Monday, September 2, 2013

Whiners Need Not Apply

No, I did not say winners I meant whiners. Nothing kills the mood or your chances in a hiring process more than a whiny-butt baby complaining about how unfair the world is, and that you cannot seem to get a break. And yet it would surprise you as to how many people do this and never realize what they are doing to themselves by bad mouthing and criticizing current or former employers, while in the presence of potential future employers during an interview. For that matter, valuable time spent complaining in general terms is no better. 

It can be a slippery slope to use the opportunity of an interview to vent, even if the rapport with the interviewer is good. They may smile and let you ramble on for entertainment value but you won’t be getting a call back, regardless of how good you are at what you do. I can imagine some readers saying, “So what, I can’t tell the truth, everything’s supposed to be sugar-coasted? Well that ain’t me!” I am not suggesting you BS or withhold info, although I state it over and over again; it is not what you say but how you say it. 

Similarly, there is a tendency for some to share their personal problems. I know this may be politically incorrect because it seems everyone is expected to feel everyone else's pain, but applying for a job and then asking not only for the job but also for special flexibility tailored to your needs – sorry, but that’s not how it works. To make my point, here’s just one example of what I am talking about; I have actually heard a few people suggest that because they have a small child they feel they are somehow entitled to more flexibility or consideration, assuming others without small children should accommodate them, taking up their slack at work while they run to their child’s daycare, or whenever the little ones have a sniffle. Not so, there is a clear divide between the obligations of the employee and the company. If you think I am being cold hearted, accusations of “you just don’t understand” ring hollow with me. I was a single parent from the time my daughter was 3 1/2; been there and done that. 

So that is my overall message – leave your personal baggage at home, it has no place at the interview and does not belong in the workplace. We all have issues we deal with, however, your employer and co-workers have no obligation to carry or bear the burdens of individual employees or their extended families, sorry, but that is the cold, hard truth. And airing your problems in the hope that somehow there are pity points awarded on an interview scorecard will instead detract from any positive points you’ve earned for your qualifications and professional experience. 

You should also guard against efforts to encourage or goad you into speaking poorly about an employer for another reason. Occasionally, managers might have an alternative agenda, seeking an opportunity to conduct opposition research if you happen to work for a competitor. If you are interviewing with a competing organization, they may convey friendliness and make a comment, such as, “So I hear the person you work for can be difficult…” while they wait for you to take the bait. It's business, so keep it professional, don’t gossip or trash talk.  

There is one more and the most compelling reason for why it is never a good idea to speak poorly about a current or past employer. If I am an interviewer and I hear negative comments, I think to myself, “So this is the way they will be talking about me, later.” And there’s no way that can leave a good vibe. 

With all this said, if indeed there is a legitimate reason you do need real consideration beyond the basic job description, such as a handicap or other special issue, it is always better to make mention of it early in the process, in either the first or second interview but no later. 

As you pursue opportunities and seek to be the person whom they will select, focus on your talents, abilities and experience. Be able to demonstrate why you are a good choice and build rapport going forward with mutual respect and on a basis of shared risk and, no matter how tempting, leave the negative stuff outside the door. 

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