6 First Impression Mistakes to Avoid at a Job Interview

Hiring managers don’t have time to read you like a book, so you’ll likely be judged by your cover. It takes exactly three seconds to create a first impression, according to a study by Psychology Today. But here’s the good news: Projecting a positive first impression is the easiest part of the interview. It’s something you can control.

Strive to project an image of your most professional self.

5 persons in an interview

In no particular order, here are six potential deal-breakers that you should be aware of while you’re practicing and prepping your next job interview:

1. Visible Tattoos

A friend of mine is an entry-level business analyst at a Fortune 500 corporation who wears a skin colored band-aid on her wrist everyday to hide her stellar palindromic tattoo that reads “believe” one way and “achieve” the other.

While this tattoo is harmless and even sends a positive message about her personality, she told me that “you never want to give them a reason to write you off — tattoos make a lot of people uncomfortable, especially the older women.”

Her experience at the corporation supports a recent finding from researchers at Texas State University, which found that employers generally do not accept body art in the workplace.

2. Pungent Smells

You want your potential employer to pick up on your qualifications — not your scent. Who knows, he might be allergic to certain perfumes. So, the best bet is to shower and stay away from curiously strong perfumes, colognes, and lotions.

So, the best bet is to shower and stay away from curiously strong perfumes, colognes, and lotions.

3. Untraditional Piercings

Creative piercings are just the kind of things that make employers, especially elder hiring managers, uneasy (maybe even a little queasy). Whether it’s your lip, tongue, temple, cheek, third eye, etc.—unconventional piercings are likely to put off prospective employers.

But there are some gray areas when it comes to piercings, especially male ear piercings or nose piercings, which can be considered conventional in some ways.

We asked Elise McVeigh, the manners expert for the Dallas Morning News and Parents.com, to weigh in: “Men would be discriminated against with a piercing the same way they would with a tattoo,” she said.

“For a female nose piercing, if it is obviously cultural, then no, otherwise a nose (or tongue) piercing would appear to be unprofessional.”

4. Chewing Gum

For some, chewing gum might calm nerves, but munching on gum looks tacky and the gum will inhibit you from speaking smoothly (it could fall out!). If you’re looking for other ways to calm your nerves, consider deep breathing before you walk into the interview. Whatever you do, though, don’t smoke until you get home (see No. 2).

If you’re looking for other ways to calm your nerves, consider deep breathing before you walk into the interview. Whatever you do, though, don’t smoke until you get home (see No. 2).

Whatever you do, though, don’t smoke until you get home (see No. 2).

5. Wild Hair

Unless you’re auditioning for a band like No Doubt – or, shudder, Flock of Seagulls — keep your hairdo neutral. The Society for Human Resource Management suggests having an “attractive, modern hair style. No wild ‘dos or fun colors.’ ”

6. Excessive use of: ‘You Know’ and ‘Like’

These and other common annoying verbal fillers, such as “um” and “uh” can be distracting to your employer. It’s hard — but if you practice common interview questions, you’ll avoid having to use annoying filler to buy time as you search your brain for answers.

One method of helping you rid yourself of these phrases to record yourself during a mock interview. Then, count the number of times you use each filler words during playback. Awareness of your pitfalls can dramatically help you practice and improve your speech.

Awareness of your pitfalls can dramatically help you practice and improve your speech.