I’ve interviewed dozens of applicants in my past position as a mid-level manager for an international corporation. Goodness knows I’ve been the job seeker before, too, so I’ve seen both sides of the fence.
Getting a job isn’t always easy, but you can automatically yank yourself out of the running if you happen to detonate the following interview bombs.
- True scenario 1: Being rude to anyone inside the building in which you’re interviewing.
Before each interview I’d usually take off my name badge, which indicated I was a manager. I did this because it eliminated a myriad of questions while I navigated through Human Resources on my way to pull the file of the prospective employee.
One day, as I approached the HR department to interview my 11 o’clock, I saw a group of young women talking among themselves, passing time before their interview.
I smiled and said hello. In return, one of the women looked me up and down good and hard, scrunched up her face as if I smelled like roadkill on a hot day, and issued an abrupt, “um, hi?” The question mark is for the weird, slightly rude upturn in her voice, as if she was irritated I’d said hello. The women with her smirked.
This did not bode well for any of the women. As a manager, making sure customers receive the very best service was the objective of our hiring process. If this stranger, who doesn’t know me from Cain, would treat me with such disdain then how would they treat a customer?
When I called my interviewee’s name, guess who it was. Yes, Miss Friendly. She was stunned, because I went from roadkill to hiring manager in less than a minute. I put my experience with her aside as we went through the interview.
She wasn’t able to give specific answers to basic, mandatory questions I asked. She smacked gum between answers, and kept checking her phone for texts.
She would’ve been perfectly capable of the job she was interviewing for. She just didn’t care. The nails in her interview coffin were an underwhelming interest in the position as well as an uncouth attitude.
- True scenario No. 2: The smooth operator. This job seeker is totally prepared, with a folio and resume and super-professional outfit. She exudes competence. Her Achilles’ heel, however, is that she is so competent she could probably do my job — and didn’t mind telling me so.
Reading someone’s resume ahead of time gives me a great snapshot of what they’ve done, and on paper someone can look amazing. For this woman, she’d worked at another retailer and — on paper — appeared to be a great fit.
A personality can make or break the deal.
She rode in on a bit of a high horse (usually an indication of low-self esteem, in my experience) and had a lot to say about herself. Part of the interview process addressed teamwork, and she gave a brief example of how she helped co-workers on some project. It wasn’t memorable. What was memorable, however, was her desire to work for us.
As a hiring manager, the most important quality I looked for wasn’t experience but desire. Did they enjoy helping people? Did they behave as if they wanted this job? Would they be willing to go out of their comfort zone and ask customers questions to help them find the perfect item?
This woman was enthused about what she could do for our customer. Great! I hired her.
A few weeks later, I heard through the grapevine that she’d announced to fellow new-hires in her on-boarding class that she was not going to be a mere employee for long, because she was destined to be a cosmetics or big-ticket employee.
Three weeks later, we terminated her — she didn’t work well with others and thought several basic tasks were below her. She fell right off that high horse, and landed with a painful thud.
- True scenario No. 3: Sloppy seconds. I’m looking at a resume. John Smith worked for our company in the past. He quit. And now he’s back.
People leave jobs every day. Maybe it wasn’t a good fit, or maybe the grass looked greener on the other side of the fence. Whatever the case, know that it’s always best to leave each employer on a good note.
Parallel universe situation A: John Smith, a solid employee, left our company to work for a competitor. But he couldn’t cut it — he was a goldfish amongst sharks, and was getting eaten alive. Smith appreciated what he had at our company, reapplied, issued a mea culpa, and was hired back on the spot. As managers, we remembered him and missed his great customer service skills.
Parallel universe situation B: John Smith, a so-so employee, left our company to work for a competitor. His attendance with us was spotty at best, and he was on the cusp of being written up for his absences when he quit. After a few weeks at the competition, he’d been let go for attendance issues. Then he re-applied with us. As managers, we remembered him as the guy who may or may not show up for his shift. We declined his application.
The bottom line is this: Hiring managers aren’t superhuman, they’re mere mortals like you and me. They take into consideration not only your resume, but also general demeanor, attitude and that indescribable fire-in-the-belly motivation that indicates a super-amazing prospective employee.
Spit out your gum, have some confidence, be kind and most of all just be you. If it doesn’t feel like the right job for you, it probably isn’t, so don’t be someone you’re not just to land an offer. It might end up biting you later, like it did for the Smooth Operator.