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Interviews and "F" Bombs - A Lethal Combination.

April 23, 2009
by Tim Tolan
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I am often asked by candidate’s good (and important) questions about interview etiquette.

Let’s go over a few no-no’s…shall we?

Q. Should I bring up compensation during the interview?

A. Never. Once you get to the offer stage compensation will be discussed. To try to weave it into your interview and you send too many mixed signal to the hiring manager.

Q. At dinner, if the hiring manager orders a drink – should I order one too?

A. Never. Loose lips sink ships and your boat is still on dry land at the interview stage. Tonic - with a twist of lime- if you feel you must. Order iced tea, soda, water with a lemon or coffee – but never any booze. If you are hired there will always be time for having a cocktail with the boss in the right setting. Let’s make sure you get the job first!

Q. At what point do I tell the hiring manager why I hate my current job, boss, company (you fill in the blanks)?

A. Never. Refrain from making any disparaging comments – you may come across as whiny or worse they may detect a major character flaw in you and paint you with being a negative person. Not good. Take the high road at all times.

Q. Should I let the hiring manager in on some secrets from the competition (your current employer?

A. Never. They will see what you are doing and never hire you because they will not be able to trust you. Dumb move.

Q. What if the hiring manager drops a few ‘F” bombs or tells a story or joke that’s off color? Should I jump in with a few of my own?

A. Never- Never- Never! Under any circumstances. There is NO room for that in any business setting – especially with someone you don’t even know. Professionalism will always be in vogue. Take the high road here too! You will be glad you did.

OK. It’s your turn now! Ask me any question you have on your mind about what’s in play and what’s off limits during an interview.

Don’t be shy….

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Comments

Great points, Tim! And super question, Anthony - nothing is a bigger turnoff than an obnoxious braggart. Here's where soliciting LinkedIn recommendations from your teammates now can really make a difference later - it's much more credible to see a chronology of kudos over time vs. a bunch of forced recommendations thrown in at the last minute in an obvious attempt to stack the deck. You'll be surprised at how anxious your colleagues will be to write you a recommendation - especially if you return the favor!

G.

Terrific post, Tim. You have some great stories (I hope you write a book someday!) about what it's like to be on your side of the desk, but I've got one from the other side that I think you'll appreciate.

Several years ago, I was interviewing at a publication and I noticed the interviewer kept checking his email at least that's what it looked like. Knowing the company had just made a big move, I commented on how busy it must be right now (thinking that was the reason he was so distracted).

I kid you not, he says to me: "Oh yeah, it's been nuts. But I actually just realized I forget to set my fantasy football team's line-up."

He then asked my opinion on whether he should trade his backup running back. I wanted to punt him right out of his chair.

I think one needs to (proudly) discuss how they "moved the needle" as companies want people that can make things happen. In a leadership role you can always lead with "My team" or "We" and usually the message will be clear that the accomplishment was engineered by the leader and executed by the "team". Bragging and using words like "I" and Me" will always tell a different story. Remember - companies will always validate success in the candidate's references and it will be obvious (if the references are done correctly) who did the work - and who did not!

Gwen and Kate: Thanks for your comments. Agreed that listening to someone brag and using their favorite word "I" is a real turn-off! Kate: I co-wrote a book last year and have another one I will be writing on my own on the calendar for 2010. Lots of stories. Great stories! I love your story too!

how much should one call attention to "their own" accomplishments vs those of "the team." Where is the balance between sounding like a braggart vs sounding like someone who was never the prime mover for anything?

Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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