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Avoid common interview mistakes

Expert cites lack of knowledge, casual dress as frequent job-seeker gaffes

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There are some job seekers who still don't get it. You need to be well prepared for an interview. It's often the first face-to-face interaction with a potential employer.

To avoid making a negative first impression, I asked human resources consultant Eileen Levitt to name some common interview blunders. Levitt is president of The HR Team in Columbia, which helps smaller firms with their recruiting, hiring and other human resources needs.

One of the most frequent mistakes job candidates make is not knowing anything about the company.

"I had a candidate come here and I asked her, 'What do you know about us?'" Levitt recalls. "She said, 'My Internet was down today, and I couldn't do research.' [The interview] was scheduled two weeks ago. That turned me off."

Another gaffe is dressing too casually. Tube tops and flip-flops are absolutely forbidden.

"It's always better to be overdressed," she says.

Here's a can't-believe-it-happens-but-it's-true story: Candidates who use profanity during interviews.

"We hear it all the time," she says. "You can't repeat it in the paper."

Some other interview blunders include bad-mouthing former employers, giving vague answers and taking cell phone calls.

A survey released last week by Accountemps, a financial services staffing agency, found that 47 percent of 150 respondents think little or no knowledge of the company is the most common interview mistake. Being unprepared to discuss skills and experience, career plans and goals and lacking enthusiasm also top the list.

Lack of soft skills, such as not making eye contact and arriving late, are some other interview slip-ups.

From the mailbag: A few readers passed along their tips about staying fit at work after last week's column.

Kate, of Mount Washington, says she sits at her desk eight hours a day and is trying to lose weight from her last pregnancy.

She makes a trip to the farmer's market downtown every Sunday morning and buys vegetables and fruits, "which inspires me to eat well all week." Kate spends time Sunday preparing the fruits and veggies and packing them individually for the week.

"I put it in bags so I can easily grab something on my way out the door each morning and have healthy stuff to snack on and eat for lunch," Kate says.

Coleen, a reader from Odenton, parks her car 25 minutes away, so she can walk to the office. Like Kate, she brings healthy snacks, including V-8 juice, which is 70 calories for 11.5 ounces.

How do you keep off the pounds at work? Send your tips, comments and questions to Please include your first name and your city.
You can't live with them and you can't live without them.

They're high-maintenance or diva workers in your offices. They can be demanding, pushy and even obnoxious. But they're also some of the best employees.

Are you a proud diva worker? Or do you manage them? We are looking for stories from workers and managers on how you handle high-maintenance colleagues for a future article. E-mail us at with your name and contact information.
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