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The bad, the ugly and the bizarre things people do in interviews
There’s never a dull moment in the talent-acquisition field, especially when candidates keep interviewers on their toes with the most bizarre comments and questionable behaviors. This goes beyond the person who wore too much cologne or showed up two hours early to an interview – some of the worst experiences hiring managers have had will leave you laughing out loud:
1. Will the pot I smoked show up on a drug test?
A drug test is part of the hiring process at many companies. It’s best if interviewers avoid questions regarding the drug test unless it’s about directions to drive to the clinic.
“I was interviewing a candidate for an executive assistant position,” says Tom Hart, COO of Eliassen Group. “The woman was also a candidate for a flight attendant position at a major airline. As the interview concluded, the woman wanted to know if she could ask me a personal question. I said sure. Her question: ‘If I smoked pot yesterday, would it register on a drug test tomorrow? The airline says I need to pass a drug test before they’ll consider hiring me,’ she said. I told her it would show up, and wished her good luck with that.”
Avoiding incriminating questions on drug tests should be a given, even more important is avoiding drugs all together. I once heard of a candidate who successfully completed an interview but went on to fail their drug test. When confronted by HR they replied that they had not consumed any illegal substances, rather they had been bitten in a bar fight by someone who had and the drugs entered their blood stream. True story! I think the moral is avoid drugs and don’t hang out with drug addicted vampires.
2. Do you mind if I eat this snack?
Eye contact, focus, natural conversation – all keys to a good interview. Disrupting this flow with a ringing cell phone, jingling jewelry, noticeable nervous tick or food all rank high on the list of what you shouldn’t do during an interview.
“I had a candidate pull out an energy bar and start to eat,” says Alyssa Gelbard, founder of Resume Strategists Inc. “She said she was starved and asked if I minded if she ate her bar. The thing was, she wasn’t really asking because she went into her bag, opened the bar and took a bite before she actually asked me if I minded!”
Better yet, I once worked with an HR professional who was offered a partially consumed Diet Mt. Dew at the end of an interview. The interviewee had stated that he was not likely to finish it. More polite than eating a granola bar in front of someone, but even my 3-year-old knows not to share germs with strangers!
3. My biggest flaw is being too awesome
It’s not an easy question for anyone to answer, but when interviewers ask, “What’s your biggest flaw?” the responses are often more than manipulated (ahem Michael Scott of Dunder Mifflin).
“My biggest pet peeve when interviewing applicants is his/her response to ‘What is your biggest flaw?’ Being too organized, overly attentive, too trusting, etc.” says Michelle Burke, marketing supervisor at WyckWyre HR Stystems. “We all have flaws, including employers. Honesty is key, and we all know your biggest flaw isn’t being overly organized and always on time. Be honest with your employer and they’re more likely to relate to you and offer you the job.”
4. Let me kick back and get a little too comfortable
Interviewers evaluate more than just resumes and answers to questions, they observe behaviors to see how you might be a good or bad fit for the team.
“One of the biggest mistakes I see is when candidates act too comfortable during an interview,” says Kathleen Steffey, founder and CEO of Naviga Recruiting & Executive Search. “For example, using curse words and revealing intimate details. These are all acceptable things to do in front of friends, but have no place during an interview. My biggest pet peeve out of these examples has to be when candidates chew gum. It is very distracting and I will even stop the interview to tell the candidate to take out their gum.”
5. Sorry, I just can’t hold a conversation
Nobody is an expert at interviewing, but there are a few basic skills that are necessary to make a good first impression. For starters, you need to be able to have a normal conversation with another human being.
Madeline Johnson, CEO of MJM Public Relations, notes her biggest pet peeves include: “Those who are completely inexperienced and lack the social skills/intelligence and/or confidence to hold a simple conversation. I have a public relations company, and if the interviewee can’t do small talk – then why did they waste my time?”
It’s also a good idea to use proper English and grammar in interviews. Johnson still recalls ‘yousguysis Becky’ as one of the funniest interviews she’s ever conducted because the term was said countless times during the meeting.
6. Tell me how this job will benefit me
Clearly a job interview helps both the employee and potential employee see if they would be a good match, but too often candidates will make the interview all about them without addressing what’s in it for the company.
“The worst questions to ask during a job interview are questions that are focused squarely on you rather than what you can do for the employer,” says Bob Myhal, president of NextHire. “Early questions about your compensation, your benefits, or your needs almost always send a red flag to the interviewer that you’re the type of high-maintenance, me-first person that employers universally dread.”
Myhal says it’s really about timing of questions and establishing you can do the job before addressing salary and benefits. “Don’t lead off with talk about salary,” he says. Interviewing for a job is like a courtship. If the first date is going really well, then you can ask for another and maybe even seal the deal with a kiss. If the first interview is going well, then it’s okay to touch on salary toward the end of the conversation.”
Now it’s your turn – what are some of the funniest or strangest interview experiences you have had? Please share in the comments!