by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
Through a list of the top 20 executive interview pet peeves, hiring decision-makers reveal the landmines aspiring executives can avoid in job interviews. 16. Candidate is unenthusiastic, lacks energy. “If you can’t even be excited about the job in the interview, how will you come to work excited each day and give me 110 percent?” Lee Miller asks. Nichole Woody is bothered by “the lack of interest on their face, sigh, or change when candidates are being questioned about a topic that they obviously feel is elementary. These seemingly elementary requirements are essential to the position and need to be covered during an interview. Not only does [the lack of interest] show a lack of respect but clearly demonstrates how the person will react during future situations with direct and indirect reports.” 17. Candidate has weak handshake. “A weak handshake is a pet peeve for a number of hiring decision-makers because it can display weakness or a lack of confidence,” Ken Heisler says. “I always advise the candidates I send out to interviews to try and match the intensity of their handshake with that of the interviewer. That way they come off as an equal — not intimidating, yet not intimidated either,” he says. 18. Candidate reeks of cigarettes. If you are a smoker, chances are you smell like one. “People assume if you smoke after all that is known that you lack self-control and are stupid,” Rita Ashley says. 19. Candidate fails to ask substantive questions, or asks “me first” questions. “I expect that candidates will take advantage of being in front of the hiring manager and ask insightful questions about the direction of the group, the challenges the company or groups faces,” says Jeff Lipschultz, principal at A-List Solutions, Southlake, TX. “I would expect they would show that they’ve done a little of their own research and can ask questions based on what they’ve read.” Lipschultz is especially irked when candidates ask “simplistic” questions, such as “when will you make your decision?” or “how much does this job pay?” Angela Lussier notes that the “best” questions she ever got were these:
- Does the company have a golf league? (This was the first question asked, too!)
- I want this job because it’s close to my house. Will I have to travel at all?
- Am I going to have to do anything outside of this job description?
- Me: Any last questions? Candidate: Yes, I have a personal question for you. Do you want to go out sometime?
The worst, Lipschultz says, “is the candidate who has no questions at all. It is a clear signal that they really have little interest in the job or company. If you plan to work at a new company for several years, wouldn’t you want to know as much as you can about it? Isn’t being in front of a hiring manager at the company the perfect opportunity to learn key aspects to your potential job?” Lussier says she purposely doesn’t give out a lot of information during the interview “just to see what kinds of things candidates will ask about at the end. I’ve been burned before by the ‘you already answered all my questions’ statement at the end.” If the candidate has no questions, Miller says he might think he was so brilliant and thorough that he covered everything the interviewee could possibly ask about, “but I am much more likely to think you are unprepared, uninterested, and not a good candidate for the job.” 20. Candidate gives scripted responses that sound like they came from a book. Preparing responses for potential interview questions is a smart thing to do. Hiring decision-makers note that candidates often give prepared but rote-sounding responses to questions. But interviewers often want executive candidates to go beyond prepared answers. “Most people are not trying to really shine by giving honest and thorough answers,” Lussier remarks. “Their objective is to answer all the questions without messing up.” Lussier is among many interviewers who use behavioral interviewing to get candidates to transcend scripted responses. “Once I start asking questions about how they dealt with things in the past, it totally throws them off their script, and then the real person shines through,” Lussier says. “It’s fun to watch them sweat!” The best preparation for behavioral interviewing is not scripted answers, in part because the range of behavioral questions that could be asked is so broad that scripting responses that cover the gamut is impossible. Instead, develop a collection of stories about past achievements — stories that you can adapt to the wide variety of behavioral questions. Candidates also need to be prepared for the probing follow-ups that are virtually inevitable after a behavioral response. Our article, Behavioral Interviewing Strategies for Job-Seekers, details how to respond to this more intensive line of questioning.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
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