Always Check Your Teeth for Lettuce

Real life interview blunders for job seekers to avoid

Have you seen all of the job seeker advice online? A quick Google search for “interview advice” retrieved more than 16 million results! With all of the articles, blogs, books and podcasts, you’d think that everyone looking for a job would know exactlywhat to do and, certainly, what not to do.

This economy has made it difficult for many people to get interviews, so why would some blatantly jeopardize their chances at gainful employment? Sure, we’ve all done things we wish we wouldn’t have. But, when it comes to interviewing, you really need to bring your “A” game.


  • Keep your shoes on. This, you might think, is a no-brainer. However, a recruiter friend of mine once had a candidate take his shoes off and pick his toes during an interview.
  • Cut the “X” stitch. When you buy a new suit, often times the back flaps are sewn together with a large, loose stitch. Before you go to a job fair, networking event or interview, remove the stitch. College grads are often the biggest culprits of not doing this.
  • Take off the blue tooth. Be in the moment. If you’re in an interview, a Bluetooth should not be in your ear. And, while you’re at in, silence your cell phone.
  • Don’t answer your phone. A friend of mine had a candidate take a call during an interview and schedule an interview with another company. Bold move, but not smart and cost this candidate a great opportunity.
  • Clean your collar. Many recruiters expect men to be clean shaven and neatly groomed. If you knick yourself, don’t put your shirt on right away. If you’ve got a little red around the collar, change your shirt.
  • Carry an extra pair of hose. Ladies, if you’re prone to getting runners in your pantyhose, carry an extra pair just in case something snags them.
  • Don’t drunk dial the recruiter. Enough said. Don’t do it. And yes, that’s really happened.
  • Stop texting whilst talking. A client once confided that during an interview, the candidate picked up her phone and started texting.
  • Watch your language. Recently, a recruiting manager asked a candidate to tell him about a time that she initiated a difficult conversation. The example ended with the candidate saying that she told another person to “suck it.” In hindsight, I am sure she wished she’d given a better example.
  • Promote yourself, not your band.  While some people might admire the drive and creativity, don’t hand out flyers for your rock band during a professional corporate interview.
  • And, finally … always check your teeth for lettuce.

Many years ago, a younger and way cooler version of myself, was interviewing for a position with a recruiting firm in Washington, D.C. My suit was pressed, resume was spot on for the job, and it all felt right. I met with interviewer one, then two, three, four …

I left feeling great and wanted to treat myself to dinner. Before heading into the restaurant, I opened my compact to touch up my make-up. And, that’s when I saw it. A big piece of purple lettuce stuck between my teeth. That’s why I met so many people! Everyone wanted to see the girl with lettuce in her teeth. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job, I never heard back from the firm, and life went on.

Have you had lettuce in your teeth?

Have you committed an over-the-top interview blunder? Are you a recruiter with a funny interview story? Dish below!

Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Reader Interactions


  1. Sid Burgess says

    Tip from someone who is always paranoid about lettuce in his teeth:

    If you have a smart phone, turn the screen off (so it is all black) and most phones, especially really new ones, can be used as a makeshift mirror. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used my phone while eating lunch with someone to just check to see if I’ve got anything in my teeth. 🙂

    • Shannon Smedstad says

      Thanks, Sid for reading and taking the time to leave this tip! Unfortunately for me, my “lettuce” incident happened years before smart phones.

  2. Victoria says

    I had an interview that I thought went great .. until I got home and realized that my fly was down. Oddly enough, that recruiter doesn’t return my messages.

  3. Chicago Pinot says

    Great article Shannon!

    My “unforced error” was fortunately corrected just in time. On my way up an elevator, a pretty young woman next to me asked if I had an interview. When I said yes, she whispered to me that I forgot to straighten my tie and button my suit! I neatened up just before arriving in the lobby!

    • Shannon Smedstad says

      Thanks, Chicago Pinot, for reading and taking the time to share your story, too! It happens to the best of us. 🙂


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