Leadership

Red flags you may unintentionally be giving off in interviews

Not getting calls back from your interviews? There may be something more subtle in your behavior that could be causing prospective managers to say, "No, thank you."

Not getting calls back from your interviews? There may be something more subtle in your behavior that could be causing prospective managers to say, "No, thank you."

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We've all heard about (and I've written about) things that you should avoid doing in interviews. But there are some things that you should avoid that you may not even know you're doing. Here are some of them.

Dwelling on your certifications

It's admirable that your e-mail signature is followed by 37 initials indicating the certs you've racked up, but try not to let a listing of your certs be the centerpiece of your qualifications. While you think this might be telling the interviewer how knowledgeable you are, it really may be telling her that you've spent more time studying and taking tests than you have in dealing with the technology in the real world. When you overemphasize your certs, an interviewer may think you don't know how to use the technology in a practical sense.

Drawing attention to yourself as a member of a minority

While there are definitely some creeps out there who will make a snap judgment about you based on your gender, your age, or your skin color, there are lots who won't. But if you make a point of saying something about it yourself, even the good prospective managers are going to think you'll be extra-sensitive to that issue as an employee.

For example, if you mention in an interview that you've had to face many obstacles as a woman in the tech field, your interviewer might take that to mean you'll be "looking for issues" in his shop. Whether that impression is right or wrong, fair or unfair, it could send up a red flag.

Talking too much/being smug

Self-confidence is a good thing, but smugness is not. Smugness implies that you know everything there is to know and won't be very open to feedback. The interviewer is thinking, "You might know a lot about technology, but you don't know how things work in my organization." This impression is reinforced if you monopolize the interview to share your opinions. If you don't listen to the interviewer during an interview, what would you be like on the job? The interviewer wants someone with good ideas and knowledge of the area, but believe me, the last thing he wants is someone he constantly has to "convince" to do something because that person has his own way of doing it.

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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.

43 comments
perryashford
perryashford

I need to be aware of being ultra sensitive in interviews. I'm an African-American man, 46, with a WASP name and a well above average speaking ability. These attributes along with a sharp resume, great certifications and good references helps to land the phone interviews but, when they actually see me, it's another story. I have actually received these face to face excuses during the interview: "This could not possibly be your resume! You must have copied this from someone else. You could not possibly have these skils."? And, "Your physical statute and deep voice do not make you eligible for this position."? Yes we must watch for the signs we give off but what about the a-hole on the other side of the desk?

prosenjit11
prosenjit11

This is a valid point and it is always preferable to be a good listener in the interview process and then answer the queries meeting the expectations of the Technical Panel / Committee. There is something which is very peculiar in an interview process, it is the common sense of knowing the person whom you are talking to. If the interviewer talks for around 30 minutes it is good enough to understand what is the person's expectations while he or she would work in the organisation and also how far and on the depth he has worked in the field. Sometimes, it so happens that a guy with 10 years experience is capable of handling bigger projects which the interviewer feels would be handy in the future to shell off some of the responsibilities his/her shoulder to the new recruit in the long run. To focus on such opportunities it is sometimes essential to put across to the interviewer the experiences in terms of a entire project and leading a team. BUT, YES???? BOSS IS ALWAYS RIGHT AND IT IS THOSE PERSONS WHO SURVIVE IN AN ORGANISATION ARE MORE BOSS CENTRIC THAN WORK CENTRIC. FINALLY IT IS THE BOSS WHO SHOULD BE HAPPY, NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES TO DO SO.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Whil ei have normally disagreed with a lot of the interview tips shared here, these are pretty straight up and very key points that people do indeed miss. 1) I find that you can offer certs and qualifications, but need to do so in a constructive way. The fact that I am an MCNE means nothing other than I passed a course. But if you say you have an MCNE and as a result was able to deploy and manage a network from the ground up for a 50 user office, then you are noting your cert and showing how you applied the knowledge real time. I usually include that in my resume though, so it is redundant and simply noted in an interview. 2)No comment other than I couldn't agree more. 3) Leading an interview is okay but make sure the hiring manager gets to offer plenty of input and ask teh questions. Once his/her questions are asked, then you can start with your desires, ideal workplace etc. I always lead interviews but I also apply in a different context than most others. I am usually in an interview because I have found the company myself and convinced them they need me before I even see anyone. In my case I need to conduct the interview of the company, they can ask questions in between. :) In most other situations you will sink yourself though.

stan
stan

Claiming to be an expert in everything thats mentioned. One time I was hiring C programmers This was a long time ago, before C++) and a guy came in who seemed perfect for the job, lots of experience in just the areas we needed. Toward the end of the interview he sounded so good that I wanted to convince him to work for us, so I casually mentioned some of the other projects we were working on and had planned. He started listing all his experience in all those other areas too! Anything I mentioned, he had done. Eventually it became unbelievable. So I asked him to write a C program to print the numbers 1 through 10 on the screen, and I gave him a copy of Kernigan and Ritchie's book on the C language (on page 2 there was an example program that printed 1 - 10 on the screen), and told him that if the editor or compiler were unfamiliar version and he had any questions, just ask. He sat there for an hour, then got up and left without a word.

LarryD4
LarryD4

Wait you mean when I sit their and smell my pits every five minutes, its a bad thing? Supastarrr!!!!

blockb
blockb

What about body language? How one carries oneself and presents oneself is also very important. One more thing: as an older worker, I am very sensitive to body language as the interviewer makes a first impression when he/she lays eyes on you. I have talked to people over the phone who are enthusiastic about me coming in to see them only to have a look of disappointment when they see that I am over a certain age. Somehow it doesn't connect in the brain that if a person has over 25 years' experience, they are not a kid. Also, I have seen in job descriptions a requirement for a certification (which usually has an experiential requirement of anywhere from 5-7-10 years) and then an experiential requirement of 2-3 years. What does that imply? To me it means, you "should have the certification" but that they don't want to pay for the value of the necessary experience. No wonder our economy is in a tailspin! So many people are in denial of what reality truly is. This denial is pervasive up and down throughout our society.

Justin James
Justin James

Toni - Good list! These are things which a lot of people miss, and they certainly are not obvious. A lot of people think that they are "showing some personality" in the interview, but in reality they are showing things that are really not attractive. It's one thing to have some personality, it is another thing to have bad personality. It's the same thing with negative comments; I am sure that your present or past employer are not perfect, that's why you are looking for a job. But that doesn't mean that I want someone who has a 10 minute litany of "why my job sucks". The flip side of the coin though, is that anyone who needs to be warned about these things in the interview still has a bad personality... it's just that now we don't see it until they are hired. So I take it back... please, show these behaviors in interviews! I want to know up front if you are going to be a pain in my neck. :) J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

What you describe (the first comment is debatably vague, the second comment not at all) is so illegal it is not funny. Not only could you report them, but you probably don't want to work for someone who not only has that attitude but lacks discretion and good judgement to the point where they would air it too. But like I said about interviewees, I would rather that someone with a bad attitude *not* cover it up during the interview, because "forewarned is forearmed". I'd rather know that someone is a jerk up front and factor it into my decision, than have them play Miss Manners during the interview and get the bait and switch on your first day. J.Ja

Justin James
Justin James

This guy gives us a resume showing like 5 - 10 years around and in development, and a few years experience using C#. In the interview, he kept calling it "Cee Hash". I *suppose* that if he had grown up in a British Commonwealth area (or otherwise learned English from a "Queens English" speaker) that I *might* see this as reasonable... but his accent was most definitely homegrown, local South Carolina. On top of that, as far as I can tell, even folks in England, India, and Australia call C# "Cee Sharp" as every book and document on it makes it clear. Not knowing how to say "C#" made us immediately wonder just how much time he had really spent around it, and careful questioning around his experience showed that his resume was bogus. It was the first (and only) time that we stumbled across an obviously faked work history, all because he said "C#" wrong. J.Ja

kenrwoodson
kenrwoodson

It's silly for someone to mention that he/she can't do all the required tasks listed for the position? Why not be humble and say "not at the moment"? Some positions listed do have the phrase "is a plus" in job postings. There may be a chance that the applicant could learn something new in the position. Guess one can base it on probability when it comes to what a perspective employer is looking for (and it sure isn't a 'fibber'). This may be a premonition, but lying doesn't make anyone earn or learn. Might as well be sincere because no doubt that the interviewer will be. Guess that C program guy learned that the hard way.(By the way, the 1-10 program could've been done with about 6 lines of code.) :)

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Sitting there and having the interviewer smell your armpits would be a bad thing though. Metoooo!!!!

zentross
zentross

I recently had an interview for a possible promotion. I knew it was a long shot skill-wise as I am always in the habit of pressing my personal envelope, yet I was not prepared for the psychological factor of being interviewed by three individuals with whom I already had regular interaction where I work. With one thought, I crippled myself for nearly the first five minutes. Afterward, I was able to answer questions, but I did not fully recover enough composure to feel convincing. What did I learn? Stay focused, let the questions come, and answer them to the best of your ability. Never once let your thoughts stray elsewhere. They can be your worst enemy.

lfschauer
lfschauer

Too many job postings I have reviewed lately want certs, experience, and have rookie job pay?? They also want you to specialize in networking, analysis, and programing all at once. I always thought specialization meant you were an expert at one thing?

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

But it just killed a candidate. The individual wanted to demonstrate his dedication so he spoke of a time that he actually did work from his hospital bed. What it ended up doing was make him look like an information-hoarder with no work/life balance.

perryashford
perryashford

Yes, very illegal indeed. I then have a choice. Fight it or find another employer. If I decide to fight it then I am burning my time and my dime because I am not working. Also, let?s look a bit deeper at the cost of having my name within this small IT community. Employer?s that hear that I am fighting this would think twice and look twice before hiring me. Besides, these were contract houses that did and said this. I?d simply work for their competitors and receive better compensation.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I have applied and been hired for positions hwhere I had NONE of the qualifications, I mean NONE at all. My drive and interest in learnign and gainign opportunity beat out those who had certs and qualifications well beyodn my own. It all depends who you are talking to. Company's that only hire through HR, or those jobs interviews where 10 people are also lined up for the cattle herding style of interview will always seek out certs, the hiring team usually has no idea what is needed and just go by certs. On teh other hand, a company where you speak with the owner or manager and get a good one on one going will always hire on fit and personality more than certs.(You usually get paid more too, why people bother applying online and lining up in droves is beyond me ).

stan
stan

the job posting just said we were looking for an experienced C programmer, and experience with Unix was a plus. Thats all. This guy claimed to be an expert in any language I mantioned, and then claimed to have designed disk controller hardware, memory subsystems, anything I mentioned. And he claimed to have done a lot of work in assembly language with a processor that wasn't even in production yet (we were the first company using it, working with early engineering samples from the semiconductor company). A few days later I gave the same test to another applicant who immediately asked if it was a trick question since she could think of three different ways to do it right off the top of her head. We hired her on the spot. (It can be done with one line of code in addition to Main(). Just printf followed by a string.)

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

He could have saved that though by stating how he networked with others or worked remotely with the company. Collaboration from a remote place is always good, in his stated case it was not.

Justin James
Justin James

The last job I worked, our CIO broke his leg extremely badly, it required a week or two of being in traction at the hospital. He had his laptop brought in and he worked from the hospital during that period of time. Then again, in that environment, I would send an email at 1 AM and get a reply from my boss and the CIO within minutes, and then a follow up email from the President telling us to go to bed... :) J.Ja

bfpower
bfpower

of what Justin pointed out. It's not that you can fix just one thing and make you a good candidate. It's a whole person deal. I have to laugh that Justin wouldn't want them fixed. I suppose that a good candidate who is also interviewing might want the same thing.

Justin James
Justin James

It's very true about the risks of fighting these things. I was in a situation a long time ago where I was faced with a similar choice too, and I chose to put up with it. Why? Because the dot-com bust had just occured, and jobs were extremely hard to find, and I felt that I would rather tolerate some things than to make a big deal about it. I didn't have too long to deal with it though, the company went under and I ended up having to find another job anyways. In retrospect, I should have just quietly walked out. After that, I made up my mind, in similar situations, just walk away. Some people may prefer fight, and that is their choice, but I know that no one should have to put up with that kind of behavior, whether it be discrimination or harassment, and no matter what type it is. J.Ja

Trizicuz
Trizicuz

Employers LOVE to low ball people in/just getting out of college. It's incredibly annoying because for example. I know this guy who has 10 years of experience and NO certifications but he cannot even maintain XP and he is a Server 2003 admin WITH NO certifications. See it just goes to show you that he gets paid more for his experience, I get paid less because I don't have experience, and yet I obviously have more skills...

onthego
onthego

I've watched companies that put out these type of job descriptions. I've also seen those same ads a few months later. Knowing the reputation for the company and the area the job is in, it isn't a place you'd want to work anyway. Like others have already stated, superperson for poverty pay.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

I love looking at the job posting around Berkeley, it's comedy gold. They want some stupid college kid that needs the money to work for beans and LOVE IT. I had to laugh at a great posting on craig's list: Wanted, somebody to work for a crappy wage and do boring work. I guess at least they were honest.

jemartinez
jemartinez

Who's foult in such a requisition? Who is on charge to elaborate the required job description? That would be IT management or HR? And if they are asking for such variety of knowledge, would that mean all of those products/technologies are active in the company, and you'll be supporting them all? My point is that an IT person is responsible of that kind of requirements and we, as IT people, could be some time be guilty of on of those

TX_Techie
TX_Techie

I applied for a position stating that the candidate needed to have an Associates and two years of experience for a salary of $30K. At the job interview, they were asking if I knew how to write scripts, administer Unix/Linux servers, and trace security breaches. They should of posted that they wanted someone to fill a $45K position at a $30K salary.

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

was one I ran into. Good luck with that one for 35/hr!

victor.hsu
victor.hsu

When I was applying for jobs after I got out of college. Most job ads that I found was asking for person with years of experiences (4~8 yr)in multiple specialized fields such as C++,VB,Cobal,Assembly, MSCE, Sun Solaris, Java, Perl, A+, Oracle, CCNA, Flash, Cold fusion, with a Bachelor degreee. I was wondering if they were looking for a boss or a funder of a new business. Good luck finding your dream person!

mabingle
mabingle

I get calls all the time. Every time the HH will ask for my rate. If I low ball it I get less than they would pay, if I'm over I never hear from them again. So, I usually go back and forth with them until they tell me what the job is paying, then I negotiate. But, at times the other side will refuse to tell me the rate... end of conversation.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I was chatting with someone from Sun about Java about 12 years ago, and they mentioned seeing jobs ads that wanted 5 years of Java experience. She pointed out there were two candidiates in the world for that job, the inventors themselves. James

JamesRL
JamesRL

Sometimes people take jobs out of college to get experience, and they are forced to work for poor wages to get that first vital job under their belt so they can move on to other greener pastures. Some companies exploit that fact. Those companies have to face the fact that their turnover will be high and they will spend alot of time and energy recruiting because of it. As for recruiters and placements, its usually a percentage of the wage paid to the candidate, so most recruiters would want to get them better wages, not lower ones. I have contractors on staff now, paid by the staffing company, and I know exactly what they the delta is. James

TrentV
TrentV

If the recruiters are posting that then they are either very shady or very intelligent. If they think they can fill the position at that price point, I am sure their rate to the customer will be the same as someone paid $100 an hour. This just mean more money for them. Also, if there are people willing to work for that kind of coin, it makes it more difficult for the rest of trying maximize our profits just like the companies where we work. I know that people have to put food on the table, but everyone should be willing and to get as much compensation as they can for their work. However, I have seen the opposite of this many times in my career. Some people just don't care as long as they "have" a job, and these people hurt us all.

stan
stan

you have 5 to 10 years of experience in a technology thats only 2 or 3 years old....

Jellimonsta
Jellimonsta

That position better be for a sleeping behavior study! :p

cbader
cbader

I have seen job ads here in San Diego that want someone with a 4 year degree, MCSE, and CCIE for a job that paid $15/hr

oschmid14
oschmid14

Under 33, MBA, minimum of 15 years practical experience and yeah I almost forgot ... does not want to make a whole lot of money. And if possible needs to know how to drive a forklift, get coffee for your boss, ...

stan
stan

there are some things that I can't train anyone to do. I can solve problems that no one else can solve (which is why I can charge confiscatory rates, lol). I can train people to solve routine problems, and even solve most difficult problems. But sometimes there is a problem that requires a combination of creativity and logic that I can't even define much less teach.

JamesRL
JamesRL

As a manager, its part of my responsibility to make sure that there is coverage for everything in the diverse portfolio of things we do, in case of vacations and illness. I do some things, somethings can wait, in other cases we do formal cross training to make sure we are covered. People in my department do not have the choice, if they want their jobs, they must cross train someone to be able to handle it when they are away. James

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

"why wasn't someone else able to do the work?"

GreenPirogue
GreenPirogue

I look for words that show that someone is a good team member. Doing individual work from a hospital bed is . . . okay, but I would rather have a good team member than some individual who doesn't share what he does.

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