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The Biggest Mistake Potential Hires Make While Interviewing for a Job

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

If I told a lot of potential hires that sometimes they have as much or more to do with getting a job offer as I do as the interviewer, most of them would not believe me. After all, I am the interviewer and, in many cases, I might also be the owner, manager, supervisor or personnel specialist charged with the responsibility for making an offer.

Having said this, I would also share with you that sometimes the potential hire talks himself or herself into an offer and then right back out. The reason why is they commit the biggest mistake a person could make when interviewing for a job, and this is it:

They are asked a question, they answer the question, and then they feel compelled to explain or justify the answer they have given.

I might ask, “Where are you educationally?”

They might answer, “Well, I thought about going to college but I only completed high school.” Then they will launch into a big explanation of why they could not go to college because of their circumstances at the time. Too often, the reasons given are lame excuses and it becomes pretty clear that they simply did not give education any kind of priority in advancing their lot in life.

Maybe their parents thought education was a waste of time, or that it cost too much, or that they (the parents) would not pay the cost. Or perhaps the potential hire started an academic program but did not finish, or they did not like a professor they had, or needed to work to support their wife and new baby.

I might ask, “Why did you leave your last job?”

They might answer, “I was laid off” or “I quit” or “I was fired.” Then they will explain the circumstances about how the company was downsizing, or they hated their boss, or the company forced them to work overtime, or the company would not allow them to work overtime.

I asked a potential hire a job-related question, and about 30 seconds into his answer, the candidate launched into the story of his sled dog trip in Alaska and droned on for about 10 minutes. Rather than interrupt him, I let him yak on.

The interview was just 10 minutes shorter, I did not get my questions answered, and he did not get an offer. I would have been more interested had I been in the mushing business, delivering goods across the great tundra. Such is life.

Obviously, when allowed to talk too much, the potential hire gives the interviewer all sorts of reasons why they should not receive an offer.

The one thing you absolutely can not afford to do in an interview is to create a seed of doubt about why you should be offered a position. When you do so, the interviewer feels obligated to start checking all kinds of things about you to validate their suspicion and pretty soon, you are eliminated from consideration.

And seriously now, who among us, if put under intense scrutiny, does not have a chink in his or her armor? We all do.

The message of this reality is: keep your answers short and succinct. Interviewing is a business activity, not a social activity. Be businesslike and be professional. Save the small talk for after you are hired and not on the job.

Online Hiring Threatens to Do Away With Traditional Hard Copy Resumes – Is It Really True? (Part 1 of a 4-Part Series)

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

The presentation of this story in my Wednesday daily newspaper is dramatic.

A smaller headline in color above the main headline says “Digital Job Searches Gain Ground”.

The main headline says “Straight to the Waste Basket” and shows a picture up top of a resume folded like a paper airplane headed presumably for a wastebasket (if you are wondering, wastebasket is one word, not two).

Is it really true? Well, I guess that depends on who you are talking to and what advice you choose to believe.

The story—and I use the word story rather than article because I believe most of the story is make believe—makes some observations and assumptions that are without substance in fact.

“Instead of reading your resume,” says Daine Stafford of The Kansas City Star, “an employer might ask you to fill out an online form or take an online test that measures how well you fit the job, based on responses from successful workers.”

That is an observation and at least the first part of it is correct, that more and more employers are asking for an email version of a resume rather than the traditional hard copy (printed) version we have used in recent decades.

Stafford says “Google, for example, uses a screening program to measure applicants’ attitudes, behaviors, personality and biographical details. Answers are scrunched in a formula that creates a score, indicating how well the candidate is likely to fare on the job.”

Fair enough, Google probably does so if Stafford says so.

I have often wondered what a screening question like “Which would you rather be: 1) a monkey, 2) a bear, 3) a tiger, or 4) a kangaroo?” actually tells human resources about a person’s personality that they could not better find out by interviewing them.

If you get the impression that interviewers are personnel types who are lazy in the hiring process, you might be right. Anything to get them to the point where they have nothing to do but push paper around, and look important and arrogant in the process (like I have mine, screw you).

Stafford continues: “It’s all electronic,” said Michael Doyle, a 60-year-old job seeker from Prairie Village, Kan. (sic), who recently landed a job through personal contacts. In nine months, Doyle said, he’s spoken to exactly two interviewers as a result of online postings.”

My guess is that Doyle may have submitted an email version of his resume to dozens, if not hundreds, of online destinations.

I could have told Doyle that probably 60% of all hiring is contacts, knowing people in the workplace or knowing people who know people in the workplace. Yes, it helps to have qualifications, but it helps more to have qualifications and know someone who wants to help you.

Reading about Doyle’s experience might lead me to conclude that online posting is not the best method to proceed here given the results. No wonder hiring is so screwed up.

From this and another example, Stafford then draws the conclusion that the applicants “discovered that resumes have gone digital.”

She goes on to say “In some cases, resumes have disappeared from the hiring process completely. Some employers don’t even want them in digitized format. They prefer customized online forms, tailor-made to cull the applicant field.”

Again, anything to make it easier on personnel types, we certainly would not want to put them out for even a minute of their precious time.

From the input of experiences of two applicants this conclusion comes bursting forth as implied truth that a new paradigm has taken place in the America business of hiring.