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"A job applicant tried to bribe me during the interview. She really wanted the job and asked how much she could pay me for it."
This is just one of the amusing comments our company received when we asked office professionals to recount the biggest job search mistakes they had heard of or witnessed firsthand. Responses to our survey ran the gamut from colossal, one-of-a-kind mishaps like the error above to smaller, more mundane faux pas.
Following are examples of typical job search blunders and tips on how you can avoid them.
"One gentleman submitted a résumé that contained misspelled words and an orange juice stain."
The importance of carefully proofreading your job-application materials can't be overstated. Submitting a résumé or cover letter with spelling or typographical errors is a sure-fire way to make a lousy impression on a prospective employer. On the other hand, by crafting well-written -- and stain-free -- documents, you'll send the message that you are a polished, detail-oriented professional.
"A job seeker wrote on her application, 'My boss was a jerk so I quit.'"
Badmouthing former employers, colleagues or clients in an application or during a job interview is always dangerous. For one, it's a small world; your "jerky" former boss might be the hiring manager's golf partner. In addition, being negative or critical will make you seem bitter or petty. It's far better to show tact and diplomacy when discussing past workplace challenges.
"An applicant treated the administrative support staff badly."
When visiting a company for a job interview, be respectful, polite and affable to those you encounter -- from the department head to the mail clerk or intern. Hiring managers look for insights into your character by paying close attention to how you treat everyone, not just the higher-ups. Being rude or dismissive to a receptionist has come back to haunt many a job applicant. Remember: You never know who may weigh in on hiring decisions.
"Applicants have shown up for interviews in torn shirts, blue jeans and flip-flops."
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and surveys have shown that personal attire is closely linked to professional image. In short, dress your best for a job interview. Even though dress codes have become more relaxed in many workplaces, a job interview is not the appropriate venue to showcase your eclectic or laid-back sense of style. Wear clean and neatly pressed business attire, don't go overboard with distracting jewelry, and take it easy on the perfume or cologne.
"I interviewed someone who had a jawbreaker in her mouth during the entire interview."
Interviewers can learn a lot about a job applicant even when words aren't being spoken. Subtle nonverbal clues can indicate a lack of interest, uneasiness or failure to properly prepare for the meeting, so it's crucial you pay attention to your body language. Exhibiting poor posture, crossing your arms, chewing gum or having a tense look on your face can send a negative message. Appearing restless by checking your watch on the sly or playing with your hair also are definite no-nos. While it's understandable to be nervous, try to relax and focus on maintaining eye contact and a pleasant smile.
"One woman immediately mentioned the days she would need to take off."
When interviewing for a job, you need to clearly and succinctly define what you can do for the prospective employer -- not what you can't. Nor should you tell them what they should do for you. For example, do not go into an initial interview and make demands about salary, perks or vacation time. Once a job offer is extended, you can discuss money, benefits and time off.
"When asked what he had been doing while unemployed, the applicant said, 'Staying home and watching TV.'"
How you spend your time when you're out of a job still speaks to your work ethic. In addition to applying for jobs, you should continue to build your professional skills. For instance, take a computer course at the local college, volunteer with a nonprofit organization to hone a particular ability or get more involved with an industry association. Show prospective employers you're working hard to expand your skill set and remain at the forefront of your industry.
Knowing how to deftly navigate the employment application and interview process is key, but don't forget it doesn't end once you've met with a firm. Survey respondents noted that "failing to follow up" after an employment interview or "constantly calling to see if they got the job" also were major mistakes. Continue to display your job-search savvy by sending a handwritten note to the hiring manager thanking him or her for the time and reasserting your interest in the job.
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