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How to Blow the Interview Before You Say a Word

Interviewing is a multi-sensory experience. And if you inadvertently assault any one of the interviewer's five senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch, or smell – you could blow the interview before it ever starts.

1. Sight
Do not let your interviewer see:

    •  You looking at your watch,
    •  You looking at your Blackberry,
    •  Your numerous unconventional piercings,
    •  Your extensive body art gallery,
    •  Your cleavage, 
    •  Your bare arms (guys, please no short-sleeve shirts with a tie)
    •  Your excessive bling, or
    •  The label on the sleeve of your new suit.

That label? Cut it off, along with the threads on the pockets and the back flap. And while you're at it, check this list of 20 other wardrobe malfunctions to avoid in an interview.

2. Hearing
Put away your iPod and your (muted) cell phone. If you can't get through a pre-interview waiting period without music or a phone call, how will you get through the workday?

3. Taste
You will probably be asked if you'd like coffee or water. It's a very simple, yes-or-no question. Either answer is acceptable.

My friend the HR person remembers one candidate who asked instead for a cup of hot water because she was fasting and had brought her own special teabag. She was remembered thereafter as "The Teabag Lady."

4. Touch
The proverbial firm handshake is good. Anything beyond that is probably too touchy-feely for an interview.

5. Smell
Repeat after me, "I will strive to be unscented in my job interview."  Garlic, onions, alcohol, and cigarettes are obvious no-no's before an interview. But steer clear of "good" smells, too. If your scent (cologne, hairspray, whatever) is strong enough to be noticed, it's too strong.

Then again, there's also common sense. In case you were wondering, The Teabag Lady actually did get the job. Because in the end, her preparation, her qualifications, and her personality trumped the oddity of the teabag and the oversharing about her dietary habits.

In most cases, however, it's easier to avoid sending up sensory "red flags" in the first place.

Agree? Disagree? Give us your $.02.

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