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Interview deal breakers to avoid at all costs

The job interview offers a great opportunity to show your talents and glowing personality — barring any major mistakes.

“The interview process is the only insight we have into you — we don’t have the benefit of knowing you your whole life — so if there’s a flub, that’s telling,” said Ernst & Young’s Dan Black. As Americas director of campus recruiting at the firm, he oversees intern and entry-level hiring and is responsible for hiring about 5,000 people this year alone.
We spoke with Black to find out some of the biggest flubs he’s seen, and how to avoid them.

Interview no-no No. 1: Parental references. Black has seen more parents of job candidates call to check in on their child’s prospects. “I say I’m certainly not going to hold it against your child, but I would cease and desist.” If you think your parent might be the nosey type, intervene now.

Interview no-no 2: Dressing inappropriately. Black has seen candidates dress provocatively, wear rumpled clothing and don neon colors. To know what’s appropriate, Black recommended finding out what other people from the company wear. If you know someone who’s worked there, ask them. You can also ask for advice at a retail store or at a career center if you’re a student.

Interview no-no 3: Knowing nothing about the firm. A candidate once showed interest in Ernst & Young’s “investment banking division.” There is no such thing. “Doing your research is critical,” said Black. “Just going to the Web site is not enough. You want to talk to people and keep an eye open on current events.”

Interview no-no 4: Asking the wrong questions. Black once had an interviewee ask him his salary. Less blatantly bad is asking how much you’ll make in a first interview. “Some of the worst questions that don’t seem innocuous are ones that can easily be answered on the Web site. They’re evidence that you haven’t done your homework,” Black said.

Dan Black's interview tips:
1. Be upbeat and positive. Showing you’re happy to be there gives you a step up.
2.  Provide relevant examples. Many candidates give vague answers. The more concrete you can be, the better.
3. Take your time. Candidates often answer too quickly, out of fear of silence. Taking five to 10 seconds to think of a good answer is better than blurting something out.         

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