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How to Stand Out at a Job Interview

Arby has been a professional writer and researcher for over 10 years, and her areas of interest are shamefully diverse.

More people are competing for employment opportunities. Not only are eager new graduates pouring out of learning institutions, but veterans of all industries are finding themselves back in the job interview circuit.

This can be frustrating, and it's easy to feel defeated before you even start. With so many (often over-qualified) applicants, how can you make a lasting impression on your prospective employer?

Showing a potential new boss you're "the one" is actually easier than you might think. So play some inspirational music, repeat your favorite positive mantras, and make sure you know these job interview do's and don'ts. You got this.


Job Interview Dos

  • Do show up early. This may seem like a given, but all too often a job applicant comes blustering in the door at exactly the interview time or even ten minutes after. Here's the thing. You can pretty much kiss the job goodbye if you show up late to the interview. You may have a perfectly legitimate reason for being late, but it doesn't matter. You're going to come across as someone who doesn't have their you-know-what together. Period.
  • Do come well dressed. The degree of fanciness with which you clothe yourself will, of course, depend on the position you are applying for. However, ALL employers want to see that you have enough respect for their position of authority by dressing nicely to meet them for the first time. Even if you are interviewing for a construction labor job, don't show up looking like you haven't changed clothes in a week. Again, it's a respect thing. They want to know that you are willing to go to a bit of trouble to impress them.
  • Do come well-groomed. Looking like you haven't had a shower recently is always bad, no matter where you seek employment. Aside from the fact that nobody wants to share a workspace with someone who might smell, this kind of thing raises numerous red flags for the interviewer. You A) don't care enough to have cleaned up (see above paragraph re: respect issues), B) lead a questionable lifestyle, or C) are unaware of your condition entirely - which could be indicative of other worrisome issues. Just see that you've bathed, deodorized, and put yourself together in a nice and simple way.
  • Do prepare yourself. Know a bit about the company. In a Google-age, there's no excuse not to have done some research about who you are trying to work for. Re-familiarize yourself with, well, yourself. Freshen up on the previous employment dates and such so that they will roll off the tongue if you are asked and you won't have an awkward, paper-shuffling "" moment. Anticipate some of the questions you'll be asked. Usually, an employer will give a hypothetical scenario and ask how you'd handle it or ask how you've handled a difficult work situation in the past. Know what you'll say and how you'll say it so that if you are questioned, you won't draw a blank.
  • Do shake hands and use your manners. In this era of instant messaging and other virtual methods of communication, conversational formalities have become less important. Or so it would seem. Most employers would much rather you err on the side of etiquette than act too casual.
Look sharp for your interview.

Look sharp for your interview.

Be well-prepared, but remember to engage in a genuine way.

Be well-prepared, but remember to engage in a genuine way.

Job Interview Don'ts

  • Don't get too elaborate with your appearance. Dress in a conservative and tasteful way. Unless you are applying for certain specific positions, overly trendy, provocative, or eclectic ensembles may not be well-received. Imagine meeting the parents of someone you've been dating. You don't want your outfit to define you. While you may be remembered as "the guy with the red sneakers" or "the lady with the really short skirt," it is unlikely that you'll get called back for a second interview that way. Which leads to the next don't.
  • Don't flirt or attempt to garner favor through your sex-appeal. This is always a terrible idea. Most often, you'll lose all credibility and respect if you appear to be working the interviewer this way. Even if you do happen to get hired by someone who appreciates these sentiments, you'd just be setting yourself up for a world of trouble. We'll get into that another time.
  • Don't be too full of yourself. Often, interviews can turn into a bragging session that actually annoys more than impresses. Mention your accomplishments and accolades when you are asked about them. Don't if you aren't. They are all documented in your resume already. Dwelling too much on your promotions or certificates of completion can begin to look like you are trying to present yourself as a package, rather than truly engaging with your interviewer. Remember, this person is assessing what it would be like to interact with you on a daily basis. If you seem arrogant or inauthentic, it is highly doubtful that you'll be considered seriously for the position - no matter how qualified you may be.
  • Don't freak out when asked the salary question. You can say you've done some research and that you'd be willing to start at the bottom of the scale for your position, provided there is opportunity for growth based on performance. You could also ask them what they are willing to offer before you answer, but tread carefully as this can be off-putting to some employers. It's best to have an idea of what you'd like to make, but allow yourself some flexibility and show that you are willing to prove yourself for the right company.
  • Don't give "canned" answers. If you are asked the question, "where do you see yourself in five years?" DO NOT say, "in a fast-paced environment as a growth-oriented team player." Nobody buys this as a serious answer. Saying things like that is a great way to ensure the interviewer forgets about you as soon as you walk out the door. Using corporate jargon sounds scripted and boring. You're much better off to be specific and genuine.

There is a time and a place to dress sexy. Neither is at a job interview.

There is a time and a place to dress sexy. Neither is at a job interview.

Ripped jeans. Not okay for a job interview.

Ripped jeans. Not okay for a job interview.

If you smoke, don't do so after you've dressed for your interview - and be sure your breath is fresh.

If you smoke, don't do so after you've dressed for your interview - and be sure your breath is fresh.

Scroll to Continue

Get organized, refresh your resume if you need to, and put your best face forward. Jobs are out there, and there's an employer somewhere who wants to add you to their team. While you may have to jump through some hoops to snag a face-to-face interview (we'll discuss that another time), you're totally going to nail it.

Feel free to share your job interview dos, don'ts, and other insights below.

© 2009 Arby Bourne


Mariel on December 02, 2012:

This article is very useful :) Thank you!

Rotimi on October 12, 2011:


Arby Bourne (author) from USA on July 07, 2010:

Hi Joy,

So glad you found the hub informative! Cheers!

Joy at New Job Interview on March 27, 2010:

Oh cool, this information is really useful and definitely is comment worthy! I’ll see if I can try to use some of this information for my own blog.

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on July 20, 2009:

drummer boy, thanks so much for the compliments! I am glad to receive input so that I know whether the information I've offered is making sense and helping readers. Thanks for taking the time, db!

drummer boy from Kirksville,MO on July 15, 2009:

Hi RooBee, I love the advice you give and love the pictures as well. This kept my attention and so I would have to say a job well done. thanks for the hub.

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on July 10, 2009:

Hello, shiva4u - I'm so glad that this hub is helpful to you! If you haven't, you may want to glance over the comments, too. Many of them contain helpful tips from some pretty wise folks. Thank you so much for commenting - you'll do great at your interview, I'm rooting for you! :)

shiva4u_88 on July 10, 2009:

iam just preparing 4 my interview rightnow.its good to see hubs like this ,it helps me a lot.

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 25, 2009:

lindagoffigan, thank you so much for your comment. True, I should probably clarify that when I say humble I don't mean passive. Confidence is definitely a must. I appreciate & value your input lots!

lindagoffigan on June 25, 2009:

Great advice on how to prepare for an interview. I do want to say that you are selling your qualifications and should not be too humble at the interview. You must as you said, know about the company and always ask questions when the interview request that of you. Lean forward during the interview like you are interested in what the interviewer is saying. Also as the author said let the intervieweer know that you are easy to get along with.

Hub was great except for the humble factor that may take away for the confidence factor that is very important to winning the job.

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 24, 2009:

Hi Ashley - I wish your friend's son the best in his search. Thanks for your compliment. I truly hope that this hub can be of some use to him! :D

Ashley Joy on June 24, 2009:

Excellent tips. A friend of mine has a son who is trying to find a job and not having much luck. Hopefully this will help him stand out more in a positive way.

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 24, 2009:

badcompany, my friend, so glad for your company and compliments!!!! :D:D

Staci-Barbo7 I really appreciate your constructive comment! It is painfully obvious when someone is overly-rehearsed at an interview. Good insights. Thanks! :)

Staci-Barbo7 from North Carolina on June 24, 2009:

RooBee, very good Hub. It's usually the basics that are so important. I think the most important (but least known in general) issue that you hit on is when people give too 'canned' responses instead of being genuine, the prospective employer usually dismisses them as a serious candidate for the job. Employers want a real person who canthink for themselves and are able to connect with them as part of a team.

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 23, 2009:

PM, it sounds only slightly evil but it's a great idea. You could potentially find out a lot about the person that way. Thx for reading.

KCC- Thank you! I have always been pretty "old-fashioned" about being polite, shaking hands, thanking the interviewer, etc. and it's worked out very well for me. On the other side of the desk, I've been pretty surprised by how aloof or overly casual people can be at a job interview!

KRC from Central Texas on June 23, 2009:

Great list! I have interviewed a number of people over the years and these are many of the things I look for. A good confident handshake and good initial eye contact is a must. When the interview is over the applicant should shake hands again and make good eye contact and thank the employer for his/her time and (if appropriate) mention that they are looking forward to hearing from them again soon.

Paper Moon from In the clouds on June 23, 2009:

As an interviewer, sometimes I like to make them wait. It may be evil but I like to see if they have patience and how they handle themselves.

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 23, 2009:

So true, shibashake!! A lot of management types have a need to be validated in their superiority - constantly and are happy to take blatant ass-kissing. :) Thanks for reading my hub! :) Not sure if I told you already, but LOVE your artwork!!! Ppl should see it if they haven't yet!

shibashake on June 23, 2009:

Great list RooBee! The only one I would add is "Do" kiss-ass - it is even fine to be obvious about it :) One time I asked one of my bosses whether it was effective because he already knows what the person is doing - and he said yes. I think bosses kind of expect some amount of ass-kissing. This is usually my weakest point in interviews.

"Don't" point out your interviewer's mistakes. You may think that they will value dissenting opinions - but they almost never do - however right you may be :)

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 23, 2009:

Useful Knowledge, I thank you for reading & really appreciate your compliment! :D:D

Hello, sabu singh - thank you as well for taking the time to read and comment. It means a lot to me!

sabu singh on June 23, 2009:

Honest, down-to-earth advice Roobee

Useful Knowledge on June 22, 2009:

Great Hub. It was very inforative. You uare a great writer:)

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 22, 2009:

shamelabboush -- glad to see you and even more glad you like it!! Thx :D

frogdropping! Nice. I love that last story!! Great point, too, having questions for them. This stuff seems obvious but, as you know, some folks never got the memo. :) I appreciate your always-valuable input!!! :D

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 22, 2009:

laswi, thank you!!

jakyas- Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate your offer, but the article is just how I intended it to be at present. If I want to explore an individual topic more in-depth, I may just write a hub specifically for that.

Or, you could write one. Show me how you'd do it. If it's good I'd be happy to put a link to it in mine. Thanks, again. :)

jakyas from India on June 22, 2009:

Okay, but it's general. Should I help you update it? I read some in the Reader's digest and they are really great.

laswi from Sri Lanka on June 22, 2009:

Useful advice. Thanks.

Andria on June 22, 2009:

RooBee - excellent article! Really great :)

Another great tip is to have some questions ready. Most companies ask if you've got any, usually at the end of the interview. Familiarise yourself with the companies mission statement, question that. Or ask why the company would be good for you, as a place to work. It's not arrogance. It just makes the interviewer/s think that you've prepared in advance. Promotes the concept that you're potentially a forward thinker.

To be honest RooBee, like most, I've been on both sides of the table. I don't know which is worst. I've done interviews whereby the candidate has been so lost or nervous it's excruciating to watch. Equally I've been interviewed by idiots.

I once left an interview appointment, just before they came to collect me for the actual interview. Sitting and waiting for far too long was rude for one thing. And for another, it gave me an insight into how the establishment was being run. None too efficient in my opinion. So I got up and left.

As I was leaving the secretary asked what i was doing. I just said I was going home. She kinda panicked. I asked for my paperwork back, which she wouldn't hand over. There ensued a bit of a row. One of the three interviewers overheard and came to investigate.

On being told by the secretary what had happened, I told him. Good and proper. I was slightly pissed by this point because of the secretary. I ripped the place to bits, verbally. I didn't want the job anyway so ... The upshot was, when I'd finally shut up, that the interviewer said, "allow me to introduce myself. I'm Mr Smith. The head guy". It was a sublime moment.

And they offered me a job :)

shamelabboush on June 22, 2009:

Nice tips! Thanks

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 21, 2009:

erin, I'm so glad it was helpful! True that everyone & their dog is out looking right now so standing out (in a good way) is a must. Thank you! :D

Hello, Paper Moon. Thanks for reading & for the compliment. I've seen it all too often myself. At my old office, we interviewed a guy who had cut off his sleeves and had a pentagram tattoo on one arm and a bloody goat skull on the other. His tats are his own personal business but that probably wasn't the best idea pulling them out at the interview!

Paper Moon from In the clouds on June 21, 2009:

You would be surprised how many people show up for interviews dressed too casually. Great hub.

erin boote from Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania on June 21, 2009:

This was really a great idea and very informative, and couldn't be more timely for me.. I'm in the market, and let me tell is everyone else! Thanks for writing this. You've given great tips and a lot to think about.

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 21, 2009:

P's and Q's is a figure of speech. The origins are debated. Some claim P stands for "Please" and Q for "Thank You" (thanQ). Others say that the phrase started in a pub in old England and P is for "pint" and Q is for "quart."

In any case, mayhmong, it means that you should follow the basics of etiquette or formality. Make sure to shake hands, say please, thank you, and use your manners is the main idea behind that saying - at least the way I use it.

Also, the see-through outfit could well be a benefit if you are interviewing for a place where they want to see the -uh- assets you have to share with the company. :)

Thanks for reading!! :)

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 21, 2009:

Pete, I imagine that you are good in an interview as you always come across as smart AND nice in my experience. I would totally hire you! :)

mayhmong from North Carolina on June 21, 2009:

what do you mean watch your p's and q's when shaking hands? I am already guilty of not showing up on time, due to direction problems even though it was written out already. But wearing a see through clothing may be a plus if someone applies for hooters. tehehe

Pete Maida on June 21, 2009:

Excellent points. It is important to appear natural, respectful, and interested in what the hiring manager has to say.

Arby Bourne (author) from USA on June 21, 2009:

Frieda, thank you!! That's a fantastic idea, doing rehearsals for the interview!

Thank you so very much, fishskin and trooper - appreciate you both!

alekhouse, true - I highly doubt anyone would wear it but I couldn't resist the comic relief. :) Thanks for reading!

Nancy Hinchliff from Essex Junction, Vermont on June 21, 2009:

Really good advice, Roobee, That picture of the girl with her butt hangin' over her thong is hilarious. Can't imagine anyone would go to the office looking like that, much less to a job interview.

trooper22 from Chicago on June 21, 2009:

Good advice :)

fishskinfreak2008 from Fremont CA on June 21, 2009:

Excellent advice. Thumbs up

Frieda Babbley from Saint Louis, MO on June 21, 2009:

great list!  The pictures are fab by the way, especially the don't for what to wear.  lol  Thumbs up. I remember my sister and I would practice before she had to go on a job interview. A few of us got some questions together of stuff they may ask, so she was prepared. She also came with another copy of her resume (which she memorised, sounds silly but it's not), and a pen and leatherbound pad. She finally got the right job and it was well worth her preparation.

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