The Subtle Ways You Sabotage Your Job Interviews

I couldn't understand what went wrong.

My job interview -- one of my first after my college graduation -- went well: I hit it off with the HR manager, we talked for over an hour, and and she made it seem like I had the job in the bag. She promised to follow-up in a few days.

A few days go by with no word. Not a big deal, things happen.

Then a week goes by; then two. By then, I'd followed up with the woman who interviewed me -- and she curtly indicted the job was filled.

I was crushed and didn't understand what I did wrong. I finally asked for advice from my mom's friend -- a human resources executive at another company.

"It might be your hair," she said, referring to my naturally curly hair. "It doesn't seem very professional."

I was livid. I never found out the real reason why I didn't get the job, but it was infuriating to know that my mom's friend was in charge of hiring people, and she obviously judged people by the way they looked. I made a mental note never to recommend anyone to that company.

It's illegal to discriminate against a job candidate based on appearance, though it obviously still happens. Our appearance conveys a message to employers, whether we want it to or not. I asked career expert Nicole Williams to explain some of the subtle ways you sabotage your job interviews -- and what you can do about it.

Sharp Dressed Woman

Some of the most common mistakes job seekers make when it comes to interviewing is with their outfits, Williams says.

"The biggest mistakes people make are skirts that are too short or tight, too much cleavage, scuffed shoes, excessive perfume, Lady Gaga makeup, or looking like you walked off the set of 'Working Girl' circa 1985," she advises. "The most important thing you bring to an interview is confidence. What you wear and how you wear it helps convey that. If you aren't comfortable in your outfit -- that will come across in an interview."

Pay Attention to Little Details

Part of dressing for the job you want includes presentation posture, pronunciation and tailoring, says Williams. The subtle moves convey confidence.

"Investing in a dry cleaner and tailor is a smart move," she says. "It doesn't hurt to tailor your work wardrobe to fit even better. Spending $10 at the dry cleaners can dramatically change your outfit and how you feel wearing it."

How Hair and Makeup Can Make a Difference

People don't necessarily notice when you are put together, but they 100 percent notice when you aren't.

"Keep your hairstyle tasteful and polished," Williams advises. A simple bun or low ponytail is always a good option - or you can visit the salon beforehand for an extra professional hand. "If you need extra confidence, why not spend $40 on a blowout?"

Make sure your nails are filed and your manicure is not chipped. Make sure your appearance is neat and organized, and your shoes are polished.

"I recommend having your documents -- resume, letters of recommendations -- neatly placed in a folder and easily accessible so you are not fumbling through your bag," Williams says. "Presentation is everything!"

Notice Subtle Quirks

We all have certain quirks that make us unique. However, your absentminded hair twirling or excessive use of the word "like" can negatively affect how you're seen in interviews, says Williams. You might not even realize when you do it, so you might need a little extra help to overcome it.

"Ask a trusted friend to host a mock interview with you and videotape it," Williams recommends. "See what phrases you over use or any gestures that might be distracting. Being able to pinpoint your nervous 'tells' and combat them will help you in the long run."

Ask your pal for her constructive criticism as well. She might be able to see (or hear) things you might not be able to -- even after reviewing yourself on tape.

Research, Research, Research

It should go without saying, but nothing can sabotage an interview faster than not knowing anything about the company.

"Look up your interviewer on LinkedIn and see if there is any common ground you can bring up during the meeting," Williams says. "That way, when you are discussing what the company is up to, you are not sitting there looking like you have no clue. You would have already done the homework and will be able to contribute to the conversation."

Plus, it makes you look more confident. Win!

More from this contributor:

How to Dress Professionally as the Temperature Rises

How to Negotiate Your Salary at Your First Job (and Get What You're Worth!)

What Your Beauty Habits Tell Your Boss

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