The job-hunting process can be difficult and time-consuming, and interviews are the most crucial - not to mention stressful - part of the process. These are some common mistakes that many interviewees make during an interview. Avoiding these behaviors won't necessarily land you the job, but they will put you in the upper class of interviewees. Check out the seven tips below to find out what you should not be doing during and prior to your job interview.

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  1. Show Up Late and/or Disheveled
    This may seem unnecessary to mention, but it's one of the most important parts of the interview process. Showing up late, smelling like smoke, chewing gum or having messy hair/clothes can all give impressions of being disorganized, untrustworthy, irresponsible and incompetent.
    Just keep in mind that you're not the only person being interviewed, so little things like showing up on time might not have tremendous upside, but showing up late will make you stand out - in a bad way. Show up early to an interview and make sure you look (and smell) the part of the job for which you're interviewing.
  2. Leave Your Cell Phone On
    This may also seem obvious, but how many times have you been somewhere - at the movies, in a class, at work - and all of a sudden you hear the latest Black Eyed Peas song blaring out of someone's purse. It happens. And just like showing up late or unprepared, it'll be a small thing that says a lot: irresponsible, forgetful, unreliable.
    At worst it could show that you are not taking the interview seriously and are not that interested in the job. We won't even mention answering a phone call during the interview - hopefully that's too obvious. (Learn the steps that will help lead you to a new career in Taking The Lead In The Interview Dance.)
  3. Show Up Mentally Unprepared
    Mental preparation will make a huge difference. One of the most important aspects is to ensure that you do research on the company and position. The last thing you want is to ask basic questions about the organization and your role.
    As well, you should research interview questions. Even if this is your first job interview, it doesn't have to seem like it. There are a number of sites that list common job interview questions. Think of answers to questions like: Why do you want this job? What value can you add to the company? What are your strongest skills? What are your biggest weaknesses?

    Imagine that you are the person doing the hiring and think of what questions you would ask someone. Practicing and thinking about these questions will make you calmer and more confident during the interview. You don't have to have the answers memorized - it helps if you seem like you're thinking of them on the spot - so practicing them with a friend, or even just considering your answers will lead to a smoother interview process.

  4. Show Up Physically Unprepared
    Physically prepared means showing up with the correct physical objects; bring an extra copy of your CV and reference list; bring a pen and notebook to write down any pertinent information or phone numbers. This also means physically preparing for the interview: shaving, making sure your hair is neat and your clothes are clean and wrinkle free. (You may think you have a strong resume, but if you are including these surprising red-flag items, you may not even make it to an interview. Learn more in 10 Resume Red Flags.)
  5. Be a Wallflower
    It's important to be involved and engaged in the interview process, so don't be a passive participant. Speak clearly and with confidence, and if there is a time when you are asked questions, don't ever answer questions with "I don't know." This is especially important when you're asked about your salary expectations.
    As well, when there is a chance for you to ask questions, don't stay silent; ask at least one question. It's best to come prepared with a question to ask - one that you think will not be answered during the interview process.
  6. Get Too Personal
    It's best to focus on ways in which you can be professionally helpful to the company. So don't talk about your personal life unless you're specifically asked; focus on measurable and work-related experiences. This is not to say that you should be impersonal - you can be warm and professional without going into details about outstanding debt or personal problems with former coworkers and family. If you decide to talk about personal experiences, make sure they are work appropriate.
  7. Oversell
    In an interview, it's not just "yes" and "no" questions. They can be open-ended and require anecdotes from past jobs, experiences that have prepared you for the prospective job and how your skills are applicable. It's important to answer the questions succinctly, and to then wait for the next question. If you can think of one strong example to back up a question, use just that one. Talking too much, and giving long and weaker answers are not going to help you - this is another advantage of preparing and practicing for the interview.
    Overselling can come across as desperate and possibly self-centered. Interviewers are doing a number of interviews, and will appreciate when an interviewee adequately answers the questions without taking all day. (Standing out from the crowd is a must, especially when high unemployment rates make competition fierce. Don't miss 5 Ways To Make Your Resume Stand Out.)

The Bottom Line
Take these don'ts as a starting point for the important things to avoid during an interview. Overall, it's best to consider the job you're applying for, and put yourself in the position of the interviewer. Picture a nightmare interviewee and do the opposite.

Still feeling uninformed? Check out last week's Water Cooler Finance to see what's been happening in financial news.

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