You might be surprised at the missteps job applicants can make.

By Sarah Stebbins
Updated September 12, 2012
Jim Franco

1. Failure to carry a notebook. “It’s a good sign when people take notes—that’s a signal you’re engaged. But it can be off-putting to pull out a smartphone or a computer to jot things down,” says Nancy Connery, founder of Connery Consulting, a San Francisco consulting firm for technology companies, including Dropbox, Twitter, and Lithium.

2. Loud jewelry. “The problem is big, dangly earrings that move when you talk or anything that makes noise, like bangles,” says Kat Griffin, New York City–based founder of, a fashion and lifestyle blog for lawyers, bankers, M.B.A.’s, and consultants.

3. Crazy colors. Says Connery, “Extreme hair dye and bright eye shadow and lipstick are not the best choices during the evaluation process.”

4. Crummy nails. “If your dark polish has noticeable chips, it looks unprofessional,” advises Aliza Bogner, vice president of human resources for Alison Brod Public Relations, in New York City.

5. Carrying a gym bag. “One woman I interviewed actually had her sneakers tied to the zipper,” says recruiter Lauren Mathisen of Jones Lang LaSalle, a commercial real estate firm headquartered in Chicago. “I assumed she was going for a run after our meeting. With better planning, that could have been avoided.”

6. Sunglasses. On your head. “It’s distracting,” says Bogner. “We expect you to look yourself over and make sure you’re presenting yourself well before you come in.”