THE BLOG
01/22/2013 04:34 pm ET Updated Mar 24, 2013

Hiring Hell: 20 Ways Your Mouth Will Blow It for You

Getting a foot in the door is huge, but it's only 50 percent of the equation. The other 50 is how you do in the interview. The trouble is we used to think getting in the door was a full 80 percent. Maybe that little math issue is why so many of us who get into an interview on a referral from a chum completely blow it.

Many interviewers like to pretend that an interview is a discussion. It's not. It's an audition. In a discussion with someone, you might be inclined to do something ridiculous, like relax and be yourself.

The goal for a job audition is to look like someone who is being relaxed and herself, but who is actually being highly strategic about the personal information she reveals. You only want to divulge information to the interviewer that will tell her:

  • You are the right person for the part.
  • You will make her life easier
  • That in no way will you ever become a liability to her or to her company

For the entire interview, you are on stage playing the role of your perfect self -- who happens to be perfect for the position.

20 Ways Your Mouth Will Blow It for You

Even if you've never auditioned for so much as a high-school play, think about auditions you've seen in movies. What's the primary activity? Reading the lines from the script, of course.

When you open up your mouth in an interview, there are a number of faux pas that will have the interviewer calling: "NEXT!" These are the worst mistakes I've either made or seen other people make on job auditions:

1. Speaking too softly. It is perceived as passive and/or helpless/not dynamic. You're making the interviewer work too hard to hear you. It's exhausting. What? NEXT!

2. Speaking too loudly. It comes off as abrasive, brash and unpleasant. Hush yer mouth. NEXT!

3. Mispronouncing words or not using them correctly. Imbe-silly-alic. NEXT!

4. Digressing. Only answer the questions asked. Don't ramble on blathering about yourself without making a point related to the question. Your job in an interview is to prove you can listen and respond appropriately. And if you don't, you will be perceived as a bore. NEXT!

5. Speaking without any energy or enthusiasm. If you sound like a monotone dial tone, or speak in that lazy way we all do when, say, we've been in a dead sleep and answer the phone at 2 a.m., the interviewer will feel a strong urge to check your pulse. Uh, Hul-low? NEXT!

6. Apologizing. Unless you seriously do something wrong like spill coffee on the interviewer, which you won't because you won't accept coffee if offered, don't say you're sorry. Whatever you're apologizing for, they might not have noticed anyway, and you also just communicated that you made some kind of mistake, which you probably didn't. Sorry. NEXT!

7. Giggling, nervous or otherwise. Giggling is just annoying, don't do it. Ask yourself this: would you hire a man who giggled? No way. So what makes you think that you would hire a woman who does? Tee hee! NEXT!

8. Name dropping. Dropping names is obvious and often U-G-L-Y. It's a big fat turn off. Don't drop a name unless specifically asked about it. The interviewer may know the person, so don't fabricate and don't exaggerate; this is not your resume. J once knew a guy whose name was dropped, and so she called him to see what he thought of the candidate she had just interviewed, he said: "Never heard of her..." NEXT!

9. Baby talking. This is the worst. You wouldn't think anyone would ever do this, but they do. Try this: ask a female colleague about her pet, about half the time, they automatically go into cutsie-wootzy mode and gush about their little "snookum doos." Say: "Yes. I have a cat," and leave it at that. Woof. NEXT!

10. Acting coy or flirting. You might get a date, but you won't get the job. And on the very off chance that you do get the job, it will likely come with an expectation that you will be responsible for duties not listed on the original job description. Nice cleavage. NEXT!

11. Talking about problems or sex -- or sex problems. Don't talk about being a woman, or how hard it is to be a lesbian -- someone actually did this in an interview with M once -- or how hard it is to be a single girl or how hard it is to be a married girl with children. In fact, don't bring up children at all -- as they are the direct consequence of sex. Interviewers are not permitted to ask about your offspring, and, as hideous as this truth is, many people don't want to hire someone they know will use personal days because of a sick child. No kidding. NEXT!

12. Cracking a distasteful joke. Did you hear the one about the two female writers, one was a Jew the other a Catholic? NEXT!

13. Arguing with the interviewer. Some do, you know. Lots of women become argumentative in order to show backbone. M once pulled a "do you really think so?" in an effort to show spunk. She was sunk. NEXT!

14. Cursing. If you curse pretty much daily, you might let one fly in an interview. Watch it, damn it. NEXT!

15. Giving one-word answers. Don't just answer with "yes" or "no" answers. They'll peg you for a defensive and/or passive aggressive in a New Yawk minute. Oh, and while we're on the topic, the word is "yes" not "yeah." NEXT!

16. Bringing up salary, benefits, vacation time, etc. on the first interview. If asked what you are looking for, try to deflect -- tell them you want to focus on the big picture of where you fit into the company. They love that. (For pointers on how to negotiate the salary, see sidebar). Whatever you do, don't carry on about how under-compensated you are at your current job because the interviewer will assume a) you are too expensive, b) nothing will make you happy. NEXT!

17. Complaining. Don't complain about a single thing, not the weather, not your tight shoes, not the smell in the subway, and for god sake not how long they kept you waiting. In an interview, never badmouth anyone, ever. Especially do not bitch about current or former bosses or colleagues or companies. If you do you will be telling the interviewer that you are about as loyal as Linda Tripp. NEXT!

18. Excuse making. Don't make excuses for anything. Not time gaps in your resume, not promotions you didn't get, not the degree you don't have. If explanation is called for, say something positive: say you were volunteering, consulting... say you were writing your first novel. Whaddevah you do, don't say you just couldn't get a break! NEXT!

19. Being arrogant. There are no small parts, only small actors. If you indicate that you are "too good" for anything, it will be too bad for you. NEXT!

20. Presuming. Don't tell the interviewer they remind you of your ex-boyfriend, your father or anyone else for that matter. It won't help you and it's annoying. Mommy? NEXT!

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