Bad Things Managers Say About Job Applicants
How Managers Talk About Job Applicants
Yes, sad to say, that panel of people who just interviewed you will indeed talk about you after you leave. But here's how you can be a fly on the wall and learn from the mistakes of others. After spending many years as a hiring manager, I've heard it all—or almost.
This might sound like they're "dissing" you, or talking trash, but it's really just a product of the fact that the interviewers are on familiar turf (their own), and openly communicate their thoughts to each other.
First—consider the reality of the situation. You're the stranger in the room; they aren't. If you interview with a team, they have likely known each other for a long while and they work together on a daily basis. They know the culture of the firm, they know the personalities of people you'll work with and they know the stressful times you might face.
But more than that, they talk to each other. Oh yes! Be aware, be very aware. It takes a lot of conversation behind the scenes for a group to decide on the final candidate. Some of the conversation relates to the interview questions and scores, but much of it is off-topic.
Read on for some expert tips on how to avoid being trashed by your interviewers!
Common Things Said
Interview panels and hiring managers are more than candid with each other. Here are some real-life examples of interviews gone bad, and how the interviewing candidates could have avoided problems:
"He was late—if he can't even get here on time for the interview, I'm not about to hire him!"
We once interviewed a talented young man for a high-tech position; his answers were good and he was probably the best candidate we considered. But he had not been able to find our building in time for the start of the interview. Even so, he had good skills and I wanted to hire him (I knew how terribly difficult it was to find the stupid place), but I had to get approval from the executive over the department I managed. Unfortunately, the word was out about the late arrival, and I was overruled.
The lesson from this? If you have never been to the location of the interview, make a dry run ahead of time and scope out the parking, find the exact building and figure out how long it will take you to get there.
"She wouldn't shut up—I couldn't stand to work with her!"
This was an actual quote after interviewing a way-too-eager candidate who literally would not stop talking. When we asked a question, she launched into a dialogue that covered everything she'd ever done (even if not related to the question). She was desperate, and it showed. The lesson? Stick to the questions, be brief, and don't talk so fast that others can't break into the conversation.
"His answers didn't add up to what his resume says . . . something's wrong here."
You'll be brought into an interview based on your credentials on paper. If you can't support them in the interview, it will be a big strike against you. Sometimes this happens when a candidate doesn't give solid examples of actually doing what his or her resume claims. Perhaps you've done the work, but if you didn't describe it when asked, you will lose points and maybe even raise suspicion. Saying, "I was a project manager" doesn't yield the same information as briefly describing the types of projects you headed up and how you brought them to completion. You need to give real examples of your experience at your interviews.
"I wanted to hire her, but she couldn't answer the questions!"
Huh? You gave an answer to every single question, right? Well, not necessarily. If you failed to mention specific examples of the experience they're looking for, you didn't fully answer the questions. Tell them about a time you did the job, and tell how you succeeded.
Things Said About Dress/Smell
Hiring Managers notice more than your job skills, or lack of them. Avoid attracting attention due to body odor, clothing, or other issues:
"I couldn't wait for her to leave; the perfume was killing me!"
This quote is from me. As I mentioned in another hub, I interviewed a nice candidate once who probably had a lot to offer. I nearly died from her strong perfume, though, and I honestly could not focus on her answers. Never, ever, do anything to irritate a hiring manager—including wearing a fragrance that overpowers the room.
"Why didn't he take a bath before he came? We can't have that—eewww!"
This has really happened in interviews. Bad breath can do it, too. Never eat a spicy meal before an interview; even if you brush your teeth, you may have garlic-breath that blows them away. You want to blow them away through your skills, not what you had for lunch. Body odor, messy clothes, and anything else that looks or smells bad will reduce your score.
"Um, I don't know about her—she might be a little flashy for our environment."
You get the picture. Dress too tight, skirt too short, shiny fabrics, too much jewelry. Wrong work environment for the way she's dressed. Yes, managers notice this stuff.
"Did you see that ring and watch she's wearing? She doesn't need to work—we'd probably lose her in a few months when her husband wants to take her on a long cruise."
I'm as serious as a stroke here. I've actually heard this brought up in post-interview debriefing. If a candidate looks like he or she wants a higher salary (though the message sent by the Rolex or a huge diamond ring), someone is bound to notice it. You don't want the panel focusing on your trappings; leave conspicuous jewelry at home—even if it's your engagement ring (if it's ginormous). You may really need and want the job, but the prosperity of your image emits might send a different message. One exception to the 'big ring' rule might be for highly paid consultants. I have a friend who is a successful consultant; she bought a ring with a very large diamond and says it gives her credibility in commanding large fees. For the average job-seeker, it can be counter-productive, though.
The examples above may not sound fair, but they're real. You're going to be interviewed by real people, with real faults and real biases. You need to present a professional but neutral image to them, in every way.
Things Said When the Interview Goes Well
The career world isn't all cut-throat, though. Just as managers share the bad stuff, they also talk glowingly about the good qualities candidates display. Read on for ideas of what pleases them:
"He had a great smile—he looks like he can get along with anyone!"
Your personality shines through; they want to work with you! A sincere smile can make the difference in being the final candidate. Smiles look good on everyone - never forget that little accessory when you interview!
"She really knows her stuff—she answered every single question with good examples; I want her on my team."
You paid attention to the experience they were probing for and you gave them solid experiential examples of your work. Good job!
"Did you notice how she looked at each one of us, every time she answered? I like that."
They may not recognize why this impressed them, but they know it made an impact. That's because you engaged each panelist as a separate individual. Even if they weren't participating, you brought them into the moment. People like to be noticed, and you did it well.
"I like the way he pointed out how he can do the XYZ job here, too. He's flexible; we can plug him into almost any department."
You showed them you can do more than just the job for which you're interviewing. No workplace or position operates in a void; by demonstrating your overall usefulness, you'll show them the value you bring.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.