Business Columns & Blogs

Diane Stafford: Interviewing? Don’t bring along your pet bird

A new job hunter is born every second, so it doesn’t hurt occasionally to review the most basic guidelines for starring in a job interview – such as: “Don’t bring your pet bird in your shirt or sing your answers to questions.”

Yes, these have happened in real life.

But before we even get to face-to-face interviews, a reminder: Many screening interviews are conducted on the telephone. Be prepared. Treat it as if you were sitting in the same room. Do not under any circumstance chew gum, eat, blow your nose or flush the toilet while you’re on the phone.

Now on to in-person interviews. I’m compelled to review because surveys of human resources professionals repeatedly reveal candidates behaving badly. A new Harris Poll for CareerBuilder unearthed some truly weird encounters, such as the job hunter who felt the interviewer’s chest to “connect heart to heart.” Ew.

Hirers admit they often make decisions about candidates within a few seconds – and certainly within a few minutes – after they walk into the room. Here, then, are suggestions to help make a good impression:

▪ Dress nicely, professionally, cleanly, whatever it takes to look like you’ve tried.

▪ Make eye contact, just not so unwavering that you scare people.

▪ Smile, genuinely and appropriately.

▪ Shake hands firmly, but don’t try to win a grip war. And don’t overreach with one of those two-hand greetings that grabs the interviewer’s elbow or shoulder. That’s too much warmth.

▪ Don’t fiddle with things on the interviewer’s desk or with your own handbag, briefcase or papers.

▪ Sit up straight. Try not to fidget. Don’t cross your arms over your chest. Some people interpret that as a pose of resistance.

▪ You may be a person who talks with your hands. Expressiveness is OK. Just don’t get so expansive that you appear to be auditioning for the stage.

▪ When interviewers are asked what bugs them in job candidate interviews, you’d better believe they have complaints, and not just about failures to observe the above tips. They are totally fed up with candidates who answer or make phone calls while in the room. Don’t do it.

▪ Hirers want people who seem confident. You’ll turn them off, though, if you come across as arrogant or entitled. And please don’t whine or badmouth former employers.

▪ Don’t swear.

▪ Interviewers would really like it if you appear to have studied up on the company and the job. They hope that you already know what the organization does and what your job would entail. Don’t just show up and ask.

▪ Of course you work for the paycheck, but interviewers would like to pretend that the money isn’t driving your interest. So don’t ask, “How much does this job pay?” before you ask anything else substantive. And, really, you should know the ballpark figure before you go on the interview.

▪ Finally and always: Don’t lie. If you’re caught, it will absolutely put your application in the reject pile.

Diane Stafford is a columnist for The Kansas City Star:, 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford,