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May 22, 2014 at 1:00 AM

21 tips for looking like a winner at job interviews

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but that is exactly what happens at job interviews. It’s not just what you say, or what is on your resume or in your transcript. It’s what you do, right there in real life, face to face.

Do you have annoying mannerisms? Ask yourself — or, better yet, ask a trusted friend or family member. Hiring managers assume that if you are a little annoying at an interview, you’ll be a lot more so once you’re hired (and presumably off your guard).

Lasting impressions are formed within 90 seconds of a first meeting, maybe even more quickly. In your interview, focus on wowing potential bosses with your knowledge and enthusiasm, rather than worrying that they’re watching what you do instead of listening to what you say. Make an effort not to do any of the following at job interviews:

  1. Chew gum
  2. Twirl your hair
  3. Slouch
  4. Avoid eye contact (overly intense eye contact is also weird)
  5. Jiggle your knee
  6. Drum your fingers
  7. Sigh or yawn
  8. Watch the clock
  9. Bite your nails
  10. Play with your pen
  11. Smack your lips
  12. Check your cellphone (or text)
  13. Jingle your keys or change
  14. Sniffle excessively
  15. Kick the interviewer’s desk or chair
  16. Tap your feet
  17. Pick at, rub or scratch any part of your body
  18. Wave your hands while speaking
  19. Fiddle with your cuffs, the hem of your skirt or anything you’re wearing
  20. Rest your chin in your hand
  21. Smile too much (or not at all)

OK, you know all this; these are no-brainers. But here’s the rub: Many of these behaviors are the kinds we don’t even know we have.

Just in case, before that next interview, go to those trusted friends/family members/advisers and ask them you if are ever guilty of any of the above. (Bet you didn’t know there were so many ways to be annoying.) Videotaping yourself is also a handy little tool. This could be the easiest, best thing you do for your job hunt.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: appearance, etiquette, interviewing

Blog contributors

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.


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