September 26th, 2009

I’m 100% certain you read my previous blog on “Interviewing Don’ts” (and if you didn’t, then scurry back in blog-time and read it.

We’re still interviewing at work. And I believe I can now say I have heard it all.

Remember in the last post I was ROFLMAO about the girl who was going to text her mommy to make her feel better about herself? (Yes, she did invoke her mom during an interview and thankfully I missed that line during the actual interview because there is no way I could have kept a straight face. Seriously. Go read my blog. It was funny.)

Enter candidate #2: This woman was no where near as young as Text-Mom girl. Oh no. This one was absolutely old enough to know better. Here goes:

First of all, if I could make a comment about appearance in interviews. All I really ask for is that people are neat, they don’t smell – good or bad, and that their clothes are clean.

I get that most women are not running around in Jimmy Choo shoes or Hermes scarves, particularly for the entry level positions we’re hiring. Generally I’m not too picky about clothing provided it fits, i.e. not so sloppy they look like they walked in wearing their Saturday morning sweats nor so tight that I’m wondering if the circulation is being cut off in their arms, across their chest etc.

And while I’m on the topic can we discuss button up blouses that are straining so tight I’m concerned that if one of those buttons flies off I’m going to have an eye put out? Because really: I don’t need a peek at your chest: it only makes me sad about my lack thereof.

Having said that, I’d also caution someone against wearing too much jewelry. Before you go ballistic on me and we start debating what is “too much” allow me to say, I wore my thumb ring to my interview (mostly because I forgot to take it off). Hey: I can take a little walk on the wild side too!

But back to my latest interview: this candidate had rings on every finger. In fact, she had two rings on one of her pinkies. She had enough bangle bracelets to open up a Zale’s jewelry store and she had on a gold necklace that spelled her name out in wire….just in case I couldn’t read her resume.

Ah yes: her resume.

On her resume there was a sizeable gap in time. Like any good interviewer I questioned her about it.

“I worked some temp jobs,” she said.

“Such as?” I prompted.

“I worked two months at a gas station.”

“Good,” I said. “And the other 8 months?” I queried.

“Well – I worked for XYZ Company from home. Well, I mean….my mom took the typing assessment for me on-line because I don’t type very fast but I did all of the actual work.”

I’m sorry. Did she just say that she committed Employment Fraud? And that her Mom committed the fraud for her??

We always (with reason) have two people in an interview room with a candidate. With this little admission of typing fraud my head jerked up and I saw a similar expression of shock on my co-interviewer’s face.

Needless to say, we weren’t in that interview too much longer.

Ironically, we too have candidates take an assessment which includes a typing test. As my fellow interviewer handed her the slip of paper listing the URL to go to in order to take the test it took all of my strength of will to not say, “Here, hon. Tell your mom to knock herself out.”

After the candidate was gone the two of us laughed to the point of tears. “On the plus side,” my co-worker pointed out, “You can assume she’d be honest.”

We chuckled as we imagined what our own respective mothers might say to us if we asked them to take an assessment for us. Most responses involved getting cuffed upside the head by our mom and being told, “Get your own #$%!* job!”

What was the deal with these women bringing up their mothers in interviews? They undercut their own authority even more so than women who are offered jobs who say, “I’ll have to discuss it with my husband.” Really? Do you need a note from your mommy (or husband) too?

Fast forward to my interview, the one where I was the interviewee for a change.

I went through six different people beginning with a recruiter on a phone screen. Then a phone interview with someone from the company and then four in person interviews: three of which required me to fly to California for a day. The fourth one occurred here in my city.

I entered this process thinking, “how hard can it be?” I’ve been interviewing people for years. Surely I know how to answer interview questions. Perhaps more importantly I know how to NOT answer some questions. I also do a fair bit of public speaking and generally can think and speak well on my feet. Therefore I decided I had this thing nailed. It was in the bag.

Ah the power of my own arrogance.

The first two phone screens went quite well. Flush with my success I boarded a plane and was only a tad bit nervous as I flew across the country to have my first face to face meeting.

At 9am, I met with the recruiter I had been speaking with on the phone. Imagine my shock and embarrassment when I had trouble answering basic questions about why this job interested me. My answers were wooden. I repeated myself. Frankly: I sucked.

After we finished meeting I had a few minutes to run to the loo and grab a diet Coke.

In the washroom I stared at the woman in the mirror and wondered what happened? How had I gone so tongue-tied? What about all of my career accomplishments and accolades? I dabbed at sweat on my brow and quickly scanned my own resume to remind myself of all I’d done. I even reread the letters of recommendation I’d brought along in case they wanted them. (They didn’t but I ended up feeling better!)

“Get it together, girl!” I growled at my reflection.

Luckily I did manage to get it together when I met with the Managing Director and Senior Vice President. Since subsequently I was offered a job I’d go so far as to say I acquitted myself rather well.

I’m sure that when the Director and SVP sat down with the recruiter and exchanged notes about the interviews the recruiter probably wondered if they’d all interviewed the same woman.

Then it was down to the last interview, back in my city. It was at this point that I once again became too cocky. I figured I must have passed the tests in California or I wouldn’t be sitting across the desk at the executive office now.

It was as I discussed how my tenure in my current position (retail dealing in cosmetics, jewelry and women’s apparel) would translate nicely into a different business sector (men’s products: tools, etc.) that I committed the cardinal sin: I said, “When I was discussing this position with my mother – ”

I broke off in horror. Had a truly just brought my mother to my interview?

I sure did. I was aghast.

Hastily I finished the sentence. Inwardly I was cringing but I just smiled and carried on with the interview. What else could I do?

I feel a bit of a hypocrite to offering advice words of advice at this point, but here goes:

1. Practice, practice, practice. Have a friend “interview” you.
2. Use your favorite search site and research interview questions. Double points for “difficult interview questions.”
3. Make sure your clothes are appropriate for the interview. Dress appropriately for the level of the position and the industry it is in. Clean, neat and well-fitted is imperative.
4. Beware of what you mock….for one day you too could become someone worthy of mocking.

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