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Interviewees Say the Darndest Things

Okay, you’ve been there before and realize the basic interview format has changed radically in the past 10 years. Pre Internet you shook hands, made small talk, heard the history of the company and talked about your previous positions and responsibilities.

Anyone now being granted a live hour with a screener or decision maker must be aware of the new protocol. You are expected not only to thoroughly understand the firm but to have a strong grasp on the position. Furthermore the scenario may be less formal than in days of yore; however this can also be a trap. But let’s set out two commandments immediately:

1. You can never be overdressed for an interview.

2. Furthermore you can never be over prepared.

A top ranking sales executive for a nationally known firm recently commented on this second point. Personally he was bothered by the large percentage of candidates who tried to ‘wing it’. In order to draw a mental picture he related one experience that made us both laugh while highlighting his point. After the first five minutes of a distant interview it was readily apparent the embodiment of his pet peeves was sitting across the desk. When he pointed out the total lack of preparedness, the response was, ‘Hey, I got nothing. Let’s finish this up and I’ll give you back the remainder of your day’. You have to love candor to fully appreciate this exchange but the message is loud and clear – do your homework or stop wasting everyone’s time.

Let’s get back to my earlier comment about the inherent dangers of an informal interview. The person chatting you up may appear to be your friend but believe me, this is only a posture to get into your head. Here’s an example. A candidate flies into town for a courtesy meeting with a CEO. During the discussion of a major position in home office the visitor comments, ‘I’d love to work here. It would allow for more time with my family.’ Is he nuts? Exactly one hour later the executive is on the horn with his formerly favorite headhunter, namely me. Of course I do the dance, ‘Bob, he is on the road 4 days a week in his current position, travel, blah, blah, blah.’ Now what do you think the CEO heard? I’ll tell you – ‘The position under discussion is comparatively easy contrasted to my current job, consequently I won’t have to work as hard or put in as many hours.’

Now with respect to personal or family matters, do really think it is helpful to mention your mother-in-law lives with you or you really relish hitting that little white ball? Open the kimono, get personal, and walk a dangerous path. Since few of us resonate on exactly the same issues, you are very likely to shoot yourself in the foot.

Here’s a thought, put yourself in the interviewer’s chair and think about how he would process your each and every reply. Okay, that’s not very practical; just using a verbalized pause before every response is going to make you appear to be a slow thinking idiot. So here’s how we avoid these conversations:

1. Consciously be attuned to an interview moving into an area that is too personal.

2. Whenever it does, steer it back to the company (a subject dear a good interviewer’s heart).

3. Go in armed with talking points. Know the company, know the job and know what you can do for them.

4. Be lively, be animated, be candid, be positive; but please don’t say anything stupid.

Remember, you are there for only one reason, to explain how you can be a value-add contributor. Best you confine socializing and finding new friends to the weekly Rotary meeting.

Article by Ronald Ternosky, Recruitinc.com