“I love your skirt!” (And seven other things you should never say or ask during a job interview)

Landing a job interview is a huge success in the job search process. It means company representatives are inclined to think you might be a good fit for the open position. The interview’s your chance to prove them right.

So avoid interview killers that will inevitably prove them wrong. Below are some actual examples of what people said or asked during an interview that was likely one of the reasons for not receiving a job offer.

“I saw the tailgate pictures on your Facebook profile. Looks like the party was a lot of fun!” Social media provides employers and job seekers the opportunity to learn more details about each other. But commenting on your interviewer’s Facebook pictures crosses the line. Stick with LinkedIn, which is strictly used for professional purposes. Talk about recent discussions in LinkedIn groups that you both belong to.


“Does this job allow the opportunity to telecommute?  What about job sharing?” You’ve just given the interviewer the impression that you’re not interested in working in the office or on a full-time basis. If the job posting mentions the position is a telecommuting or job share role, then it’s appropriate to ask how the logistics work. Otherwise, don’t attempt inventing a telecommuting position during the job interview.

“I love your skirt! That’s a great color for you.” Complimenting an employer’s physical appearance can be seen as inappropriate. If you’d like to pay a compliment, keep them professional, such as commenting on the company’s recent performance or the interviewer’s recent professional success.

“How much vacation time does this position have?” Chances are, this question is going to be answered at some point during the interview process. Bringing up vacation time, especially during the first interview, leads the employer to question your work ethic.

An exception is if you know of planned time off for an extended period of time (like a honeymoon), or a scheduled trip that conflicts with the job’s potential start date. But only bring up the subject when offered the position. Explain the situation to the employer and brainstorm ways to make the scheduled vacation work.

“My former boss was such a jerk and my coworkers were idiots.” Complaining about a former boss or colleagues only reflects poorly on you. It’s fine to talk about obstacles you faced in your job (ie, “In my previous position there were many challenging deadlines to meet.”). Just remember to focus on the positives (ie, “Having so many deadlines helped me develop my time management skills.”).

“What health care plan does your company offer?” Questions about benefits should never be asked during the first interview. If you require a particular benefit (such as a specific health care plan, daycare options, etc.), direct the questions to human resources rather than the interviewer.

“I apologize if I seem distracted. I have a huge headache.” Don’t complain about physical discomfort. You’ll establish a negative interview tone or be seen as setting up an excuse for not doing well during the interview. If you believe your physical ailment will prevent you from conducting a good interview, contact the employer to reschedule for another day.

“In five years I hope to have your job.” It’s one thing to show an employer you have goals when asked about your five-year plan. It’s another to give the impression you’re gunning for his or her job. Focus on how the company plays a role in your career ambitions.



Seven tips for job searching while unemployed

After losing a job, negative feelings and a sense of urgency can stall a job seeker’s attempts to find employment. Without knowing it a job seeker may be sabotaging their hiring chances. Below are seven tips and suggestions for keeping your job search on track during this stressful time.

Have someone review your resume, interviewing skills and job search strategies: If you aren’t receiving calls for interviews, your resume may need some tweaking. If you’re getting interviews but no job offers, a critique of your interview skills may be in order. Are you using the right job search resources? Contrary to what many believe, browsing online job boards for hours is not the best strategy. A career counselor can help pinpoint where your job search might be breaking down as well as suggest other strategies you may not be aware of.

Network: The least effective job search is one that doesn’t involve networking. While online job posting boards exist in high numbers (and people find jobs using them), face-to-face meetings are still essential to a successful job search.

Develop a savvy social media presence: Social media is fast becoming the number one online job search tool. If you’re researching companies of interest, be sure to check out their Twitter feed. Make your presence known on LinkedIn to connect with other professionals, follow companies and learn about job openings.

Volunteer: Volunteer with a community organization. Doing so gives you a chance to meet other people and allows you to focus on something else besides your job search. Furthermore, the volunteer experience can be listed on your resume, downplaying the employment gap.

Keep cynicism and negativity to a minimum: Job searching is a long, lengthy process, often taking months to complete. Interviews that seem like a sure thing sometimes don’t result in a job offer. It’s tempting to develop a poor attitude or chip on your shoulder. Do your best not to. The negativity may come across in cover letters and interviews, further sinking your chances of getting hired.

Plan playtime: Job searching is a full-time job, but not one that should be done 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Play is essential to a healthy lifestyle, and maintaining good health is critical. Don’t feel guilty stepping away from your email to read a magazine, go for a walk or meet a friend. You’ll feel re-energized and re-focused when you return to the job search.

Rely on your support network: Everyone needs a helping hand at some point. If a family member offers to make dinner, say thank you and accept their kind gesture. Call a friend when you’re feeling discouraged. Don’t hesitate to reach out to others who can help in a variety of ways. You’ll be able to return the favor someday.

Phone interview success: The less distractions the better

Many employers use telephone interviews as a way of screening applicants and narrowing the pool of those who will be invited for in-person interviews. They’re also used as a way to minimize the cost of interviewing out-of-town applicants.

Skype and other video calling devices make face-to-face communication easier than ever. But expect to participate in an “old school” phone interview at some point in your career. What are some tips for these interviews to secure your invite to the employer’s office for a face-to-face meeting?

1. Dress the part. Perhaps a three-piece business suit isn’t required, but avoid lounging on the couch in your pajamas when conducting a phone interview. You’d be amazed how casual you might sound. Consider a business casual outfit.

2. Be ready and waiting 5-10 minutes prior. Don’t be putting a load of laundry in the washing machine or reading an email when the interviewer calls. Answer the phone like you were prepared for it rather than sounding as if you were caught off guard.

3. Have your resume available.  Place it in front of you or tape it to a wall and refer to it during the interview.

4. Keep a brief cheat sheet handy – but avoid reading prepared statements. Write down key words and phrases you want to convey during the interview (strengths, weaknesses, skills, etc.). Refer to them as needed. Don’t write complete sentences – the employer will know you’re reading from a script.

5. Clear the room of distractions. Shut down your computer. Turn off the television. If you have children at home, see if someone could babysit at their house for an hour.

6. Turn off any phone alerts that might be disturbing. If using your cell phone, find a location where poor reception won’t be a concern.

7. Don’t chew gum or eat food.

8. Have a pen and notepad handy to take notes.

9. Put your positive nonverbals to use even though you can’t see theirs.  Avoid tapping the table, playing with the pen, or doodling. Don’t pace around the room.

10. Address the interviewer by their title (Mr. or Ms. and last name). Use their first name if he or she asks you to.

11. Ask questions!

At the end of the conversation thank the person for their time. Be sure to send a thank-you note within 24 hours.

Sometimes your phone interview may be with several people. When introductions are being made, write down each person’s name (don’t rely on memory). Send a thank you note to each person with whom you spoke.

There may be a tendency to treat a phone interview more casually because the employer can’t see you. The lack of face-to-face communication actually can make the meeting trickier. As with any interview, be prepared so that you’ll be invited to the next round of meetings.

And the best job is…

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you choose the conventional answer like teacher, firefighter, doctor or athlete? Or did you go for something a bit more unusual and talk about aspirations to become a cowboy, superhero or space alien?

As we get older our career options change for many reasons. Adults have more responsibilities and obligations – being a space alien might not pay so well. We develop skills that might be better suited for a different career path than the one we were considering at age six. Finally, we grow up and realize our childhood dream to be a rock star during the week and a veterinarian on the weekends might be a tough schedule to manage.

But who says growing up means growing bored?

Factoring in necessities like salary and stability are understandable. It’s important to know what your anticipated salary range is in a field you’re considering. It’s helpful to know if the profession is growing or declining. But other factors shouldn’t be ignored either.

Many of the top-paying jobs are found in health care. But does this mean that everyone should apply to health-related programs? Not likely.

When considering career options, don’t overlook other critical elements:

Skills and abilities: Health-care careers place emphasize the sciences, engineering and related professions require strong math skills, and social service jobs involve counseling and communication skills. Everyone has different talents. What are yours? Are they compatible with careers you’re considering?

Interests: While the computer field is a growing industry, can you picture yourself installing hardware and software every day? If not, your stay in this growing field may be short-lived. When it comes to job duties and a work environment, think about your preferences.

Personality: Would you prefer a work environment where people interaction is high or low? Do you make decisions based on facts, feelings or a combination of both? Would your ideal job offer a structured work environment or the chance for flexibility? The answers to these questions define who you are as a person. The first step is identifying your personality, the second step is understanding your personality’s impact on you and those around you and the third step is knowing where and how to allow your personality to shine.

Rewards and goals:  At the end of the day what do you value most in a career? Some want the ability to help others directly. Others want the opportunity to work independently. Everyone’s values are different. If someone feels disconnected from their career, it’s likely because their values aren’t being reflected in their job.

The next time you’re tempted to research a “best jobs list,” remember the information might be misleading. The best job for one person might not be the best job for you. Take time to take your individual personality into account. You may be surprised what tops your best jobs list after all.

Career counselors in the CPCC Career Services Office help students identify what their best job might be. Contact CPCC Career Services for more information.