True Stories from People in the Position to Hire Part 3: An Occasional Series Featuring Real Anecdotes From Hiring Managers and Recruiters

by | Last updated Apr 7, 2020 | Career Management, Interview and Job Search Skills, Interview Skills, Interviews, Job Search

Employer bad-mouthing,  long-windedness, and a case of plumber’s butt  are just a few of the recent faux pas Jennifer Tiana witnessed when interviewing candidates in her role as director of software development at AltSource, Inc.

In this and other roles, Tiana has interviewed hundreds of job candidates and notes that people make simple mistakes that cost them the job.

Sharing some head-shaking experiences she’s had in the past year, she says that candidates’ preparation, self-awareness, and genuine interest in the business go a long way in making a positive first impression.

Violation #1: Threw his employer under the bus

“I brought in a candidate who came in via an employee referral. He was well-qualified, vetted, and a shoo-in unless we discovered something really off,” Tiana said. Then he started talking about his company. He said he didn’t want to talk badly about his employer, and then proceeded to do just that for five minutes. “He completely wrecked the good impression he’d made. There’s no way I’d want to work with someone who could not leave a negative experience in the past.”

The Solution

Stay positive! It’s tempting to speak the truth if you’re in a toxic work environment or haven’t been treated well by your employer. Don’t let your guard down and stay focused on communicating why you’re drawn to the company and the position.

Violation #2: Neglected a pre-interview mirror check, wardrobe test, and grooming

While she currently recruits technical staff in notoriously casual Portland, OR, Tiana says she’s surprised by the lack of effort many candidates put into their appearance, and tells about the time she interviewed a candidate for a client-facing role. “He literally looked like he’d just rolled out of bed, messy hair and unshaven, and his clothes were wrinkled. If he couldn’t bring it for the interview, I couldn’t trust his judgment in front of a client.” Another time, a candidate stooped over to pick up something he’d dropped, and exposed way too much skin. “Again, this person would be in a client-facing role, so he should have paid attention to details like that.”

The Solution

Try on your interview outfit in advance and do a full-body mirror check to ensure that it fits, is ironed, stain-free, and that it won’t malfunction at this most important meeting.

Violation #3: Focused on personal needs v. the employer

Tiana advises job seekers to be enthusiastic about the company and the job itself rather than the perks. “When someone answers that they love that you have ping pong tables and beer as to what’s most appealing about the company, I say, ‘next.’”

The Solution

Stay focused on the business and the role, such as your desire to being part of a growing company or something that excites you about the position. Note whether the culture is a fit, but don’t communicate that as your main impetus for working there.

Violation #4: Rambled on, and on, and on

Tiana says she creates a list of about a dozen interview questions, so it’s a real problem when she talks with long-winded candidates. “Despite my best efforts, I could only get through three questions in a recent conversation I had, so there’s no way I could make an informed decision to advance them in the process,” she says. This is especially difficult with phone interviews, since you can’t see or measure body language and other factors that contribute to an impression and decision.

The Solution

Keep your answers brief. A good rule of thumb is 1-2 minutes per response, depending on the complexity of the question. You can always ask the interviewer if they’d like you to expand or give more detail if you feel you’ve been too brief. Practice and record yourself or mock interview with a coach to hear what you sound like so you’re aware of your response time.

Violation #5: Didn’t have any weaknesses

“I do ask about areas for improvement, so I can get to know the whole person,” Tiana says. I just spoke with someone who completely deflected the question, and it just wasn’t honest. If you’re older than 21, you should be self-aware enough about your blind spots and give an honest answer.”

The Solution

Always be prepared to discuss 1-2 of your weaknesses. Be genuine, but choose something that isn’t central to the job, and always point out what you’re doing to address the issue.



dalena bradley job interview coach career coachI’m Dalena Bradley, job interview coach and career marketer dedicated to helping you communicate your value, stand out from the competition, and win the job!

Contact me to discuss how we can collaborate.

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