What Not To Do At An Interview

Posted June 11th, 2007 by Deepa and filed in Raves and Rants
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A simple online search reveals a lot of useful advice on behavior during job interviews:  “How to behave in an interview”, “Top 10 tricks to ace an interview” etc. Most of these belong to the category called “Common Sense”. But, with the vast information at their fingertips, you expect people to know what not to do during an interview. But I have realized that some tips are worth reiterating. So you want some advice? Here it is. Direct From Me to You. (Sorry, just saw Chicago again!). Do not mention your personal troubles to the interviewer. They are not interested. I might sound as your favorite agony aunt but I still will not recommend you for the job!

Recently I had two experiences that prompted me to specify this. The first one was a about a year or so ago, when I was conducting a telephone interview to select a new employee for a particular position within the company. It was actually my first set of interviews. I was given a bunch of resumes, my task was to call these hopeful candidates and weed them down to two possible candidates, who would be invited for a personal interview. I called the first candidate and asked him a few general questions about his past experience, work profiles, qualifications etc. He seemed an excellent choice until a random question regarding ability to travel somehow opened floodgates…His matter of fact manner underwent a change and he assured me his willingness to travel. That would have been the end of the matter but he proceeded to expand on his reasons for that answer: and his current state of health. He was recently diagnosed with from prostate cancer, ( I make the appropriate sympathetic noise) , he has since successfully recovered (congratulatory murmur from me) but then he was suffering from depression, he has probably recovered from that (or so he said) but he is still on anti-depressant medications. Friends have advised him that all these pills may not be a good idea…he himself would prefer not to be drugging himself…don’t you agree that he should avoid medicating himself. ( weird noises from me this time). Natural way to come out of depression is always better; he is of course all right now, if only he could wean himself off these medicines.  (Stunned silence from me)

Another potential candidate went one step further. I am not sure at what point he forgot that he was interviewing for a job as opposed to being interviewed by Oprah. Before I could pause, he went on with his marital difficulties: recent divorce, wife who took away his beach house as part of the alimony,.it was a bitter divorce he clarified. He was left with the bigger house but it was far away from the beach and he really loved the beach house and his wife —sorry ex wife— was not a nice lady at all. This beach house was in addition to the alimony he was paying monthly… I am not sure if he thought that the sob-story would help him get the job. It didn’t

Recently I met a fellow Indian at a conference.  After initial hellos and exchange of home-town information, she told me she is trying to look for a job. I asked her to send a resume to me and I would  direct it to the right person within the company. She seemed quite excited about the prospect; I asked her a few basic questions regarding her educational background. She responded in true Indian way.
Do you have any kids?”.  I replied in the negative….
She consoled me “That is ok, you are still young”.
I shrugged my shoulders not keen to venture into a child discussion. But she wasn’t giving up.
I have no husband, no kids….I just drifting from one place to the other”.
I give a weak smile…my eyes are scanning if I can spot a colleague and make a getaway but no luck
Do you know how old I am”, she continues
I am old enough not to fall for that trick, so I shut up—Shut up and smile….
I am 35” She looks around 35.
Then she makes her big dramatic declaration. “I am divorced”.
Now I am back to making sympathetic murmurs.
By now she is launching into her life story to a complete stranger she has met hardly two minutes ago –one who might give her a job.
He was an Indian, but born in US, his parents liked me, I liked his family, my parents wanted me to say yes—so I did. Hamaare yahan to aisa hi hota hain na..”
I controlled myself from delivering a lecture on the need to take accountability for one’s actions…..
Unka mere saath to bana hi nahi…I even changed jobs and moved to where he is, I asked him what we can do but….
By this time I want to run away….I make a feeble attempt to change the topic, so what was your new job like? She probably didn’t even hear the question.
I tried to get to his place quickly because “meri pehli karva chauth thi” but he filed for divorce a day before….

I have seen enough Hindi films to know the response to that….I widen my eyes and look as shocked as I could. I even manage to wring my hands to show sympathy. I fall back to safe clichés  “Life is not fair” is a favorite one in all kinds of situations…By this time, I spot my boss…never was so glad to see him. I exited that place quickly.  Boss wants to know who the lady was. A potential candidate for our vacant post, I reply. Was she any good, my boss wants to know. I give him a brief gist of the conversation.  Now, he looks shocked too. I am guessing my boss is not going to hire her….what do you think?