IT Employment

Interview behaviors becoming more common does not make them right

PDAs and texting are as common as breathing these days, but they're still not acceptable behaviors during an interview.

We're living in a time when you almost never see a person who doesn't have a cell phone or Bluetooth device plastered to the side of their head. And texting has become such a common practice that I see millions of people 40 years from now applying for disability benefits for their thumbs. But in the case of job interviews, this common behavior is not acceptable.

I shouldn't have to say this. I shouldn't have to tell people not to text or take calls during interviews. You would think even the youngest of job candidates would know not to text a thank you note to an interviewer. But, unfortunately, this behavior does happen.

Some people are on their best behavior during the interview but are busy calling and texting their brains out in the receptionist area before an interview. Good instinct, but be aware that executive assistants are often taking note of a job candidate's behavior and may interpret your constant use of the PDA as a sign that you're unfocused or easily distracted, instead of industrious.

Unless you work for the secret service or you're waiting for a kidney, I think it's safe to be out of range for a little while.

I'd like to hear from some hiring managers about some of the more egregious behavior they've seen while interviewing job candidates.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

42 comments
DBPalachik
DBPalachik

Like going to the movies and hearing cell phones ring - are you more important than the rest of the people in the room? Leave it in the car, not even in your pocket.

jfuller05
jfuller05

offered me cookies and coffee. We talked. I was comfortable because she was comfortable. This was for an iterview I had in the past at a bank. I bombed the interview! There were seven people launching questions at me left and right; it was my first IT interview a month after I graduated college. I guess they were seeing if I was ready, obviously I wasn't! The most relaxing interview I had was for the job I have now. She asked me real questions, I gave real answers, and they gave me the job.

deb88
deb88

My new cardiologist received and replied to two text messages during a recent appointment. When I commented, she said "Hey, it's a new generation!"

Slayer_
Slayer_

Confusing business. The job I got, my interview for programming, mostly consisted of snowmobile and motocross conversation. When the next guy was hired, our board room doubled as our kitchen. And a fellow coworker wanted to heat his coffee. so my supervisor said it was safe to stick his metal mug in the microwave to heat up the coffee. During this guys interview, we lit a mug on fire in the kitchen, smoked the place out. Had to cancel the fire depot auto response. Ah good times.

jonrosen
jonrosen

In this case, people are getting dumber every day. If it's something that is SO important that you need to be actually talking to someone (such as, oh, say, wife on the way to hospital to give birth), then re-set the interview appointment and explain what's going on. I've never heard of an interviewing company that's going to say 'oh, never mind, we only want you if you'll ignore your family'... And if they DO say that, then f' them. Interviews have been re-set for much less, and people still gotten the job. TURN THE PHONE OFF you morons!

MikeG3b
MikeG3b

I agree that people are getting "dumber" (at least, regarding courtesy and appearances) every day. But, I see this as a good thing. If I take the time to pay attention, look and act professional, etc., I'm sure I'll come across better than some yahoo that spends the entire time updating his facebook or twitter account.

mbrello
mbrello

my reply mirrors many of those already posted here. However, I am just INCREDULOUS at the fact that this even needs to be a subject on this forum. Common sense should be enough for someone to know that they need to be disconnected for the duration of a job interview - this means from the time you enter the premises until you leave. And I agree that the interviewer should turn off the cell phone, close the laptop lid or let the screensaver do its job while meeting with an interviewee. /emote boggled

manan123
manan123

As per me, the same applies to the interviewer too. put aside the blackberrys, close the laptop lid.

MikeG3b
MikeG3b

During the interview, the guy's phone rang, and he answered it -- without apologizing to me -- and carried on a conversation (in a Middle-Eastern language, to boot) for at least 20 minutes while I sat there like a piece of office furniture. I was offered, and accepted the job (I was out of work at the time and badly needed a job) and -- guess what! The company treated all of its employees like office furniture, all the time! The manager's rudeness was a very good indicator of the company's culture and disresepect for its employees. Within a year the company had laid off all of its "American" employees, retaining only those employees from the home country. There was enough evidence for a discrimination lawsuit, but the company failed a few months after the layoff. Go figure.

webgov
webgov

I actually sat on an interview where the senior executive involved in the interview was texting/reading email throughout the entire interview. Another team member tasked with asking questions actually looked over at them and shook his head. Everyone in the room was astonished. I was surprised the person being interviewed did not seek legal action.

cbeez
cbeez

The interview is your first business meeting with a company and your most important. If you want the job, you need to demonstrate that you can give the company your undivided attention for the entire 60-90 minutes that you are on their premises. If 60-90 minutes of your undivided attention for an interview is too much for you, then you are throwing away an opportunity. There are alot of other candidates out there who will focus and land the job instead of you.

Sunny Puddle
Sunny Puddle

I agree - realize that this is probably the biggest and maybe the only opportunity you will get to observe the company you are applying at. Put away the phone and while you are waiting (arrive early) and watch people come and go. Is the receptionist gabbing on the phone, surfing the net, listen and you may learn how customers or co-workers are treated.

espierce09
espierce09

There was a gentleman that came in for an interview and in the middle of the interview he leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

constant use of the PDA as a sign that you?re unfocused or easily distracted, instead of industrious? How so as you are waiting....

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Prejudice against the PDA as a superficial device maybe? Maybe one of those huge 80's portable computers would get some respect... Or at least distract the gaze of doom.:p

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

How to kill time waiting for an interview in a non-dubious way? Is it better to write on a netbook? Or in a real paper notebook? Or do nothing, read Times magazine? Any of the above? What's acceptable? Is it just texting that's a red flag?

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

Perhaps my wording mislead you. I did not mean to imply that the assistant was going to judge you but that he or she may be asked by the hiring manager as to what you did while you waited. I'd much rather hear that a candidate was making notes or working on a netbook. To some, casual texting while waiting for an interview might indicate that the person is not giving the interview much gravity. Or it may not. But why take the chance?

Englebert
Englebert

What you do while waiting is to seek out the company journal, booklet, pamphlet, wall hangings...anything that shows you're interested in the company. When the interviewer walks in to meet you and sees you engrossed in their company material, that will make a huge impression on him/her immediately. Then you use that info garnered to make small talk and break the ice before starting the interview, viz ' I was just going through your Annual Report and quite impressed that you merged with ABC....' This will get you a wide smile and an edge over the next candidate

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

I personally cannot pull off that kind of "I'll rephrase what you just said as a question" kind of manipulation, and I hope competent bosses won't mind if I leave it out. Then again, competent bosses appear to be a rarity, at least that's the vibe going around.

santeewelding
santeewelding

You can be sure you are interviewing beneath your station. Or, the smile means you've just been seen right through.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

So reading a magazine is ... neutral? I wonder about people taking notes while waiting for an interview: What are they noting? Ostensibly, the notable stuff is yet to come, and any other homework, should have been ... done at home? So, does that leave only wanting to give the impression of industriousness? Posturing? I usually take that kind of zero-time to compose my mind, but that doesn't and can't involve any kind of interruptable routine, that cannot but take the mind off the subject at hand. Just musing.

santeewelding
santeewelding

If you are made to wait under the gaze and scrutiny of an executive assistant, flee.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

make me wait like that and I will (and have) walked out the door. Remember, the company you are interviewing for have as much to live upto as you do. They are being interviewed as well, by you.

al
al

The first time I waited for an interview it was 25 minutes past the interview time. I asked the receptionist if there was a problem and was told that the interviewer was out to lunch. 3PM? I was gone. Like you, the second time I was asked to wait the interviewer was kind enough to come out and state that there was a problem delaying the proceedings. He asked if I would mind coming into a "break area" and was asked to make myself comfortable. I was told that if I needed to contact anyone to feel free to use the phone on the table. The admin assistant checked on me several times, including giving me updates and company information to look over. 30 minutes later I had what I can only describe as one of the best free form interviews I have ever had. They made me feel at ease, and the interviewer and the CEO (who also sat in on the interview) were gracious and turned their full attention to me, and what I had to say. I stayed with that company 9 years. It is a lesson I've learned and have used when I was on the other side of the interview table. Some call it "common courtesy" but I've found that these days there is nothing "common" about it.

GSG
GSG

I have had to wait twice. Once, with no explanation, and I walked out, telling the receptionist that obviously the interviewer has more important things to do. The 2nd time I stayed because the person doing the interview came out and apologized and told me that there was an emergency, and offered to let me wait or reschedule. I waited and was glad because that person has been a good manager. I've worked for that person either directly or indirectly for 20 years.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Having become non-hinged means that I am able to mirror the vibes put out by that kind of icon of terror and subjugation. I can keep my cool, but I can still get bored or fidgety if I have nothing to do. So I wonder what kind of behaviour reads "effective and businessminded" to the excutive assistant... there should be some expectations that can be exploited one way or another.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

They'll just use the hidden cameras to check what I'm writing... talk about embarrassing :(

BubbaGlock
BubbaGlock

Pretend to be taking notes...press the pen up against your chin and look skyward to appear to be in serious thought..... and say hmmm, and then write some more fake notes.. She/He/It will be so impressed at your obvious intellectual behavior that they will mention it to the CEO upon your leaving the premises.

SKDTech
SKDTech

It is common courtesy to give anyone with whom you are conversing your undivided attention. If there is not some pressing reason for you to stay "connected" such as a family member in the hospital, then you should turn off your phone. Every modern cell phone plan comes with a voicemail box, turn off the ringer and check your voicemail when you are done with the interview, preferably after you have exited the building. Anything less shows disrespect for the person who has taken time out of their day in order to consider you for a job.

AndromedaLS
AndromedaLS

I was in an interview once, and one of the interviewers was paying more attention to her BlackBerry than to the interview. How can a candidate feel like they are getting a fair chance if the people interviewing them are busy sending emails? If something too important to be out of contact is going on, reschedule the interview instead of making the candidate answer the same question twice because you were too busy putting out fires over email to listen to them the first time.

dkidd23
dkidd23

Two weeks ago, I walked out of an interview after the interviewer answered their third cell phone call. I told their assistant on the way out that if the interviewer didn't have time to give me their undivided attention that my time was better spent elsewhere. I have been called twice now asking me to come back and speak with them about the position and the last time was by the CIO of the company and I have agreed to meet them later this week.

Shellbot
Shellbot

I think Toni was meaning while you awaiting to be called...not waiting for them to be late. I would think common practice is to arrive 10 mins early for an interview.. but maybe I'm just a freak. So, in those 10 mins..best not to mess with your phone... a lot of places have newspapers. Flick through it.. I find most places I interview at have tech mags..pick one, and look through it. If there's nothing, go through your interview notes.. Or again, am I a freak for having copies of my CV and questions for the interview, and a few notes about the company? Unless someone is on deaths door, my phone is turned off before i enter the building for an interview. If i was interviewing someone and thier phone rang...they've just lost themselves a job unless they advised me they had to keep it on because someone was terminally ill or whatever.. I depsise the lack of respect people have with thier phone usage.. out at dinner..in cinemas.. heck, even having a conversation with most people these days in interupted with them taking a call. Do people feel so worthles that they only feel important if someone is calling them?? I let my phone go to voicemail during work hours. I check my messages at lunch or on break.

keith.mendoza
keith.mendoza

To add to that. If you have a pressing reason that you need to be "connected", have the courtesy to let the other person know that you may get a call that you absolutely need to pick up. I personally think it's better for the interviewer to suggest that you reschedule the interview when your pressing situation has passed, than get interrupted by that important phone call. On that same line, does anyone think it would be better to simply reschedule the interview when you have learned of the pressing matter than go to the interview having a personal matter looming over your head?

BubbaGlock
BubbaGlock

What is so pressing that cannot wait an hour or so? If someone is in the hospital surrounded by a medical staff, there's not anything that I can add by answering my phone from someone telling me that Grandma has taken a turn for the worse or even died. I could lose a job AND still grandma if I answer. Or as you said, if it is that important, maybe another time is best.

mmzebra98
mmzebra98

We are making cell phone addicts out of some people. Personal cell phones should not be taken into the work place and carried around in meetings. Work related phones should be turned off during meetings. Now you would just think this was "common sense". Now days you have to pass a law to stop people from doing simple things.........Too Bad

SKDTech
SKDTech

Depends on how potentially pressing the other concern may be.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

And that doesn't apply to only interviewers. If I'm in a meeting with you discussing current finances, turn your freaking phone off. There's not much worse than what should be a 15-20 meeting going for an hour because you're glued to the freaking phone. X-(