“So tell me a little about yourself.” You’ve rehearsed the answer in the mirror or with your roommate several times. You know to highlight the year you worked across Southeast Asia and the ambitious career goals you’ve set out for yourself. But instead what comes out is a jumbled word vomit — a mixture of where you grew up and that time you studied abroad in Amsterdam, which prompts the knowing smirk of the interviewer, who is all too aware of how little studying actually goes on in the Poppy City.
It’s fine, though. Really. If this is the worst faux pas of the interview, the hiring manager will walk out of the room elated. We all know interviews are awful. It’s a rare thing for someone to leave an interview with the same confidence he or she walked in with. Those who tell you otherwise are kidding themselves. There is always a way for it to have gone better — more research on the details of the position, for example, specifically noting professional growth and how you plan to achieve your goals and those of the company.
While we can all improve our interview skills in very basic ways, these are truly insignificant missteps compared to what hiring managers see on a regular basis. Candidates arrive late or not at all, they bring their kids, or the stench of their nerve-calming cigarette is still lingering on their clothes. On early-morning interviews, jittery candidates arrive sweating, as their bodies rid themselves of the previous night’s booze.
In the hundreds of interviews I’ve conducted over the past five years, I’ve seen nearly every possible scenario play out before my eyes. From waitresses and cooks to "directors of [insert high-paying job here]," each group had its outliers committing interview crimes without realizing. At first, the truly absurd things would shock me. I’d tuck the story away and recount it with my management team as we went over our recruiting process. But as the strange and unprofessional behaviors continued, it began to feel irresponsible not to point out these issues to the candidate. After all, it’s a manager’s duty to develop someone professionally, so why did that need to wait until after he or she landed the job? So I began my mission to civilize with the hope that future managers would silently thank whoever corrected the odd behaviors I regularly witnessed.
What follows are tales from a reformed recruiter who truly, desperately wants you to nail your next interview.