Oops! It can happen to anyone. The interviewer asks a question, and without thinking, you blurt out the worst possible answer. For example, the hiring manager asks why you’d like the job, and you reply with a chuckle, “One word – debt. I’m in debt up to my eyeballs.” Then you kick yourself.
Or you blank on a question and throw out an excuse, “Sorry, I’m exhausted. With four kids, one or another is always sick, I haven’t slept in months.” On the elevator ride down, you realize you just positioned yourself as the candidate most likely to doze on the job before leaving early for doctors’ appointments.
At The Bagg Group, we have placed more than 57,000 people successfully over 40-plus years. Our recruiters have interviewed many more thousands for full-time positions, contract work and temporary placement with the best companies in the GTA.
We have heard more than our share of interview blunders, and we have coached candidates on what not to say.
Recently, CareerBuilder in the US released its annual list of “dumb things” people have said in interviews. Here are four blunders from the list with tips from the experts at The Bagg Group on how to avoid putting your foot in your mouth.
“I’m in anger management because I hit a former co-worker.”
That was one candidate’s response when asked why he wanted a job working from home. Sure, he was being honest, but he was also leaving the interviewer nervous about how he’d cope with stress moving forward.
Tip: If you have a short fuse, it’s important to know your triggers in the workplace and have fail-proof strategies to control your temper. That said, if asked, you can identify situations in the workplace which you find especially challenging. This will help you and the interviewer determine whether the company is the right fit for your temperament. In any case, focus on positive steps you take to deal with difficult events, and avoid talking about your past melt-downs.
“Oh that’s because I just took a Xanax.”
In response to an interviewer’s concern that the candidate was having a medical problem, the interviewee explained her slow speech was nothing to worry about. She said it was just a side-effect of an anti-anxiety pill she took to calm herself before presentations or meetings.
Tip: Companies need people who project confidence and positive attitude. It’s critical to make sure you have the right attitude and mindset before you start interviewing for jobs. If you have serious performance anxiety, the best thing you can do for a successful job hunt is put in the time to learn a strategy for managing the jitters—one that doesn’t have interviewers ready to call an ambulance.
“My old boss was a monster, and it really scarred me emotionally.”
Tip: It doesn’t matter if your boss was Dracula, avoid insulting others at all costs. When you put someone down, interviewers will automatically wonder if you might be the problem – they may think you’re hyper-sensitive or hyper-critical. You can talk about difficult situations and how you managed them, but you don’t want to come off as a victim. If you are viewed as scarred, bitter, or angry, you will be the “downer” candidate – who is much like a miserable party guest that people wish well, but wish they’d leave.
“My apologies for being late. My husband and I were fighting. It happens all the time.”
Tip: Check your personal problems at the door. If you bring your problems into the interview, you’ll be pegged as the “candidate with problems.” No matter how friendly an interviewer is, they aren’t your friend, or a shoulder to cry on. If you couldn’t help being late, call in advance, apologize and make sure the reason is about legitimate logistics, not lost tempers.
Just about every blunder comes down to this: TMI (Too Much Information). Don’t spill your guts. Interviewers don’t need to hear your back stories, they only need to know information about you and your skills that is pertinent to the job.
But if you have an oops moments, and you blurt out something “dumb”, don’t elaborate and give more details to try and explain yourself. In other words, don’t dig the hole deeper. Instead, immediately regain your footing by moving quickly to talk about what you can contribute to the company.
Finally, don’t beat yourself up, one oops moment doesn’t mean you are a disaster at interviews. In fact, the good news is that when you have experienced a mortifying blunder once, you stay on guard to avoid another. So cut yourself some slack, and get back in the saddle.