5 hard truths about the interview, according to an interviewer

Interviewers who proclaim that most interview advice is simplistic irritate me. These are people who view advice on eye contact, handshakes, how to answer difficult questions, and avoiding smoking before an interview, as obvious and unworthy of  mention.

But the fact remains that occasionally some of these know-it-alls speak the truth, and the truth sometimes hurts. Let’s face it, although eye contact and the handshake need to be in check, there are more important things to consider at an interview.

Charles B is one of these people who warn jobseekers to be aware of more pressing issues at an interview. At the behest of a customer of mine, I read an article by Charles entitled Why I Won’t Hire You. It’s quite good, albeit abrasive. For example, he writes:

“When you first walk in to my office, I am expecting you to be one of the 99%+ people who I know I won’t hire in the first 5 minutes. I am hoping I will be proven wrong, because I really want to hire you and be done interviewing. Unfortunately, most people looking for jobs don’t deserve them….”

Don’t pull any punches, Sir Charles.

Charles goes on to address some of his pet peeves, those that will certainly prevent job candidates from getting hired by him. I see truth in all of them, and have my own comments to add.

1. You send me a stupidly long résumé

Bingo, the shorter the better. If you’ve read his article in full before reaching this point, you’ll note that he’s a bit hypocritical, as his article is quite long. But his point about writing a résumé that addresses the requirements he lists in his job ads is spot on. In the hiring manager’s mind, it’s all about her needs, not a candidate’s desire to pontificate on irrelevant skills and qualifications.

2. You can’t tell me why you like your current job

That’s right, be specific and sound enthusiastic about what you did at your last job. Generic statements like, “I enjoyed the challenges” are seen as avoiding the question. Someone who’s serious about working for a company will see this as an opportunity to talk about responsibilities and challenges that exist at the perspective company.

3. No career plans or vision

As Charles says, “If you just want a job, why should I care? Someone else will come to me with their vision. Eventually.”

He states as a valid reason being disappointed with the lack of growth opportunity at one’s former company and an opportunity to advance at his company. Why would an employer want to hire someone who doesn’t know what he wants? Failure to express career direction at in interview indicates a lack of focus on the job.

4. No Skills

This is a common complaint among recruiters and hiring managers; people apply for jobs they’re not qualified to do. Charles says to not waste his or others’ time and be honest in your written communications about how you’ll need to learn the required skills. For example, he accepts someone who writes, “Looking to grow skills in Unix administration from a project background.”

5. Answer my questions with conjecture

Here he’s saying don’t bull s_ _ _  me. If he asks a questions that calls for an example, job candidates better have one, lest Sir Charles loses his patience. I see his point. Interviewees who are dancing in circles come across as desperate or unsure of themselves. Just be honest and say you can’t provide an example.

How to Win the interview

There are five specific traits Charles is looking for:

  1. Show me you can get things done.
  2. Show me you are intelligent.
  3. Show me how I fit into your vision
  4. Be highly skilled.
  5. Be Passionate.
  6. Don’t let me see you sweat. (This is my suggestion.)

The bottom line is that Charles B is telling it how he thinks it is. Jobseekers shouldn’t discount other information given by job search experts, but they should heed what this hiring manager writes. The truth sometimes hurts. But isn’t it better to know the truth than go to an interview with blinders on? Incidentally, Charles B might not like what I’ve written, but the truth is that I don’t care.

PS. Since I wrote this a few days ago, I visited Charlie’s comments and was amazed by the positive and negative…downright nasty…comments he has received. I urge you to read his article.

This article previously appeared in January of 2012, but it still holds true to the nature of interviews.

6 thoughts on “5 hard truths about the interview, according to an interviewer

  1. Jay

    I lke most of this, and I’d like to add a few things.

    Many hiring managers are relatively unsophisticated when it comes to interviewing. The most challenging interviews I’ve had have been with people who have low intuitive or observation skills, but have had some behavioral interviewing training. In other words, they’ve got a list scripted questions, but don’t really know how to parse the answers. Armed and dangerous.

    But some hiring managers are very sophisticated. These people, by the way, are the ones you really want as a manager. My advice is to prep for every interview in anticipation of a sophisticated hiring manager.

    Everyone has their own style, but I thought I would share a few things that help me get hired.

    First, get an understanding of the oranization: products, services, history, financials, etc… Next, drill into the job requirement to fully understand what they’re looking for, and compare it to your resume to see where the fit is tight and where it isn’t; Be aware of the gaps, and prepare to deal with those issues as they come up. Finally, have a list of coherent business questions about the company and the position. It shows your interest, and that you’re willing to make an effort on your own to understand everything you can about the opportunity.

    Another tactic that has helped me is to be genuinely excited about the position. Talk about why you would be eager to join the team and get to work. My typical parting line is, “I’m really interested in the position and I’d like to join your team. I hope to see you again soon.” Smile.

    Thanks for your advice, Bob. Interviewing is an indispensable skill that has become even more important in today’s job market.


    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Great reply, Jay. You obviously have experience being interviewed, and I agree, often the best judge of talent are the ones who know their business well. What Charles advises is very sound advice, but we shouldn’t forget the niceties that all interviewers look for.


  2. Beth Campbell Duke

    Thanks for this, Bob. I’ve shared your article around – and left a comment on Charlie B’s blog. As a former high school teacher, I can appreciate his rant – you learn to see the message behind the strong communication method – and the frustrated tone, combined with actual steps for improvement shows his caring and commitment to improvement.



    1. Things Career Related Post author

      Beth, I agree that honesty is the best policy, but how far should one go with their thoughts? Those who are confident will take his advice and good intentions and not get wigged out by some of his percentages of failure. If it’s true that most people don’t deserve the jobs, who are the ones that do, and how can they be recognized? I see far too many qualified people not get the job for one reason or other.

      Thanks for passing my article around. So far I haven’t been vilified for what I’ve written.


  3. Charlie B

    Hi Bob,

    Really enjoyed the article! You have a better tone than I did in my article. One thing – I don’t mind if people are nervous in an interview – I would like to set them at ease and make them feel welcome and comfortable. I do ask hard questions, and it can be uncomfortable if the person doesn’t know how to answer. I try to make sure they understand that I don’t always expect a speedy answer and I don’t mind clarifying questions. Some of the best people don’t always think very quickly in an interview situation, so trying to discern that is difficult but worthwhile.


    1. Things Career Related Post author

      There’s the content for your next article. I was thinking maybe a more palatable title for your article would be: Why I wouldn’t hire you. But I thought it was very honest and provided advice people must heed. I wasn’t sure you’d like the name Sir Charles. Glad you did. I look forward to your next article.



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