We’ve all experienced it. That sinking feeling that occurs when the job interview that was going so well suddenly goes off track. Maybe it’s the expression on the hiring manager’s face, or the awkward pause that ensues, but there is little doubt when it happens.
Common interview mistakes, of course, include bad mouthing your former employer, failing to adequately research the company or the position and just plain talking too much. Careerbuilder.com, a job posting site, publishes an annual list of interview blunders, including asking the hiring manager for a ride home or flushing the toilet during a phone interview.
“We’ve been socialized to assume that we have to stand out in some way, and we’re encouraged to be bold,” says Roy Cohen, author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide” and a New York City-based career coach. “But that is not necessarily what people are looking for in candidates to bring on board. They want people who fit in.”
Oversharing has now become an occupational hazard of the job hunt. Here are 5 examples of when too much information was, well, really too much information:
“I’m in anger management because I hit a former co-worker.”
“I’ve had candidates share with me their anger management problems, views on gender, age, and other things that can be damaging in an interview,” says Shilonda Downing, owner of Virtual Work Team, which helps business owners find remote workers. “One candidate recently mentioned that he was going through anger management for hitting a co-worker in corporate America, and that is why he would like to work from home going forward.”
Major character flaws, particularly when they are of the physical-harm variety, shouldn’t be brought up in an interview. Bringing up disagreements with colleagues or managers as a reason for leaving a former employer doesn’t bode well that you’ll be reliable and reasonable in a new position–even if it is a remote one. “Mentioning this is typically deemed as someone who is unable to handle situations professionally and without violence,” Downing says. Unless you’re required to disclose that you’re undergoing some kind of psychological treatment, find an honest way to work around it.
“Oh, that’s because I just took a Xanax.”
“I interviewed someone who swore she’d be great at the job, but she was talking incredibly slowly,” says Chenofsky Singer, the career management coach. “A single word would take forever. I wanted to pull them out of her mouth.” Concerned that the applicant might be suffering from a legitimate medical issue like low blood sugar, Chenofsky Singer asked if this was the candidate’s typical rate of speaking. “‘Oh, yes,’ she replied, ‘I take a Xanax before a meeting or a presentation because I get so nervous. I don’t think I’m doing poorly, do you?’”
Having some nerves before an interview is normal, but before medicating, be sure of the effects on your personality and disposition. “More than trying to pick on her individual interviewing style at the time, I was concerned that there was something I should know,” Chenofsky Singer says, which served as a distraction from a discussion of her qualifications.
“Just a little itch.”
“I was recruiting for a sales director position for my employer,” says Dany Bourjolly Smith, who’s a recruiter with a professional services firm selling to C-level executives. “I was thrilled to have this candidate in for a live interview based on his resume. During the interview, he was saying all of the right things. Suddenly, he takes his right hand and sticks it inside his sock and shoe and begins scratching under his heel furiously.”
Bourjolly Smith described the itching as “aggressive,” and the candidate continued it while he was talking and answering questions unfazed. “At the end of the interview, I did my best to be subtle and not shake his hand. This amounted to an awkward bump of elbows. He definitely noticed that I didn’t shake his hand.”