Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to Ruin Your Chances

Sometimes I think there are people who consciously claim they want to succeed, yet subconsciously seem to do everything in their power to sabotage themselves. Sharing, no, imposing their problems on others is a sure way of not being invited back for another interview. Then they wonder why they can never get a break! You may be the best qualified person but, if after an interview, the person with whom you’ve met feels as if they need a shower to wash off all that bad mojo you left with them, don’t be surprised if there is no call back.  

There are a few topical areas you should avoid in the interview process. Forgive me, for I have worked to build a reputation for straight talk, which means I might unintentionally offend some people’s sensibilities. I like honesty and increasingly it seems people want honesty until they get it; however, to make the necessary points I must speak freely. Politically-correct speech is an assault that hastens the slow death of Free Speech, because speaking one’s mind will assuredly offend someone, somewhere. By mincing and sugar-coating words, sometimes the people who most need the advice don’t hear it. With that said, here are two of the biggest examples of what you should avoid at all costs to maintain your eligibility: 

  • Don’t talk trash about your past or present employer(s) – From the perspective of the interviewer, complaining about a past employer makes it appear that you are shifting blame, it’s juvenile. If, when you are asked to describe your past work history, you choose to spend more time whining and bitching about how unfairly you’ve been treated and portray yourself as the victim of circumstance, rather than using the time constructively to instead demonstrate reasons why hiring you is a good thing, guess who’s to blame for the momentum of your candidacy screeching to a halt? Likewise, the interviewer logically concludes that if you talk in this negative manner about others, at some point you will do the same about your next employer. You may be right and it all could be true but so what. It might make you feel good to vent but it will accomplish absolutely nothing productive – so don’t do it. Stick with and focus on the positive aspects of your experience and if you must or are asked about past unfortunate circumstances, never lie, but keep it to a minimum, separate and refrain from venting your personal feelings; keep it professional, conduct yourself professionally.
  • Leave your personal problems at home – The interview is all about demonstrating your interest and qualifications for the job for which you have interest and that’s all. You should instead be learning more about the job and circumstances surrounding the opportunity you’re there to investigate. Considering that most interviews are limited by time, sharing your personal problems has no place at an interview. Sharing your personal travails and difficulties is viewed unfavorably to say the least. I don’t care how sad a story it is, it’s not personal, it’s business is the phrase that comes to mind, so keep it that way. Seeking pity or some validation for your misfortune will not compensate for a weakness in your suitability for a job and earns you no extra credit, there is no such thing as pity points on the interview score card. Interviewers are not your therapist, counselor, social worker nor are they your pal or buddy. I assure you that if you spill your issues out onto the table or bare your soul when you’re supposed to be interviewing, the interviewer might be feigning compassion and understanding, but they are inwardly begging for the clock to tick ahead to when they can end this torturous period of time they’ve wasted. Ask yourself, whether intended or not, do you really think you’ll get another invitation for the next round with that kind of strategy?  

Now more than ever we know people, or we ourselves have experienced difficulties in our professional and personal lives, and if you haven’t, it’s a good bet you will at some point. I’m no different and I empathize, I’ve had my share of difficulties, but those are my crosses to bear, and not the burden or responsibility of others. You will only be hurting yourself, it will detract from any positives your candidacy brings to the interview and subtracts points from any of those gained as a result of your qualifications, experience and accomplishments.  

If you happen to be someone who resembles that which I’ve described above, you have a historical pattern of this kind of interview behavior and you can be honest with yourself about it, good, it’s a step in the right direction. I assure you that interviewers and companies can also recognize these patterns. If you’re one of these people your task is to break the cycle, fight the urge to make excuses and instead concentrate on sharing why you are the best choice to hire, and not to provide them with the easy justification for why you are not. Sorry, but there are no ifs, ands or buts, no exceptions; it’s already a tight employment market, use your head and don’t handicap yourself unnecessarily. 

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