4 Interview Personality Dealbreakers

Today I co-interviewed a few potential university students for the intern position at my job. It’s something I’ve done a few times over the last few years, and it’s a process that somehow never gets less cringe-worthy. Sure, I’ve been the one interviewed for jobs in the past, and sure, I was nervous while trying to make the best impression I could. When your sole purpose is to prove that you’re more qualified for a job than a handful of other people, most people will tend to go into alter-persona mode. And it can be scary.

Over my years of interviewing for a creative position, I’ve come across a few “types” of interviewees. Surprisingly enough, I seem to encounter these alter-personas each and every year, and I’m always amazed that the same personalities show up over and over again. Often, I’ve hired based more on how well we meshed at the interview over how good a resume looked, and it’s something that many employers do. Skills can be learned and honed, but working closely with someone you can’t stand for nearly a year is something that no amount of talent can buy.

My main point: when trying to prove that you’re the best person for the job, be human. Be approachable. Be friendly.

Biggest interview fails:

  • Can’t identify any negative feedback, mistakes, or problems solved in past experience when asked and, frankly, looks a little insulted that you asked.
  • All past work examples are described in a 100% positive light. Refuses to admit any type of weakness or oversight in past projects.
  • The only question they’ll ask of you is when they can expect to hear back about getting hired.
  • Scoff at something you ask (seriously, that happened to me today).

Why they’re a dealbreaker:

  • We’re human. Even the best of us make mistakes, so who are you trying to kid? When you refuse to admit to your past mistakes, I figure you won’t take criticism well, and there’s no room for improvement when criticism is rejected.
  • You appear arrogant and completely un-delightful to work with.

The solution:

  • Employers don’t care that you made mistakes in the past—they do want to hear about how you solved them. Talk about your weaknesses, because it’s a chance to show that a) you’re a pleasant human being, not a cyborg and b) that you’re able to learn, improve, and work well with criticism.

Biggest interview fails:

  • They’re so quiet, we have to lean in to the point where the interview becomes an awkwardly intimate experience.
  • They answer questions with anything from one word to one sentence.
  • They have nothing to ask the employer. They just want to get out of there ASAP.

Why they’re a dealbreaker:

  • You appear uninterested, terrified, and completely lack passion. This translates to your work.
  • Having to ask you to repeat yourself every day on the job sounds exhausting. And incredibly awkward.

The solution:

  • Employers aren’t waiting for you to screw up—they just want to chat and get to know you. They can’t do so if they can’t hear you or if you have nothing to say, so speak up and say a little more than “yes” or “no.” Treat every question as an opportunity to tell a little story about how awesome you are (just don’t go overboard like the dude above).

Biggest interview fails:

  • They recite lengthy, word-by-word excerpts from the company’s website, brochure, or annual report when asked if they know anything about it.
  • They will somehow turn every single answer about their past experience into melodramatic praise about the company or fervent assurance about how much they would love the opportunity to do anything you asked them, as long as they get hired.
  • They nod vehemently and grin psychotically the entire time.

Why they’re a dealbreaker:

  • This personality appears phony more than anything else. I’d be disappointed if they had no idea what my organization was about, but hearing page 26 of the annual report recited back to me is overkill. There’s a huge difference between knowledge and memorization.
  • I know you want to get hired. Everyone does. I assume that’s why you applied in the first place. Please stop trying to convince me of the fact.

The solution:

  • This type reeks of phoniness and desperation. While you want to show that you’re acquainted with the company’s main goals, you don’t want to show that you stayed up until 3am last night memorizing the names of the board of directors. Instead of schmoozing, try to make a human connection. It’ll be much more appreciated.

Biggest interview fails:

  • They talk way too much about their religion and/or try to convert you (happened to me).
  • When asked how they respond to stress, their eyes grow saucer-sized and they mutter endlessly about chaos and explosions (yup, happened to me too).
  • They giggle maniacally at everything you ask or say (check).

Why they’re a dealbreaker:

  • I wouldn’t want to meet this person on the street, let alone work with them.

The solution:

  • Employers love to see your personality. But, please, no matter how nervous you might be, don’t compensate by trying to be over-the-top, as it can easily be interpreted as psychotic. We’ll take boring or normal any day.
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