often impacts how they speak themselves. This doesn’t mean that you have to change your reading or listening habits in general, but it can be a good trick for just before the interview.

    If you generally speak softly, practice speaking more loudly with a friend. You can also “warm up” your voice by singing loudly in the car on the way to the interview. Usually a person’s voice is louder in his or her own head than it is to the listener, so chances are you are not speaking too loudly, unless you have been given this feedback before.

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