Posts Tagged ‘job interview’

While lying on a job interview is a bad idea, that doesn’t mean the Job Interview Police will come after you with handcuffs and an electric prod if you don’t reveal every little snippet of info related to your work history. Contrary to popular belief, a job interview is not an interrogation. It’s more like a first date. If you were on a first date, you wouldn’t chatter about the time you spent in the psych hospital because of your breakdown after your stalker ex-boyfriend came after you with a serving fork, would you? Hope not.

By the same token, don’t talk about the stuff the employer doesn’t need (or necessarily want) to hear in an interview, either. Here are a few tidbits to keep to yourself:

  • Your termination from your last job as the result of your calling your boss a moron on your Facebook page. Yes, people still actually do that. Don’t be one of them. And if you were terminated for something stupid you did or something stupid they did, your prospective employer doesn’t need to hear the details. Be as brief and positive as you can in your explanation as to why you left the job (not a good idea to say you were “fired,”  “terminated,” or “tossed out on my ass”), and don’t talk against your former employer, even if he was an evil toad who forced you out because your lunch was smelly.
  • Your plans to get pregnant. If you start a new job and actually get pregnant, you probably want to share that bit of news with your employer at some point before your water breaks all over her Manolos during a sales presentation. But you are not legally or morally obligated to share your personal goals with an employer you don’t even work for yet.
  • Your plans to take a 2-week trip to Alaska next month to try to catch a glimpse of Sarah Palin skinning a moose. The knowledge that you might have to take 2 weeks off right after starting a job might sit sour in the interviewer’s mouth, and you don’t want that to influence their decision whether or not to hire you. Besides, you don’t know what their timeline may turn out to be. When you have an offer and are discussing a start date is the time to bring that up.
  • Your recent divorce and subsequent career epiphany. The career epiphany part is fine if it’s relevant to why you’re applying for that particular job, or how you’ve arrived at this point in your career. But leave the personal stuff for your shrink.
  • Your difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.  Not all of us are morning people, and some workplaces are more flexible than others about work hours, but you don’t want to share your tardiness issues on a job interview. ‘Nuff said.
  • How you became born-again last week. How nice for you, but the whole God thing — not an appropriate topic for an interview, unless you’re applying for a job in a monastery.
  • Your salary in your last job. Yes, the interviewer may ask, but you don’t have to give out that information, even though you think you gotta answer ‘cuz they asked. Don’t forget the “it’s not an interrogation” thing. And by the way, your previous employer isn’t supposed to share that info either. You can answer the question by saying that your desired salary range is blah blah blah, based on your level of experience and the position. Your desired salary range is what’s relevant, not what you made before. After all, you may have been absurdly underpaid, or you might be more interested in a lower-paying position at this point in your career for various reasons. So there.

1.   It’s a good way to network, which is a much more effective job search strategy than staring at the computer screen for eight hours a day and indiscriminately spewing your resume out into the Lost Dimension of Job Seeker Infinity.

2.   Oprah’s history anyway.

3.   You’ll actually get some valuable info about what’s going on in your field of interest, and won’t have to keep listening to your whiny frenemies who keep saying, “There’s nothing out there.”

4.   You can officially slap the aforementioned frenemies upside the head for being negative.

5.   You’ve been spending too much time on the couch in your bathrobe, and you’re starting to smell.

6.   You’ll get info on what skills you need to be competitive, so you can emphasize those skills in your resume and cover letters, and/or brush up on the ones you’re shaky on.

7.   It’ll keep you in the game. ‘Cuz once you’re out, that fence is hard to climb over, and you don’t want to get your doinker caught in those wires on top.

8.   You’ll be interacting with actual humans.

9.   It’ll keep your confidence up, and give all those “talents I have to offer” thoughts long-term storage space in your head.

10.   You can actually get real live smokin’ job leads that way.

Interviewers still occasionally try to see how creative they and you can be with  “Think on Your Feet” (and sometimes on your head) interviews. What is a “Think on Your Feet” interview, you ask? Well, remember the movie “The Running Man” (yes, with your good buddy and mine, Ahhhhnold), which depicted a sadistic game show in which criminals were hunted down by professional stalkers? Well, it’s not like that.

Here are a few wacky “Think on Your Feet” interview questions:

  • If you were a hamburger, what topping would be on your bun?
    Not sure it really matters how you answer this one, as long as you don’t say, “You.”
  • If I were to look in your kitchen cabinets, what would I see?
    If you don’t care about burning your bridges, you can say, “One hundred cans of corned beef hash in case of the apocalypse, and a package of moldy Cheez-its.”
  • If Hollywood made a film about you, what actor – alive or dead – would play you?
    Probably not, “Bela Lugosi, since my former colleagues found me kinda creepy.”
  • If you were a salad, what flavor would your croutons be?
    Bad answer: “Onion and garlic, ‘cuz that’s how I always smell.”
  • If I were to ask your seventh-grade teacher about you, what would he say?
    Really bad answer: “Who? Oh, the pot-head.”

Yes, you’re marketing yourself in your job search. You’re the product you’re selling. But that doesn’t mean you should be a snake-oil salesperson who resorts to sneaky tactics. Cuz guess what – it’ll probably blow up in your face. And you won’t be too marketable if you’re headless.

Here are a few dirty tricks not to do in your job search:

  • Lie about your background. Just as it’s sleazy to misrepresent a product, if you’re not honest about your experience and education, it’ll probably come back to bite you in the ass. Remember the Dean at MIT who was fired for saying she had a doctorate when she didn’t? I think she’s currently working as a cashier in the food court.
  • Harass employers. Once, twice, three times are okay for an initial contact or to follow up. More than that, not so much. Irritating the hell out of people isn’t an effective job search strategy. And if you crouch in the bushes and wait to pounce on an employer in the parking lot, you will officially be known evermore as Psycho Stalker Job Seeker Guy. There are laws.
  • Fudge contacts. You don’t want to contact a possible lead and say, “Joe Schmeckle suggested I contact you” if, in fact, you just got Joe Schmeckle’s name off of LinkedIn and he’s never heard of you. Bad form.
  • Conduct an in-your-face job search. Don’t you just love those ads with huge glow-in-the-dark headlines that shriek at you with multiple exclamation points? Bet you don’t.  Neither do employers. Unless they’re over-the-top-squirt-water-out- of-a-big-fake-red-nose themselves, in which case maybe it’s an ideal match. Usually, though, even though it’s important to be enthusiastic, don’t overdo it. Not in your cover letter or resume, or in person. Employers will want to smack you.
  • Try to bully an employer into interviewing or hiring you. I’m sure you wouldn’t do that, but I’ve heard stories….Just as it’s not kosher for a salesperson to ever try to intimidate a customer into buying their product, you don’t ever want to imply in any way that if you don’t get an interview, your Uncle Vito will come pay them a visit with your resume and a baseball bat. Of course, if Uncle Vito works for the company and can put in a good word for you with the hiring manager sans baseball bat, that’s another story.

No, I’m not referring to the ones who act like arrogant spoiled brats, barf on the Ritz ballroom floor when they were supposed to be on set an hour ago, and make their assistants clean it up. I’m talking about the classy ones who know what they have to offer, while respecting their colleagues’ roles in their work performance.

1.   Ooze confidence. We all have our insecurities, but do you think Angelina Jolie ever stammers to a director, “I don’t really deserve this role, but I’ll guess I’ll give it a try if you really want me to”? Doubt it. You know what your strengths are, and you know how you can be an asset to a company. So own your power – even if you don’t have lips the size of Buicks.

2.   Focus on the mutual interaction, not just yourself. You’re not a prisoner being interrogated by a fascist threatening torture. Nor are you a one-woman show. A job interview is a mutual-benefit encounter. If Jake Gyllenhaal just recited his lines without paying any attention to his co-star, he’d probably be selling ties at WalMart by now, no matter how hot he is.

3.     Dress the part. Think Ashton Kutcher shows up for a screen test with unwashed hair and morning breath? I’m thinking no. Unless, of course, he’s reading for a part as a homeless person. Dress for the interview; make sure all body odors are unobjectionable.

4.   Respect your potential costars. Don’t keep them waiting, explore how you can work together to produce a great whatever, and play nice.

5.   Be a class act. You don’t need to be super-formal unless you’re that kind of person, but be professional. If you have to wait for the interviewer, don’t whine. And no tantrums allowed.


Here’s a sample post-interview thank you letter….

Dear Mr. Frankendater,

I’d like to thank you for meeting with me last Friday about the Horrifying Date position. I enjoyed learning about the services Bad Dates offers the non-discriminating woman, and I find your company’s philosophy fascinating.

I am very enthusiastic about this position, and I am confident that it’s a good match with the skills I have to offer. As we discussed, I have often been known to demonstrate behavior so objectionable that the response has consistently been spontaneous escape, often by jumping out of a moving car. And my unique move involving phlegm and a mouthful of mashed potatoes has elicited exactly the type of response Bad Dates strives to achieve.

Thank you again for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Charlie Wanker Doobenfield


1.   If you have big yellow sweat stains on your shirt, your first will be your last.

2.   You don’t want to just blurt out anything that comes into your head.

3.   An hour late — not good.

4.   Sizing each other up is what it’s about.

5.   Uncontrolled body noises are frowned on.

6.   Preparation helps.

7.   You don’t want to just blather on about yourself without giving a flying toenail about the other person.

8.   Grabbing a boob in greeting will probably get you thrown out.

9.   If you whine about your ex, you’ll blow it.

10.  If you call them by the wrong name, forget it.


If you’re not familiar with haiku, it’s a form of poetry that consists of 3 lines, with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third. Here’re some about job interviews:

The manager asks
Did you used to be a blonde?
Illegal question

The phone interview –
I called the CEO Jane
“Uh, it’s Jim.” Oh crap.

Tough group interview
They fire questions at me
Don’t quit now, pit stick

Meeting with the boss
Focus on accomplishments
Ignore his foul breath

Maintain eye contact
Talk mutual benefits
Oops – looked at his crotch

Congratulations – you have a job offer! All those months (years?) of job hunting; sending targeted resumes and cover letters to hiring managers showing them how you can impale their nasty little dragons on the head of a spear; enduring the smirks of passersby on the street after a networking event because you forgot to take off your name tag. You’ve been offered the job you wanted and a salary that will allow you to pay your Verizon bill from 3 months ago and stop rationing the toilet paper.

Now what? Do you just take the salary that’s offered, ‘cuz you’re just so happy to have the job? Do you stammer, “Do you think maybe you could go just a wee bit higher?” I think you know the answer to that. Keep in mind that every job/salary affects your financial situation for years to come, probably for the rest of your life (how’s that for pressure?).

Here are some don’ts when it comes to negotiating salary.

  • Don’t be too humble. I am, of course, assuming that you wouldn’t literally bend down to the floor and chant, “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy!” But sometimes people are so grateful to have a job offer, especially after a long and difficult search, that they aren’t assertive enough about what they’re worth. You wouldn’t be getting hired if the employer didn’t think you have a lot to offer, so you want to approach the negotiation process with an “I’m awesome, you’re awesome” mindset. Remember the whole “mutual benefit” thing.
  • Don’t take the first offer without negotiating at all. Your new employer expects you to negotiate. If you don’t, it makes you look  a. desperate,  b. insecure,  c. gutless,  and  d. kinda goofy. Not a good way to start off in a new job. Even if the company has a tight budget, if they’re doing well enough to hire a new employee, they have some leeway in the salary range. Even if it’s a nonprofit, don’t assume they can’t be flexible. The range may be smaller for a 5-person nonprofit than for a Fortune 500 company, but there still is one (range, that is). I did once get hired years ago for a position with the City of Boston that boasted a non-negotiable salary of $14.63 an hour (how the hell did they come up with THAT figure??), but that’s pretty rare. So negotiate if you want your new employer’s respect!
  • Don’t be out in left field with your counteroffer. Do your research so you know what your market value is, based on the position, your level of experience, and the city you’re in. The typical salary range for a software developer is a bit different in New York City than Butte, Montana. Look on sites like salary.com, glassdoor.com and payscale.com for info.
  • Don’t give too specific a salary when asked for your requirement. “I figured out I need $53,400 to be able to pay my bills” is not a good answer. Give a wide range; $50 – 60K is the range I’m focusing on” is much better.
  • Don’t give your current or recent salary in your cover letter or in an interview (don’t give a fake one, either). It’s really not the employer’s business what you made before; it’s their business what they should pay you based on your experience. If asked this question, give your target range instead (be upfront about it; don’t pretend your target range is your recent salary).
  • If you have absolutely no clue what salary range they’re offering by the second interview, ask (something like, “Could you give me an idea what the salary range is, so we know we’re in the same ballpark?”). If it’s outlandishly below your range, say so (not in those exact words). No point in wasting your or their time if they’re paying $30,000 below what you need to buy cat food. That goes double if the interview is in another state.
  • If you find out when you get an offer that the salary is just a tad lower than your range, express enthusiasm about the job and see if you can negotiate up. If not, try to negotiate other benefits – early salary review, bonus, extra vacation time, tuition reimbursement, discount card for Whole Foods, time-share in the Cayman Islands, date with the sexy admin assistant guy, etc. Just kidding about the last three. But you knew that.
  • Don’t assume the offer is carved in stone if it’s just verbal. Once you have a salary that’s mutually agreeable, get it in writing.

Spider-Man has a job interview. He knows the interviewer won’t just ask him about his work history, but will also probably do a behavioral interview, i.e. ask him to give examples of times when he saved the world from multi-limbed freaks or greedy uber-ambitious guys who climbed out of  the TV sitcom hellpit. Here are some of the behavioral interview stories he’s prepared:

  • a time when he solved a problem –  “I had to figure out how to save a trainload of people without splitting myself in half, so I focused on the problem and used my finger to create a rope….”
  • a story about handling conflict – “When my best friend wanted to kill me ’cause I killed his father and stole his girlfriend, I successfully negotiated a win-win before I knocked him unconscious.”
  • a time when he defused a potentially volatile situation – “I de-limbed Alfred Molina as he was about to destroy a lot of buildings….”
  • his strategies for handling stress – “To keep my general stress level low, I do some deep breathing, climb walls, and bungee-jump without the bungee.”
  • an example demonstrating how well he worked on a team – “I divided up world-saving responsibilities with my alter-ego based on our different strengths.”
  • a time when he initiated a project or strategy – “I started the Spidey’s-Not-the-Bad-Guy Fan Club.”
  • an example of when he juggled multiple priorities – “Well, I had to save three people who were about to fall to their death, so I perched two of them on the roof….”