Did you ever go on a first date with a too chatty gal or guy who told you far too much about themselves? Was he or she too self-absorbed? Too much superfluous information provided too soon can ruin your chances of getting to know another person. In job search, just like in dating, or other attempt to establish an important relationship, you must be careful what you say and when!
An HR manager from a chip manufacturing company told me about a recent applicant for a position in their legal department. Here’s the story:
Marilyn is a confident, experienced professional paralegal with over 20 years experience, the last 15 years at one law firm in their intellectual property department. Being in the workforce for a long time, her level of responsibilities – to her employer, and to her family – have matured. She knows what she needs, what she wants, and what she can do. But after so long with a single employer, Marilyn wanted to take her skills to a more creative environment, and was looking for a position at a hi-tech start-up. She applied at the chip manufacturer and was invited to interview for an opening.
Marilyn was aware she was facing a day-long series of first-round interviews and knew she would be meeting with at least 4 different people, including representatives from the HR department, and the legal team. She felt prepared to answer any questions they might ask. She was also eager to discuss her own needs, many unrelated to the scope of the position. And that’s where Marilyn got herself in over her head. When comparing notes about Marilyn, all of the interviewers said they felt she was too focused on herself.
With a long employment history, the job seeker develops a growing and evolving list of their own needs, many that have little or nothing to do with their ability to do what the employer needs done. The interview is supposed to allow the employer to ascertain if the applicant can do the job and is a good fit for their company or department. This is very hard to do if the applicant is spending too much time telling interviewers about her needs and problems. The candidate needs to convey that she can do what is needed, and convince the employer she has the skills and experience to back up those claims. An interview, therefore, needs to remain focused on the job! If the candidate wants all the attention on her needs, information can be revealed that can kill the applicant’s chances of getting hired. And that was the case with Marilyn.
The day of her interview, during meetings and inquiries from several members of the human resources department and legal team, Marilyn turned the focus to her needs and wants, and ultimately provided too much information about herself with no focus on the job. What she said wasn’t inappropriate, just inappropriate for an interview.
I’m not suggesting that applicants ignore their own needs. But it is important to know what to say, and when. An interviewee – certainly not in the first round of interviews – must learn not to discuss things unrelated to the job. To do so takes the focus away from learning if the applicant can fill the employer’s needs.
Examples of what not to discuss:
Avoid telling your interviewers about your young kids. It makes the employer question how much you’ll need to deal with childcare, childhood illness, school issues, and other legitimate parental concerns that could be a potential distraction to your work.
Don’t reveal your preference to telecommute without being certain the position requires and benefits from your doing so. The interviewer will question: your comfort level working with others, transportation concerns, tardiness, time management issues, among other concerns that could lead to a negative determination of your application.
Don’t attempt to – intentionally or unintentionally – elicit the sympathies of your interviewer by discussing recent deaths of loved ones or diagnoses of serious medical issues, housing, mortgage, rent, or financial problems. Marital and relationship issues should also go unmentioned.
The bottom line is: Any personal issue requiring an accommodation impacting your ability to do the job or get to the job, either as work necessity, ADA requirement, or courtesy, should be discussed only after an offer of employment has been made at the earliest, but usually not until after you get hired, but definitely not in your interviews! If it’s not related to the job, or your ability to do the job, keep it to yourself. If an anecdote about a personal triumph is required to convey a skill, strength or experience, be highly selective about what you reveal. Don’t ignore your own needs, but don’t put more questions into the mind of your interviewers by saying too much too soon.
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