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As many of you know, I participated in last month’s Help a PR Pro Out social media event. #HAPPO was intended to bring together talented public relations professionals and employers with job openings. The movement continues and the latest question is: “What was the best career advice you ever received.”

Mine came from my mom – she said always have two working ballpoint pens and come dressed to the interview ready to work. My Twitter friend Deb Dobson agreed with that advice but proceeded to share with me a few examples of some of the crazy interview situations she had been in as assistant director of IS at a Midwest law firm. And then the idea of a co-authored blog on “how not to get a job” was born. So here goes and feel free to add your thoughts.

Deb: After many rounds of candidate interviews over the course of nearly 10 years, I would be surprised that some candidates not only forgot those items (pens and dressing for success), but were clueless on what seemed common sense. So, here are some of my suggested ways to make sure that you, candidate, do not get hired.

1. If you have an interview at 11:30 a.m., it's good to bring greasy, smelly food, and plenty of it. No telling how long the interview might last. Maybe bring two helpings in case one doesn't fill you up. Then be sure to take bites while the interviewer asks a question and chew food with open mouth while answering questions.

2. Chewing gum is good to relax your nerves, especially on an interview. Best if you chew while your interviewer is asking you a question. Also, smacking the gum while you pause to think of an answer is a wonderful way to entertain the interviewer while she/he waits for your answer. If you tire of the gum, be sure to stick it under the mahogany table.

3. Trying to get an IT position? Brag to the interviewer how you downloaded onto your previous employer's server thousands of pirated songs and movies without ever getting caught. Then lean back, cross your arms and laugh.

4. It’s always easier to anxiously wait with others, isn't it? Bring your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend with you to the interview. You'll have someone there to support you. When the interviewer comes to get you, be sure to ask if they can come into the interview too.

5. It is always good to follow-up on an interview. Shows initiative and thoughtfulness. A thank you note is appreciated or better yet, how about if dad, sends one, too. This way dad can get to know your potential employer and they get to know him.

6. Interviewing at a law firm? After the interview if you happen to run into a friend in the elevator of the building you interviewed, be sure to say a comment to him like "just interviewed to work with a bunch of stupid attorneys" when the elevator has a group of people on it. Who knows? One could be an attorney.

7. Good to let your interviewer know that you understand the value of sleep. Arriving late for a 9 a.m. interview in the clothes you wore to bed, obviously sleeping on your right side from your hair, conveys that well.

8. And since we are on the subject of sleep, if you didn't get enough sleep the night before, why don't you just take a little nap while the interviewer talks. This way you'll feel rested when you answer the questions. That is after the interviewer gently shakes you awake.

9. Here is a list of good questions to ask and good comments to make:

(1) How soon can I take time off? (especially ask early on in the interview)

(2) If interviewing at a law firm, ask "what exactly does this company do?"

(3) "What position is this for? I thought this was for something else. I get confused with all the resumes I send out."

Abbie: Pretty funny stuff, Deb. And certainly you can substitute “public relations” for “law” firm in any of those scenarios. Here are a couple others:

  • Character references are important and I’m fairly certain your parents love you and think you walk on water. Be sure to have them call me, unprompted, to give you a glowing recommendation.
  • I know it might be a lot to ask that you spell my name right and know that I’m female, but getting your own name wrong is just a little creepy.
  • Feel free to pick up anything off my desk and play with it. There’s no need to ask. Or to pay attention to what I’m saying.
  • I am so interested to learn what a jerk your previous employer was and all the ridiculous demands he/she put on you.
  • There is no reason to check our website before you arrive. You can learn all about us after you’re hired.
Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink
Vice President/General Manager Abbie has been doing public relations her whole life…from organizing a picket line in 6th grade to organizing client communications today. She’s passionate about a lot of things, you’ll see. Check out Abbie's full bio


  1. Julie S says:

    My favorite was a girl who showed up in shorts, a tank top and flip flops. Her boyfriend and large dog also came with her to the interview.

  2. Deb Dobson says:

    It truly is amazing Abbie, isn’t it. And I’ve heard endless stories from HR and other directors through the years that are quite incredible too. Loved co-authoring this post and love your blog.

  3. This is why I had to open my own biz.
    Great post!

  4. Abbie and Deb, this is priceless! It’s all true and funny at the same time. One would think these are all common sense, but, alas, it is still necessary to remind some how important a job search and interview really are.

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