“Life is not full of awkward situations. It’s full of opportunities. Opportunities to help others.” – Anonymous

You know I can’t stay away from lists for too long, so the do’s and don’t’s of interviewing will be coming shortly.  I did want to give one specific example of what not to do when going to an interview. 

While working as a recruiter in Seattle, Washington, I was in the office one day and had no more interviews scheduled.  Two women walked through the front door.  My office was in a spot where I could eagle-eye the comings and goings of the office.  A lady, who had to be in her forties, was carrying flowers and accompanied by a young woman, who had to have been in her early twenties.  They both stopped at my door and asked if I could spare a moment of my time.  Non-rude options were very limited, so I said yes.

The flower bearer, we’ll call her “Patty”, proceeds to give me the flowers in the hopes to brighten my day.  Patty went on to explain how “Angela” was here to help her get her career back on track after some personal setbacks.  I expected the subject of personal setbacks to be dropped then and there.  I was wrong.  Patty proceeds to tell me how two days prior her apartment was broken into and all of her underwear were cut to pieces.  To ensure I believed her, she pulled out the remnants of a pair of cut up undergarments.  Stunned, I tried to reassure her I was very sorry about the recent events and walked through a very brief interview.  The interview was wrapped up, and I never heard from Patty ever again. 

Obviously, Patty had been through some trauma, and I am not trying to exploit her experience.  I applaud her for trying to gain some normalcy and for reaching out to a career counseling agency to assist her in doing so.  However, if I could go back in time and give Patty some advice, I would let her know the following (I guess I can’t escape my propensity for list making!):

1. Don’t show up without an appointment.  Ever. 

2. Don’t bring gifts to an interview.  It won’t give you a leg up or earn you brownie points.

3.  Don’t rush too soon into finding a job after a traumatic experience.  You won’t be in the right frame of mind and won’t be able to put your best foot forward.  If money is a concern, utilize community/emergency service agencies to find any sort-of assistance until you get back on your feet. 

4.  If you have to divulge personal incidents, keep the information to the minimum.  Showing the cut up underwear was just too much!  Also, if at all possible, let the interviewer know of any positives you may have learned from the situation. 

It’s been six years since my interview with Patty, and I still wonder what she’s doing.  I hope she is doing well and has a successful career.

Positive Thought of the Day:

“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” – George S. Patton

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“Never wear a backward baseball cap to an interview unless applying for the job of umpire” – Dan Zevin

Hey, I’ve done it.  I’ve committed fashion many, many faux pas before.  One of my senior pictures shows me wearing socks with sandals.  Not only was it a bad choice, it was a bad choice caught on film.  Truthfully, the word “caught” implies that I wasn’t expecting to be photographed in this ensemble.  I can’t claim ignorance either.  My mom told me outright the socks/sandals combo was a bad idea.  Thank you, Mom, for having more fashion sense than I did.  Unfortunately, I had poor listening skills.

However you want to dress on your own time is your prerogative.  You’re a tax payer.  You can do what you want.  While Henry David Thoreau cautions against enterprises that require new clothes, interviewing is one institution that requires a certain level of polish to what you wear.  We’ll go over the flip side of the previous post and cover the don’ts of dressing for an interview.

So, Vanna, if you please . . .

1. Don’t show up wrinkled.  I know I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  You could be wearing an expensive, well-tailored suit, but if you look like a hobo you’re not going to be taken seriously.  You might as well carry a bindle and wear a crushed top hat.

2.  Don’t try to use your clothes to make a statement.  A bright shirt or funky jewelry is a great way to show your individuality on your first day of work; not during your interview.  Unless you’re Ellen DeGeneres, Chuck Taylors are not to be worn with a suit.

3. Don’t wear cologne, perfume, body wash, etc.  You may not be able to smell your favorite wild papaya soap, but someone else might.  And, they might not like it.  People are sensitive (funny) to (about) smells.

4.  Don’t ignore your hair.  Hair should be neat and out of your face.  Gentlemen, remember that it’s not your job to keep the hair gel industry in business.  Also, if you have to flip your head back every 15 seconds to move your bangs out of your eyes, your hair is too long.  Paul McCartney is the only one who could pull that hairstyle off.  (I’m looking at you, Justin Bieber.)

Ladies, keep it simple but not casual.  A low-slung clip to keep your hair pulled back is fine.  A ponytail is too casual.  Also, you’re not auditioning for the Miss America pageant.  Keep a low profile. *taps nose*

I know money can be tight sometimes, but try to budget for regular haircuts.  You don’t have to go to high-end salons.  The main thing is to find an affordable place to keep your hair neatly trimmed.

5.  Don’t forget to accessorize properly.  No worn out messenger bags or backpacks.  Keep purses to a manageable size, i.e. no “runnin’ away from home purses.” (I have to give credit to my sergeant-in-arms, Em, for this great expression!)  Have a portfolio or pad holder to carry extra resumes in.

I still remember when I first moved to Seattle, Washington with three of my friends. We were crashing at my friend’s aunt and uncle’s place while job hunting.  I was getting ready for an interview; had on my suit and resumes in manila file folders.  Uncle “Joe” stopped me and said, “You’re not going to carry your resumes in like that, are you?  Yuck!  Let me give you something better to carry them in.”  At first I was annoyed by his condemnation of my method of doing things, but I have to say that a sense of humility is the best accessory a person can carry.

Once you wow them with your professional sense of style, it’s time to wow them with your talent and experience!

Positive Thought of the Day:

“It’s always the badly dressed people who are the most interesting.” – Jean Paul Gaultier