More & Less: Two Essential Tips for Interviews

Even though I’ve been in the business of helping job seekers — particularly those at the dawn of their careers — land their dream gigs for quite a while, I can’t help but be surprised by the frequency that two faux pas show up. In many ways, interviews should come naturally, but evidently, in our nervousness, we complicate the process unnecessarily, and in so doing, we hurt our chances to get hired.

Do Not Record What I’m Saying

Maybe people think they are tricking their interviewers into thinking they value the conversation more if they come out with pen and paper as props, but it’s not fooling anyone.

So many people are shocked to learn that, unless instructed otherwise, it’s inappropriate to take notes during an interview. Think about it! Would you take notes on a date?

What are you writing down anyway? There is nothing that will come up in your interview that can’t be repeated later. Scrawling notes will also distract your attention and prevent you from the most important task at hand — building a relationship with the interviewer.

Your job is to put away the pen and paper and sell yourself to the person on the other side of the desk.

Interview Attire Is Not a Negotiation

In this area, there is little room for interpretation. An interview is a business meeting with people you generally know very little about.

When I tell my male clients a suit is an absolute must, they quickly try to negotiate. Would a sport jacket be sufficient, they want to know. Here’s the deal. Always, always go with a suit. The only time a sport  jacket and tie works is if the interviewer specifically indicates to come casual.

Female clients are a bit trickier.
Here are two rules:

1. Less is more when it comes to makeup–not clothing: If you look in the mirror and think you’d be ready for a night out if you only applied a different lipstick, you are dressed wrong. Remember: you can’t dress like the people who will be interviewing you until you are offered membership to their club.

2.Tame your hair: I encourage all my female clients to go for a tame look, which often means pulling your hair back.

For the guys, this is not another opportunity for negotiation. Any facial hair is risky. A clean-shaven look is my recommendation, even if it makes you look younger (a common defense). It doesn’t matter; it should come off for the interview. Otherwise, you are giving the impression that you are a non-conformist, which is hardly a great selling point for most companies.

Do you have other questions I haven’t addressed here? If so, feel free to comment or send me an email.


Lesley is president and founder of Priority Candidates, which prepares college students and recent graduates nationwide to get hired for their first jobs.   Previously, Lesley spent more than 25 years in executive search, working with candidates from entry level to C-Suite executives in organizations ranging in size from small, family owned businesses to large international organizations.  Her fundamental knowledge of what hiring manager’s look for is the core of what Priority Candidates does to prepare college students/recent grads to get hired now.  An alumnus of Duke University who is based in New York City, Lesley has been featured in USA Today, ABC’s New York Viewpoint with Ken Rosato, ABC News with Art McFarland, The New York Times, NY Nightly News with NBC4’s Chuck Scarborough, eCampus News and John Tucker’s Small Business Report on Bloomberg Radio.   Lesley always welcomes connections via LinkedIn, on Twitter or by email or phone, available on her website.

Related posts:

  1. The Essential Interview Check List: 9 Steps To Ensure You’re Prepared
  2. Four Essential Job and Internship Resolutions for 2012
  3. Phone Interviews Out, Video Based Interviews In

5 Responses to “More & Less: Two Essential Tips for Interviews”

  1. avatar Lew Sauder says:

    This is sound advice that I’m surprised more people aren’t aware of – entry level or otherwise. One caveat I would throw out is that it is good to check the dress code ahead of time. As an IT consultant, I once interviewed at an IT shop that had a shorts & flip-flops dress code. Wearing a suit, I might as well have been wearing a tuxedo. It was obvious to them I wouldn’t fit in. I lost the job before hands were shook.
    Lew Sauder, author, Consulting 101: 101 Tips For Success in Consulting (

  2. Matt Forrest says:

    Some people find it helpful to take notes during interviews as a means of organizing their thoughts. These notes can be used to look back on points the interviewer brought up, better illustrating any questions the job seeker may have.

    Matthew Forrest
    Social Media Marketing Intern, YouTern

  3. avatar Lesley Mitler says:

    Your thoughts should be organized BEFORE you go to an interview – this is part of your preparation. You should be engaging with the interviewer and listening to their questions and their commentary. If you are attentive during the meeting, there is absolutely no reason to be taking notes. Not very comforting to a potential employer if you can’t absorb and respond to the conversation without taking notes.

  4. avatar Allison says:


    For women, are nylons a must and is it better to wear a skirt suit or pant suit?

  5. Unless you’re interviewing with a fairly conservative company, you can probably get away without the nylons [not sure if this is the case]. But it really does depend… I’m happy to provide a more detailed response if you provide specifics. My contact information is on my website. Best of luck!

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